Tag Archives: Newt Gingrich

Gingrich and Palestinian Identity [2]

Well, my last blog post ‘Why Newt Gingrich is wrong about Palestinian identity‘ appears to have placed me as one swimming against the tide or rather, outside the shoal.

Notice I said he was wrong about Palestinian identity and not the fact of the invention of a Palestinian people.

These two things, identity and peoplehood are subtly different. But one does lead to the other.

Most of what I wrote is echoed by many commentators:

Commentary Magazine

Melanie Phillips

Elder of Ziyon

CifWatch

The most important point is that the Palestinians created an identity in order to destroy another – Jewish peoplehood.

We all agree on that.

We also agree that this identity is being used in a continuing war of delegitimisation of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel.

I stated, however, that any people who consider themselves a nation has a right to be considered as such. Clearly, not in the Passport to Pimlico sense. Let’s leave aside the absurdities that my statement above could be used to imply.

There is a Palestinian identity- however that identity came about. And that identity is tied to a scrap of land in the Middle East.

It is pointless and irrelevant to deny this, however cynical we are about the origins of that identity.

Let me put it another way. If that identity is denied simply because of the way it is used as a weapon to be wielded against  Jewish identity, where does it leave several million people who cannot and would not be Israelis, cannot and would not be Jordanians?

My point was that Gingrich does not move us nearer peace by stating the historical truth. He, and all of us, should recognise the current reality.

Palestinian identity and peoplehood has emerged out of their own perverse insistence on destroying another nation and out of their inexhaustible stamina in the pursuit of prolonged victimhood and grievance.

But it is, nevertheless, an identity and, like it or not, that identity will lead to peoplehood and nationality at some stage in the future. The confirmation of that identity can only be achieved if they recognise the Jewish identity of Israel. This is why UNESCO’s recognition of a Palestinian state is wrong and is a regressive and hostile act against Israel. This is why there is no peace.

If Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab league declared tomorrow that they recognise Israel’s right to exist based on the 1967 lines with land-swaps, Israel would be the first country to recognise Palestine and, by implication, a Palestinian identity and peoplehood. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated this clearly at the UN a few weeks ago. And this would be exactly the scenario envisaged in the UN Partition Plan of 1947 , albeit with rather different borders.

So how does using the term ‘invented’ help us move toward that goal?

Recognition of Palestinian peoplehood is almost universal. Israel and its supporters will have to live with it. It may be a ruse invented as a weapon of mass destruction, but the Palestinians have, if you will, turned themselves into a people despite themselves.

Let’s assume Gingrich becomes President or Vice President and has to have some role in advancing peace in the Middle East. How is bringing up the ‘invention’ of a Palestinian identity going to help?

The two-state solution is the only game in town. two states for two peoples. Isn’t this what all of the commentators above support, even grudgingly. So what it is it about ‘two peoples’ that we are not supposed to understand?

Is it the Jews and and a assorted bunch of Arab and Bedouin tribes or is it Israel and Palestine. And if Palestine, why not the Palestinians.

It is quite legitimate to point out how Palestinian nationality is being used against Israel and to oppose its use to further illegitimate recognition. But I stand by what I wrote. Gingrich’s statement is irrelevant. It does not matter that he is historically correct because it’s the history of the last 60 years that will matter and the history of the next hundred years, not the status quo ante.

 

 

Why Newt Gingrich is wrong about Palestinian identity

Newt Gingrich’s leaked comments which describe Palestinian identity as ‘invented’ have a profound importance in the Middle East conflict and these remarks have to be challenged.

One of the reasons that the Gingrich view has to be confronted is that when Jewish peoplehood is questioned by the Palestinians and their cheerleaders on the Left, Muslims and Arabs remain silent in tacit agreement. The Palestinians’ outrage at Gingrich’s remarks are, therefore, hypocritical.

The Mail Online reports Gingrich’s words here.

This is the quote which has caused the outrage which comes from an interview with a Jewish news channel:

‘Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places,’ Gingrich said, according to a video excerpt posted online.

In a way, he is right; Palestinian peoplehood may be the first instance of a nation being formed explicitly and deliberately to destroy another nation – the Jewish national home – Israel.

You may wonder what would have happened if the forces of the Arab League had triumphed in 1949. Would the land ‘from the River to the Sea’ be a separate state called ‘Palestine’?

Perhaps we already have the answer to that conundrum.

From 1949 to 1967 the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. Did they create a Palestinian state on the land which subsequently became the focus of Palestinian national aspirations? No.

Why not?

The PLO, which I remind you stands for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was formed in 1964. What ‘Palestine’ were they trying to liberate in 1964 before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza?  For those of you too young to remember or starved of facts, let me explain. The PLO’s ‘Palestine’ included Israel. In other words, the PLO and its offshoots, Fatah and the current Palestinian Authority leadership, were formed with a single objective: to destroy Israel, to wipe it off the map, and to create an Arab state in all of the Western portion of the original British Mandate for Palestine.

The PLO was, therefore, formed to deny Jewish peoplehood, and it has not shifted one iota from that position. It has had at least three chances to create its own own nation but because it was more interested in destroying the Jewish nation, it has consistently failed to do so.

Not only has it not shifted, it continues to demonise Jews in its education system, deny Jewish connection to the land, Islamise Jewish holy sites and support narratives which pervert the history of the Jewish people and seek to delegitimise their claim to their historic homeland.

So whilst Palestinian peoplehood could be seen as a ruse with which to deny Jewish peoplehood, and is, in that sense ‘an invention’, nevertheless, as a result of this 100 year conflict, and as a result of the PLO’s half century of establishing a Palestinian identity, the Palestinians, a nation no older than 100 years, has as much right to peoplehood and nationhood as the Jews, a people whose roots are at least 3,500 years old.

It could easily be argued that all nations are inventions. Gingrich’s own nation, the United States is as much an invention as any other. Many of the countries in the Middle East whose borders are not in dispute – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan – are recent ‘inventions’ of colonial Britain and France. No-one denies that Syrians are a nation or that they are merely a bunch of Arabs living in a particular place.

Denying Palestinian peoplehood gets us nowhere. When enough people regard themselves as a nation then no-one has a right to deny them their nationhood.

The problem with Palestinian nationhood is that it refuses to live alongside Jewish nationhood.

The problem with Palestinian nationhood is that because it is a relatively recent occurrence (or invention if you like) it struggles to place itself as a separate Arab culture with a distinct history, civilisation, art, music, literature.

But none of that matters; the same could be said for Jordan or Syria. In fact, it has all these things. The problem is that it spends too much of its cultural patrimony in denying someone else’s. It spends too much time in ‘inventing’ its own history. It has no need to do that. It only does it to air-brush out Jewish history and connection to the Land. It is why Jesus is a Palestinian not a Jewish Rabbi; it is why Ibrahim is a Muslim not a Jewish Patriarch who founded monotheism.

Newt Gingrich did no-one any favours when he denied Palestinian peoplehood.

He, like everyone else, should concentrate on ensuring that there are two recognised peoples in the conflict: the Jewish people and the Palestinians, and only recognition of the former by the latter can ever be the foundation of a meaningful and lasting peace.

This week I heard Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, tell us that the conflict is not a zero-sum game; support for Israel does not mean that you cannot also support the Palestinians. Too often supporters of both sides see the conflict that way. It continues to be the position of Israel’s neighbours. It continues to be the position of Israel-haters across the world. Their solution to the problem is to deny to the Jews what they claim for the Palestinians.

So, it may surprise you that I take this view, but let’s think what not taking this view will mean. For the Palestinians it means that they dream of a day when the Jews will disappear and they can have their ‘Palestine’. But would that really be an ideal scenario for them? Decidedly not; and the reason why not is because they have invested so much treasure and so much political and religious capital in basing their identity on hate for Israel and Jews that were the object of that hatred to vanish, their peoplehood would lose its meaning.

This is not a sound basis for national aspirations.

The same cannot be said for the Jews of Israel. If the Palestinians were to disappear one morning the national identity of the Jews would not be affected. The Israelis have not based their cultural identity on hatred. It is based on shared history, culture and values. The Israeli experience is the very epitome of nation-building. Very few Israelis want the Palestinians to ‘disappear'; those that do are decidedly in the minority.

So forget Gingrich and his ignorance. Israelis and Jews must not be seduced by these negative narratives.

But neither must the Palestinians.

 

 

Gingrich, MEMRI and the Islamic Center near Ground Zero

A friend recently sent me this quote from Newt Gingrich, former United States Speaker (Republican) of the House of Representatives (and I quote in full):

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba , Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by trans-forming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque
complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City . Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia . In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca .  And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive
designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyedone of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba , Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by trans-forming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosquecomplex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religioustoleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City . Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia . In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca .  And they lecture us about tolerance.
If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.

I referred my friend to a Wikipedia artcle which is, at least, balanced.

About a week ago I wrote to MEMRI because they had posted a video under the title “Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam of Planned Ground Zero Mosque: One of Our Goals Is to Make People Understand What Islam Is”.

This is what I wrote:

I am a big fan of MEMRI but I’m not sure about this latest video of the Imam of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

I thought MEMRI was about revealing the truth. So why do you call a cultural center with a prayer room 2 blocks from GZ a Ground Zero Mosque in your title? This is a distortion.

I did not see a single objectionable thing in the Al Jazeera interview. I perceive no secret motives or malign intent. As far as I know, the use of the building as a Cultural Center is legal. What’s the wider context you are trying to show, here?

Please explain the ‘message’ behind your placing this on your website.

Back came the reply:

Dear Mr. Cook,

Thank you for your message. Regarding the Al-Jazeera interview, we certainly did not claim that there was anything objectionable stated in it. We translated it because it’s a media topic of much current interest. We follow the interest of the media, and do not seek particularly objectionable or commendable content. Indeed, there is nothing objectionable there, so on this we are in agreement.

As to the name “Ground Zero Mosque,” this is also the common name in much of the mainstream media. We can change it to “Islamic center close to Ground Zero,” but what we would not want to do it to close our eyes to its proximity to Ground Zero, strengthened by the fact that the initiators reject the very idea of moving it from that place, nor do we ignore the title that Imam Abdul-Rauf chose for the Indonesian version of his book, which is “A Call of Azan from the Rubble of the World Trade Center: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America after 9/11.”

So on this, I guess, we disagree. I’m sorry for that.

In other words, they DID see something sinister or else why would they publish? Did Imam Abdul-Rauf choose the title for the Indonesian version of his book? And is it that sinister? Maybe if you are suspicious about the motives of Abdul-Rauf you can spin this as a triumphalist title.

My reply:

Thanks for the reply. That is interesting. I’ll check out the Imam’s book as I wanted to know the context of the MEMRI video and you have shown that. I am still unsure about the Islamic Center and I don’t know whether 2 blocks is near or whether 3 blocks is also near.

I still don’t like perpetuating the GZ Mosque title just because the MSM are freaking out about a non-existent mosque doesn’t mean that you have to go along with it.

So on this occasion we do disagree, sadly.

Thanks for all the work you do.

But then, a little later this arrived from MEMRI:

Thank you.

By the way, the AP just today issued a directive to its staffers to avoid the phrase “Ground Zero Mosque,” and to instead say “near” it. This is what I also thought, after reading your email.

So we will follow the AP’s lead on this.

This is the new title for the video: “Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam of Planned Islamic Center Near Ground Zero: One of Our Goals Is to Make People Understand What Islam Is” (my emphasis).

I commended them for changing the title to a more honest one.

I have replied to my friend who sent me the Newt Gingrich quote and I repeat it here with a little editing:

In the matter of the Córdoba Center, I’m yet to decide. But I am not American, not a New Yorker, no-one I know was killed in 9/11.

Do I have any right to comment? Not sure.

I recently complained to MEMRI that a video of the Imam on their site included the name ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ even though it is not at GZ and is not a mosque. They subsequently changed the headline to say ‘Cultural Center NEAR Ground Zero.

If we don’t like misleading headlines about Jews and Israel then why should we tolerate them when they are designed to mislead about other faiths and groups.

An interesting question to ask yourself is: ‘How far from GZ would a ‘mosque’ be acceptable?

Another is ‘should the United States be making decisions based on a comparison to Saudi Arabia?’

Also, ‘how many Muslims are there in Lower Manhattan?’ Why do they need such a large building? Is this a symbol of Muslim tolerance or supremacism?

What laws are there to prevent this building from being constructed?

What law would have to be enacted to stop it? Would that law be in breach of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

So, how far do Western Democracies, the inheritors of the Enlightenment and over 200 years of the development of civil liberties, personal freedom, the freedom of the Press, free speech, freedom of worship etc. have to compromise these hard-won rights in order to protect those same rights from a religion which does not recognise any of them and, ultimately, believes in overturning them and replacing them with a medieval Caliphate?

By using Draconian measures to stop these perceived threats, do we damage the ability of Islam to reform itself and modernise and make it even more subject to fundamentalist ideology?

So I very definitely do not know what the answer is to this controversy, but I do know that listening to very Conservative Americans is not necessarily going to provide a balanced view.