WHEN BIGOTS speak, their words have purpose. They intentionally choose phrases that inflame, denigrate, and marginalize other races, religions, or nationalities. They employ distortions and stereotypes to bolster false arguments. Which brings us to Newt Gingrich, who in an interview last week derided “an invented Palestinian people.’’ His comments were a calculated — but demonstrably false — slander, designed to curry favor with a constituency for which he cares by insulting one for which he does not.
With one callous statement he dismissed the plight of 4 million people and their desire for self-determination. Questioned about the controversial statement during a debate on Monday, he piled falsehood upon falsehood. The word “Palestinian,’’ he asserted, “did not become a common term until after 1977.’’ In denying the legitimacy of Palestinians’ identity, Gingrich’s only purpose was to deny any justification for a two-state solution for Middle East peace. If Palestinians are invented, the implication goes, so too must be their objection to the status quo.
During the debate, Gingrich claimed to “stand for the truth,’’ but that apparently does not require telling the truth. His statements are a complete fabrication. Documents prepared by the Arab Office in Jerusalem during the 1930s and ’40s refer frequently to “Palestinian Arabs,’’ “Palestinian Citizens,’’ and the potential formation of a “Palestinian State.’’ The 1973 CIA Atlas of Middle East Issues speaks of “Palestinians’’ and “Palestinian Refugees.’’
Contrary to Gingrich’s insinuation, Palestine is a real place found on maps of all kinds, created by people of all races, for hundreds of years; and the people living there have long been identified with it. The Official 1931 Census of Palestine, conducted under British auspices, counted 850,000 Palestinian Arabs - both Muslim and Christian - and 175,000 Jews. Gingrich noted that the Ottomans once ruled the region, as if that justified his statements. But the Ottoman Empire included Syria and much of the Balkans. Are they invented people too?
Language can be a wonderful and powerful tool — all the more reason for political leaders to use it thoughtfully and with care. Gingrich’s disgraceful behavior addressing such a difficult and sensitive issue demonstrates that he cannot be trusted to use words carefully. Why should anyone trust him with more?
Read the full op-ed HERE.
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