Arab League condemns Gingrich’s remarks on Palestinians
The Arab League has condemned the Republican US presidential contender, Newt Gingrich, for calling Palestinians an “invented” people and “terrorists”.
Mohammed Sobeih, who handles Palestinian affairs for the regional organisation, said the claims were racist and a cheap stunt to get votes.
Mr Gingrich made the comments in a television interview on Friday and in a candidates’ debate on Saturday.
Israel’s government has said the claims are a matter of internal US politics.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads a right-wing coalition government, has recognised the Palestinian people.
‘Vulgar, hurtful and ridiculous’
Mr Gingrich, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination and a former speaker of the US House of Representatives, first set out his position on the Palestinian people in an interview with the Jewish Channel.
“Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman empire,” he said. “I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic,” he added.
He also said President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy was “out of touch”, and the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, had “an enormous desire to destroy Israel”.
Mr Obama has sought to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and said there should be a Palestinian state with borders based on those prevailing before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted to account for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the US, EU and Israel.
Then in a televised debate on Saturday, Mr Gingrich defended his claim that the Palestinians were an “invented” people.
“Is what I said factually true? Yes,” he said. “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists.”
Mr Gingrich later sought to clarify his position, saying he supported the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a negotiated settlement.
But the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, said Mr Gingrich’s comments “constituted a totally unacceptable distortion of historical truth”, and described them as “vulgar, hurtful and ridiculous”.
In Israel, Mr Fayyad added, “even the most extremist settlers don’t dare to speak in such a ridiculous manner”.
And on Monday, Mohammed Sobeih said the Arab League believed the claims were “irresponsible and dangerous”.
“If an Arab or Palestinian official said a racist comment that was one-millionth of what this US candidate said, the world would have been in continuous uproar,” he said.
“If these comments were made for political gains, then this is an even bigger disaster. But it appears that this is a cheap attempt to get more votes in an election. And to get this small number of votes, this person sold America’s interests by denying international law and democratic principles,” Mr Sobeih added.
Palestine News Network
In response to Republican presidential nominee Newt Gingrich’s recent comments regarding the Palestinian people, PLO Executive Committee member and Palestinian lawmaker Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in a press release, “It is unbelievable that Mr. Gingrich, who studied history at two outstanding American universities and even taught history, could make such a misguided comment, solely for the sake of political pandering. Not only did Mr. Gingrich downright reject centuries of history and an important cultural legacy, on the same day that we mourned the loss of a young Palestinian peacefully protesting the military occupation of his land, Mr. Gingrich labeled us as terrorists.”
“Mr. Gingrich has lost sight of American values and the prospects for peace for an apartheid regime that in no way benefits the American people. Mr. Gingrich’s failure to be in touch with reality and to understand what is happening on the ground goes against American foreign policy and delegitimizes the humanity and existence of any future Palestinian state,” stated Dr. Ashrawi.
“I challenge Mr. Gingrich to re-learn his history and come to Palestine to see for himself, not only the suffering the Palestinian people face on a daily basis due to the Israeli military occupation, but also to experience the rich culture and history of the Palestinian people. I personally offer to host Mr. Gingrich,” concluded Dr. Ashrawi.