Last Friday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, did something revolutionary. He told the truth about the Palestinians. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an "invented" people, "who are in fact Arabs."
His statement about the Palestinians was entirely accurate. At the end of 1920, the "Palestinian people" was artificially carved out of the Arab population of "Greater Syria." "Greater Syria" included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. That is, the Palestinian people were invented 91 years ago. Moreover, as Gingrich noted, the term "Palestinian people" only became widely accepted after 1977.
As Daniel Pipes chronicled in a 1989 article on the subject in The Middle East Quarterly, the local Arabs in what became Israel opted for a local nationalistic "Palestinian" identity in part due to their sense that their brethren in Syria were not sufficiently committed to the eradication of Zionism.
Since Gingrich spoke out on Friday, his factually accurate statement has been under assault from three directions. First, it has been attacked by Palestinian apologists in the postmodernist camp. Speaking to CNN, Hussein Ibish from the American Task Force on Palestine argued that Gingrich's statement was an outrage because while he was right about the Palestinians being an artificial people, in Ibish's view, Israelis were just as artificial. That is, he equated the Palestinians' 91-year-old nationalism with the Jews' 3,500-year-old nationalism.
In his words, "To call the Palestinians ‘an invented people' in an obvious effort to undermine their national identity is outrageous, especially since there was no such thing as an ‘Israeli' before 1948."
Ibish's nonsense is easily dispatched by a simple reading of the Hebrew Bible. As anyone semi-literate in Hebrew recognizes, the Israelis were not created in 1948. Three thousand years ago, the Israelis were led by a king named David. The Israelis had an independent commonwealth in the Land of Israel, and their capital city was Jerusalem.
The fact that 500 years ago King James renamed the Israelis "Israelites" is irrelevant to the basic truth that there is nothing new or artificial about the Israeli people. And Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, did not arise in competition with Arab nationalism. Zionism has been a central feature of Jewish identity for 3,500 years.
THE SECOND line of attack against Gingrich denies the veracity of his claim. Palestinian luminaries like the PA's unelected Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told CNN, "The Palestinian people inhabited the land since the dawn of history."
Fayyad's historically unsubstantiated claim was further expounded on by Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dmitri Diliani in an interview with CNN. "The Palestinian people [are] descended from the Canaanite tribe of the Jebusites that inhabited the ancient site of Jerusalem as early as 3200 BCE," Diliani asserted,
The Land of Israel has the greatest density of archeological sites in the world. Judea, Samaria, the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights and other areas of the country are packed with archeological evidence of the Jewish commonwealths. As for Jerusalem, literally every inch of the city holds physical proof of the Jewish people's historical claims to the city.
To date, no archeological or other evidence has been found linking the Palestinians to the city or the Jebusites.
From a US domestic political perspective, the third line of attack against Gingrich's factual statement has been the most significant. The attacks involve conservative Washington insiders, many of whom are outspoken supporters of Gingrich's principal rival for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
To date, the attackers' most outspoken representative has been Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. These insiders argue that although Gingrich spoke the truth, it was irresponsible and unstatesmanlike for him to have done so.
As Rubin put it on Monday, "Do conservatives really think it is a good idea for their nominee to reverse decades of US policy and deny there is a Palestinian national identity?" In their view, Gingrich is an irresponsible flamethrower because he is turning his back on a 30- year bipartisan consensus. That consensus is based on ignoring the fact that the Palestinians are an artificial people whose identity sprang not from any shared historical experience, but from opposition to Jewish nationalism.
The policy goal of the consensus is to establish an independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River that will live at peace with Israel.
This policy was obsessively advanced throughout the 1990s until it failed completely in 2000, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected then-prime minister Ehud Barak's and then US president Bill Clinton's offer of Palestinian statehood and began the Palestinian terror war against Israel.