By Aaron Marcus l December 12, 2011
Newt Gingrich has come under fire from liberals, Palestinian leaders and some of his Republican presidential opponents for calling the Palestinians an “invented” people. When asked in an interview withThe Jewish Channel on Friday, December 9th whether or not Gingrich considers himself a Zionist, he replied that he believes the Jewish people have a right to the state and to “remember there was no Palestinian state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community.” Those who have criticized the former Speaker have failed to ask the simple question of whether or not his statement is accurate. However, during ABC’s presidential debate on December 10th, George Stephanopoulos gave the Speaker an opportunity to refine his statement, but Gingrich decided to double down instead, saying,
“Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day, rockets are fired into Israel while the United States, the current administration, tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process? Hamas does not admit the – the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, “Not a single Jew will remain.”
Gingrich, the only candidate with a Ph.D and one in history at that, is being perfectly honest with the American public when calling the Palestinians an invented people. Great Britain captured a large part of the Middle East from the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine. Sure, people have lived in the land that is now Israel for centuries, but the region was only named Palestine after the British Mandate in 1920. Furthermore, the mandate of Palestine encompassed not only what is today Israel and the Palestinian territories but also Jordan, parts of Syria and Iraq. The only reason why residents of those countries today are not considered Palestinian is because the leaders of those Arab nations accepted partition as the British receded from the area.
UN General Assembly Resolution 181 created the Partition of Palestine and called for the creation of a Jewish and Arab state side by side. As a result, the state of Israel was declared on Friday, March 14, 1948. Note that UN Resolution 181 didn’t create a Palestinian State but rather another Arab state due to the fact that there was no majority body of people called Palestinian. The Jewish leaders in Israel at the time accepted the United Nations plan, while Arab leaders, meeting in Cairo rejected the plan. Without the acceptance of partition, Arabs living in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights were left with two basic alternatives. Either they could band together as Palestinians and accept the land granted to them, or they could join other Arab countries in a war to create one Arab land in what had become Israel. The Arabs, in what is now known as the Palestinian territories, decided to join the other Arab nations, thus bolstering their status as Arab Nationals.
Only after the War of Independence, when Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia declared war on Israel (May 15, 1948) in which Israel defeated the six Arab countries, did the Arabs who remained in the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza determine that they in fact were Palestinians. On October 1, 1948, the mufti of Jerusalem declared an all-Palestinian government, but at the same time the Hashmenite Kingdom of Jordan attempted to lay claim to the very land that was now “Palestine.” The Jordanians did not relent on their claim to the West Bank until 1994, when they signed an agreement with Israel ceasing all claims to land west of the Jordan River.
Gingrich’s remarks are essential when discussing a key issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict regarding the Palestinian right of return. When the Arab nations joined together to drive Israel into the sea in 1948, instead of accepting the terms offered under Resolution 181 to peacefully form both a Jewish and an Arab state, most of the countries also expelled nearly a million Jews in the process. In addition, Arab leaders encouraged Arab residents of Israel and the West Bank to leave their homes until they returned as victors, 550,000 people obliged. After the war, the newly formed state of Israel absorbed Jewish immigrants expelled from Arab lands and naturalized 160,000 Arab citizens who remained in Israel during the war. After losing the war, the Arab nations failed to absorb those who sought refuge and instead enacted discriminatory policies against Palestinians and caged them into refugee camps.
The Arab nations refused to accept these Palestinians into their lands as a reminder to maintain nationalistic hatred against Israel. Yet, Arab Nations are not alone in maintaining refugee camps as opposed to naturalizing Palestinian refugees, the United Nations created an entire agency to deal with Palestinians called The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees, as opposed to treating them the same as other refugees by the United Nations within the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The difference is quite stark, UNHCR tries to help refugees resettle in host countries. Once they maintain citizenship in a new country they are no longer considered refugees and their children become naturalized in their new country. However with UNRWA, if Palestinians gain new citizenship they still maintain refugee status and they can pass refugee status to their children and their children’s children. This unfortunate policy has created more than 4.7 million people who claim to be Palestinian refugees, if added to the 1.25 million Israeli Arabs that live in Israel today, Jews would no longer be the majority in Israel. This has been the goal of Arab Nations and the United Nations all along, an incognito method of destroying the lone Jewish State.
This is the reason why it is vital to understand Newt Gingrich when he says the Palestinians are an “invented” people. He was not saying that Palestinian suffering was invented or that they don’t have a right to exist. Rather, he was merely stating what the UN declared in 1947, that those who live next to the Jewish State are Arabs, regardless of their self-definition. It is also important to note the ramifications of granting this group of people special privileges under international law. The Palestinian designation was created by the UN, especially through its UNRWA, in order to highlight anti-Israeli sentiment and maintain it until the anticipated destruction of the Jewish State; historically, there never was a Palestine or even a Palestinian people before 1948. On the other hand, the Jewish people have maintained communities in Israel since the time of Abraham.
Aaron Marcus is a graduate of the National Journalism Center having served his internship as an editorial assistant at The Washington Times. He is currently a columnist for The Daily Targum at Rutgers University where he is an undergraduate student. Mr. Marcus is a contributor to