Republican candidates in the 2012 primary race have topped each other in inflammatory remarks regarding Palestinians.
Ever so often I am bombarded by so many words that almost none come at all and I pass up the opportunity to tackle a certain subject. This was the case recently with a spate of utterly ridiculous—almost comical—statements from candidates for the Republican primary race in the United States about Palestine and Palestinians, but in the end I had to say something. First there was Mike Huckabee, who came out in support of the building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Then there was Rick Santorum’s statement that there were no Palestinians in the West Bank, only Israelis, and that the entire land belonged to Israel (more on this later). Then there was Herman Cain, well, Herman Cain’s statements were so inane they are not worth describing. Finally, we have Newt Gingrich, the self-proclaimed ‘historian’ who has stated that Palestinians are a fictitious people and that they are all just ‘terrorists’ anyway.
In what has become a ritual for American politicians to outdo each other over who can be the most pro-Israel, the journey for national public office clearly runs through the Holy Land, or at least its Washington address at the AIPAC/WINEP headquarters. This is obviously nothing new; Israel has been a domestic issue in American politics—like the economy, healthcare, education, etc.—for decades.
What is shameless and worrisome are the depths that candidates are now willing to go to in their public statements, sounding more like neo-Nazi demagogues as they deny an entire people’s place in the world than politicians trying to get elected by playing up to an important domestic constituency.
Gingrich, in an interview with the Jewish Channel, stated that Palestinians were an ‘invented’ people and then went on to defend his fallacious remarks in a publicized debate. His comments, which go much further, demonstrate a fundamental ignorance of the history of the region, a blindness to the history of nationalism in general, and a callousness to anyone besides the right-wing Jewish community. Gingrich would be wise to study the history of how every nation was formed—particularly America. The Republican frontrunner went on to say that Palestinians are really just Arabs, as if he was revealing some great truth that we all failed to see. I wonder if he advocates a pan-Arab state that does away with identities such as Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraq—which all emerged out of the Ottoman Empire—or the nineteen other states that make up the Arab League, because he believes they are all in fact ‘invented.’
Santorum’s comments were equally erroneous but were funny in the unintended consequences of Santorum’s thinking—or lack thereof. In saying that the West Bank is Israeli and equating it to America’s conquering of Texas and New Mexico, Israel would then be obliged to offer citizenship to all Palestinians living between the ‘River and the Sea.’ I guarantee this is not something that Santorum’s AIPAC policy advisors would want, but the logical argument—as it was computed in Santorum’s head—is telling.
These politicians become so focused on satisfying a microscopic group of individuals on the grand scale of things that they forget the entire world is beaming in to hear them speak. Who could ever take American peacemaking efforts seriously when these are the type of people running for the highest office in the land?
In some ways I am actually happy about it because I would like the veil of honesty to be stripped away from US intentions in the Middle East. The more the United States contradicts its own policy regarding Palestine at the United Nations and its officials make fools of themselves, the more the US isolates itself and Israel from the global community over this issue. It is only when the American-led ‘peace process’ is dead and abandoned that we can start looking for better solutions elsewhere, and Israel will have to look seriously at its place in the region.