History and The Eye of Newt

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa, March 7, 2011 AP PHOTO

BY FRANK SALVATO – Former U.S. House Speaker and GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich was instantly assailed by a plethora of people for statements critical of the modern-day understanding of the Palestinian history. From Palestinian Authority leaders, to mainstream media political analysts and even those who share the GOP presidential primary debate stage with the former Speaker, each offered denunciation ranging from outright condemnation of Mr. Gringrich’s statement to disagreement based on its diplomatic political incorrectness. But, the fact of the matter is this: Mr. Gingrich’s history on the matter is solid.

In the interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said:


“Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and 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 1940’s, and I think it’s tragic.”

He went on to say that it is “delusional to call it a peace process,” pointing out that the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority and Hamas “represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel.”

Anyone debating the base declaration of Mr. Gingrich’s assertion – that there has, through history, never been a Palestinian state – is either disingenuous or an extremely poor student of World History.

Increasingly, many Americans are coming to understand the facts surrounding the origins of the “Palestinians.” Understood is that at its genesis, Palestine – derived from the word “Peleshet”, English for “Philistine” – did not refer to a nation state but, instead, to a geographical location; a land with no governance. So, too, is the American public – as well as many informed peoples around the world – coming to understand that the use of the term “Palestinian,” as a label for an Arab ethnic group, is a modern political creation with no basis in historical geographical fact, never having had any international or academic credibility before 1967.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, a medieval Middle East historian who heads the Middle East Forum, wrote in 1988:

“The Romans introduced the word Palestine as a way to expunge the name Judea from the map – a punishment for the Bar Kochba rebellion suppressed in 135 C.E. Naming the region after the Philistine residents of the coast, they called it Palaestina.”

Rabbi Joseph E. Katz, a Middle Eastern political and religious history analyst, notes:

“The word itself derives from ‘Peleshet,’ a name that appears frequently in the Bible and has come into English as ‘Philistine.’  The Philistines were Mediterranean people originating from Asia Minor and Greek localities.  They reached the southern coast of Israel in several waves.  One group arrived in the pre-patriarchal period and settled south of Beersheba in Gerar where they came into conflict with Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.  Another group, coming from Crete after being repulsed from an attempted invasion of Egypt by Rameses III in 1194 BCE, seized the southern coastal area, where they founded five settlements (Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gat).  In the Persian and Greek periods, foreign settlers – chiefly from the Mediterranean islands – overran the Philistine districts.  From the time of Herodotus, Greeks called the eastern coast of the Mediterranean ‘Syria Palaestina.’

“The Philistines were not Arabs, nor even Semites, they were most closely related to the Greeks. They did not speak Arabic. They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical with Arabia or Arabs. The name ‘Falastin’ that Arabs today use for ‘Palestine’ is not an Arabic name. It is the Arab pronunciation of the Greco-Roman “Palastina”; which is derived from the Plesheth, (root palash) was a general term meaning rolling or migratory. This referred to the Philistine’s invasion and conquest of the coast from the sea.”

Again, Dr. Pipes:

“Not only did the border [vacillate] during Roman and Muslim rule, but Palestine never constituted a single political unit between the fall of the Second Jewish Commonwealth in 68 C.E. and 1917 – with the one exception of the Crusades. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of “historic” Palestine as if it were a single long-standing polity. Palestine lived in the hearts of those who loved it, and that was in a realm without boundaries. In medieval Europe, for example, “Palestine” referred to that area occupied by the Hebrews before the Diaspora, but since this area had changed size many times, the definition implied no precise boundaries on a map.”

In addition to these facts, it is becoming common knowledge among those who have attempted a cursory examination of the issue, that the contemporary boundaries, circa the creation of the now-recognized State of Israel, have the overwhelming bulk of recognized “Palestinian lands” in the nation of Jordan, an Arab-Islamic country.

With the end of World War I came the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. The League of Nations (the precursor to the now dysfunctional and corrupt United Nations) and the occupying powers mandated – by virtue of the spoils of victory – new borders for the countries and territories of the Middle East. The results: the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which gave birth to the French Mandate for Syria and the British Mandate for Palestine. More than 70 percent of the British Mandate for Palestine territory was east of the Jordan River and was known as “Transjordan,” or what is today known simply as Jordan.

Even Jordanian officials – royalty and politicos alike – have maintained that the bulk of recognized “Palestinian lands” are in the nation of Jordan, as is evidence by a number of quotes:

▪ “Palestine and Transjordan are one.” – King Abdullah, Arab League meeting in Cairo, 12 April 1948.

▪ “We are the government of Palestine, the army of Palestine and the refugees of Palestine.” – Prime Minister of Jordan, Hazza’ al-Majali, 23 August 1959.

▪ “Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine; there is one people and one land, with one history and one and the same fate.” – Prince Hassan, brother of King Hussein, addressing the Jordanian National Assembly, 2 February 1970.

▪ “Jordan is not just another Arab state with regard to Palestine, but rather, Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan in terms of territory, national identity, sufferings, hopes and aspirations.” – Jordanian Minister of Agriculture, 24 September 1980.

▪ “The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.” – King Hussein 1981

Thus, many who have expunged the politically correct, pro-Palestinian propaganda from their knowledge base are asking the legitimate question: Why aren’t the Palestinians as violently caustic towards the Jordanian government, since the bulk of their land claim rests within sovereign Jordanian boundaries?

But, perhaps the most damning evidence to date that the “State of Palestine” never existed comes from the mouth of Hamas leadership.

In 1977, Zahir Muhsein, a PLO Executive Committee member, said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”

During the nationally televised Republican Presidential Primary Debate on December 10, 2011, hosted by ABC News, Speaker Gingrich stood by his original statement exhibiting the authority of the historian that he is, saying:

“Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. We are in a situation where everyday rockets are fired into Israel while the United States – the current administration – tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process…Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists, they teach terrorism in their schools…it’s fundamentally the time for somebody to have the guts to say enough lying about the Middle East.”

Imagine that: a politician putting the truth ahead of political opportunism; ahead of political correctness; and ahead of advancing a commonly held belief based on an exquisite propaganda campaign…and on a subject that almost every other political figure in modern times runs from like coward.