The Gingrich Syndrome
By: Yedidya Atlas
In 1949, Princeton University Press, published the Fifth Revised Printing, of the original 1943 history book “The Arabs: A Short History” by Professor Philip Khuri Hitti, Professor of Semitic Languages and Chairman of the Department of Oriental Languages at Princeton University. Credited with almost single handedly created the discipline of Arabic Studies in the United States, Hitti, born in Ottoman Syria (now modern day Lebanon), was the preeminent scholar of Islam and the Arab world of his day.
It seems that some people (including some in the media) have short memories...
A proponent of the Arab cause against the Jews and Zionism, Hitti was the first Arab to testify against the Partition Plan at the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, where he took Ben-Gurion to task for his testimony about “Palestine” (referring to the Jews). Hitti declared: “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” And in fact, in the aforementioned “The Arabs: A Short History” there is no mention of whatsoever of an Arab “Palestinian People” even though the particular volume in this writer’s possession was printed in 1966. Despite its numerous revisions, including after the founding the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, Professor Philip K. Hitti, a world renowned spokesman for the Arab cause for many years, made no revision to include the now oft-mentioned Arab “Palestinian People” in later editions of his book on Arab history.
In fact, the name “Palestine”, or “Palaestina” in Latin, originated in the second century C.E., after the Roman occupiers crushed the Jewish revolt of Bar Kochba. In an effort to subsequently wipe out Jewish connection to the Land, the Romans renamed the occupied Jewish Land of Israel as“Syria Palaestina” (after “Philistina” – the land where the Philistines, ancient enemies of the Jewish People, had dwelled in what is today Israel’s coastal plain and Gaza) and considered southern Syria, ruled by a Roman Governor in Damascus. Jerusalem was renamed “Aelia Capitolina”, Shechem, which had, like Jerusalem, been burnt to the ground and rebuilt by the Romans was renamed “Neapolis” (or “the New City” in Latin). Owing to the lack of the letter “P” in Arabic, “Palestine”, is today referred to by Arabs as “Filastin”, and the Arab name for Jewish Shechem, “Nablus” was another Arab mispronunciation of the Roman name Neapolis.
In brief, the name of the nationality of the so-called Arab “Palestinian People” is not even derived from their own language, Arabic. They have no distinctive national history, culture or even cuisine that distinguishes them from other Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt. No one can name the first, last, or any Arab Palestinian king, during the long centuries they falsely claim to have existed prior to the return en masse of the Jews to the Biblical Land of Israel in the past 200 years. Hence, Arab Palestinian national existence is demonstratively a recent development at best.
So the responses to the recent remarks of former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and current Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, regarding the historical bona fides, or lack thereof, of the “Palestinian People” is more telling than the actual remarks.
After all, what did he say?
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century. 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 Israelnow since the 1940s, and it's tragic.”
Mr. Gingrich, who has a PhD. in history and taught it at the college level for a number of years prior to his decades long political career, has sufficient academic credentials for one to assume he has read at least a few serious books in his life on the subject, and can easily document the accuracy of his declaration. Moreover, as proven above, he didn’t say anything all that earth shattering per se.
The Palestinian Arab leadership, of course, challenged the veracity of the Gingrich remarks with the usual oft-repeated falsehoods:
"Our people have been here since the very beginning and are determined to stay on their land until the very end." And that Gingrich was “denying historical facts.” (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad)
Also, of course, they labeled Mr. Gingrich, as “ignorant and racist” for challenging the politically correct albeit false Palestinian narrative.
Unsurprisingly, some media outlets attempted to undercut the historical accuracy of the Gingrich remarks. The Reuters report included the following paragraph:
“Most historians mark the start of Palestinian Arab nationalist sentiment in 1834, when Arab residents of the Palestinian region revolted against Ottoman rule.”
The key words being, of course, “most historians” in an effort to convince the reader that Gingrich’s statement was really just politically motivated and not a well documented historical fact. In reality said “most historians”is really the politically correct wishful thinking of two of Israel’s leftist “new historians” Baruch Kimerling and Joel Migdal in their book “The Palestinian People: A History” (Harvard University Press, 2003). There they write:
“The tough rule and new reforms led to the 1834 revolt’s outbreak in the heart of the country, uniting dispersed Bedouins, rural sheiks, urban notables, mountain fellaheen, and Jerusalem religious figures against a common enemy. It was these groups who would later constitute the Palestinian people.” (pp.3-20, p.7)
The “common enemy” was the Egyptian forces led by Ibrahim Pasha that had conquered much of the country in 1830 from Ottoman rule. The baseless assertion that “these groups who would later constitute the Palestinian people” is vacuous at best, if not deliberate false propaganda to lend credence to the “Palestinian People” myth propagated by Israel’s enemies in an effort to challenge the well documented Jewish connection to the Land. And although even Kimmerling and Migdal don’t buy into the official false history of today’s Palestinian Arab propaganda machine, their book nonetheless, achieved its purpose since it gives Reuters and other media outlets the “academic” basis to muddy the waters of historical accuracy and give the false impression that these issues are in dispute and Mr. Gingrich and anyone who agrees with his statement is in the minority and assumedly with a politically motivated bias against the “poor Palestinians.”
Much has been written in the past week or so in defense of Mr. Gingrich’s historically accurate assertions by top columnists in both Israel and theUnited States, but what no one discusses is the “true sin” of Mr. Gingrich. It is not merely that he has publicly noted that the “Palestinian Arab emperor” has no clothes, but that he, who may well be the next president of the United States, has, in essence, argued that documented truth, and not a politically correct false version of a so-called narrative, should be the basis of the reality upon which negotiations take place. In brief, that the so-called “Israel-Palestinian Conflict” is not a level playing field with equal moral and historical claims to a “disputed” Land.
He didn’t challenge the rights of the parties to negotiate a solution acceptable to both parties. He simply asserted that truth counts in policy making. What a remarkable idea!
The criticism leveled at Mr. Gingrich by even his fellow Republican contenders is that by speaking the truth about an important subject, it is making today’s realpolitik approach to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, for example, more difficult – even for Israel! As if the Israeli position would not be strengthened by an American administration that would reject the false narrative of its enemies. Thus far, administrations that accept the Palestinian “Big Lie” invariably pressure Israel to make tangible and irrevocable concessions that threaten her very existence.
The logical extension of Mr. Gingrich’s “sin” is that not only should truth and morality be factors in making national policy, next he might suggest that political leaders should face reality and deal with it accordingly instead of making policy on delusional wishful thinking. Who does he think he is?
The author is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Nativ, The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon. His articles have been reprinted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the US Congressional Record.