Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Blog

The statement by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that Palestinians are an "invented people" is perhaps a new low in the campaign rhetoric of presidential hopefuls. 

A review of maps going back to the 16th century – and any serious review of history going back centuries earlier – reveals that Palestine and Palestinians were clearly there.  They were a part of the Ottoman Empire, to be sure, but so too were the modern nations of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and even Israel.  

Most Palestinians seek recognition as a sovereign state in secure borders and wish to live in peace with their neighbors, including Israel. The Palestinians are not “invented.” They are a people who have been molded into a national community by forces of history. And like other national communities they deserve to be free and independent, and at peace in their own land with their rights recognized and respected.  The Gingrich slander that "these people are terrorists" paints an entire people unfairly, incorrectly and, from a man who wishes to be president, inexcusably. This is not “history” or “truth-telling” as Mr. Gingrich claims. This is incitement that can have a detrimental impact on American policy.

Further, Mr. Gingrich’s current view on Palestine is a major shift away from the mainstream Republican stance. In 2007, President George W. Bush described “a vision of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people.” President Bush repeatedly argued for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as did Republican members of his administration such as Secretaries of State Condoleezza  Rice and Colin Powell. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) are among a few of the Republican Senators who have emphasized a two-state solution – an Israeli state and a state for the Palestinian people. More recently, U.S. policy and even official Israeli state policy recognize the Palestinians as a people – it is quite obviously one of the assumptions underlying the entire framework for the peace process itself.

Middle East peace is a serious issue that should gain the attention of all serious candidates for President.  It is an issue which all Presidents since Dwight Eisenhower have had to tackle and it is impossible to credit Gingrich's implication that all of that bi-partisan history has been a "lie."

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George Salem is Chairman of the Arab American Institute. A national Republican leader, he served in the Reagan Administration and played key roles in the Reagan-Bush '84, Bush-Quayle '88 and Bush-Cheney '00 and ‘04 campaigns.

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