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Newt Gingrich - a Gaffe or a Blessing
By: Dr. Israel Bar-Nir
Gingrich's statement about the Palestinians being an "invented people" that has been used primarily to sustain a war against Israel, caused a lot of furor in the media. As expected, the Arabs went ballistic.
However, since it came out, one cannot avoid dealing with it. There are three questions that need to be answered.
1. Was he right?
2. If he was right, how should it affect US policy in the region?
3. Was it wise to say it (regardless of its being right or wrong)?
As for the first question, the answer is an unequivocal "yes". In fact it was stated by various Arab leaders, including Palestinians, during the 70s and 80s, before the Oslo agreements were signed. It should be noted, though, that being an "invented people" has no bearing on the issue of Statehood for the Palestinians. There's no shortage of artificial, "invented", people whose aspirations for independence have been met. A living example can be found next door to Israel - there's no such thing as a "Jordanian People". It is also an "Invented" people, yet Jordan's existence as an independent state is unquestioned. How long it will maintain its independent existence once Israel is no longer there, or once there's an independent Palestinian state next to it, is the subject of a separate discussion.
This brings us to the second part of Gingrich's statement, the part which says that the "Palestinian Peoplehood" has been used to sustain the war against Israel. The same Arab leaders who supported the first part of Gingrich's statement agreed with the second part as well. The current leader of the Palestinians, in his appearance before the UN General Assembly last November, stated clearly that the war against Israel will not come to an end even when a Palestinian state is established, if ever. Thus, the real issue is whether a "People" whose sole raison d'être is to carry on a war against another people merits independence and/or statehood. Compared to the total indifference towards the nationalist aspirations of other ethnic groups (e.g., Basques, Curds, Chechens to name a few), the enthusiasm with which the Palestinians' cause is met worldwide makes one wonder whether it has more to do with the second part of Gingrich's statement than with the first.
As for the second question, it is answered in part in the answer to the first question. If one believes that establishing a state for the Palestinians (the so called "Two States" solution) will bring to an end the war between the two peoples and lead in a stable lasting peace in the region, then the nature of the "Peoplehood" of the Palestinians is irrelevant, and one should proceed to bring the two sides together in order to implement that solution. Unfortunately that approach disregards the second part of Gingrich's statement. Pretending that issues do not exist has been almost a fixture in the US policies. Yet peace messenger after peace messenger found to his chagrin that turning a blind eye does not make an issue go away. So far President Obama's mishandling of the situation created an impasse and brought the likelihood of any solution to an unprecedented low. Judging from past attitudes of the US policy makers, it does not appear likely that Gingrich's statement (both parts) will get the attention it deserves.
Which brings us to the third and last question. Was it wise for Gingrich to say it. Obviously Gingrich had the Jewish voters in mind. While it is certain to resonate among older Jews, in particular among those who oppose any or most concessions demanded from Israel, many among the US Jews did not welcome this development (to put it mildly). Most of the Jewish community would have preferred that Israel and the US policies towards it would remain out of the elections campaign. They realize that it can only harm Obama who is still supported by the majority among the Jewish voters. It is hard to see many Jews changing their vote just because of a single controversial statement which is an obvious election season gimmick. Among non Jews, it may even harm Gingrich. More often than not, saying the truth is not helpful in politics. Already in ancient Rome it was known that the masses want to be deceived (vulgus vult decipi). The "masses" of Rome have been replaced modern times by the educated enlightened elites. Political correctness reigns, and calling a spade a spade is often the kiss of death for a politician.
By: Dr. Israel Bar-Nir, "Newt Gingrich - a Gaffe or a Blessing?", The Mideast Forum, 13. December 2011
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