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More – Much More – On Newt’s Lies on Palestine

11:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

In the last few days before the ABC News GOP candidate debate this weekend, Newt Gingrich managed to get the most prominent headlines from among the set of them, with his statement Friday to the Jewish Channel Cable TV Network:

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state,” he said. “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.”

In a diary here Saturday about this, I speculated:

The goal of these candidates, in bringing up Israel, is not so much designed to court Jewish Republican voters, but to court Christian Zionists.  78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, and most will vote for him again. Fundamentalist Christians who believe in the necessity of repopulating the “Holy Land” with Jews to facilitate the coming of the end times represent a high percentage of the GOP voters who will determine their party’s candidate in the caucuses and primaries.

In a post-debate panel discussion Saturday on Current TV, Cenk Uygur pressed his panel on this same point:

Uygur seemed more animated in bringing this up than any of his panelists.  But he was able to do that.  I doubt he would have been cleared to go down this line if he was still at MSNBC.

After the Palestine issue came up during the debate, while it was still happening, Max Blumenthal tweeted:

Sawyer & Stephanapoulos smile & avoid pointed follow-up questions to racist and ahistorical invective against Palestinians

“Racist and ahistorical invective” it was.  Though Sawyer and Stephanapoulos (and Al Gore on Cenk’s panel) were far beyond merely glib, other news sources did follow-up.

The Washington Post fact-checked Gingrich’s debate claim about Palestinian textbooks:

“These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, ‘If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?’ We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. ”

–Gingrich

During the debate, Gingrich reiterated his controversial claim the Palestinians are an “invented people,” which has been criticized in some Republican quarters. But he also raised a new charge about Palestinian textbooks, which he said the United States pays for “through our aid money.”

This funding claim is correct only in an indirect sense: The United States is the largest single-state donor for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), providing nearly $250 million in 2011. As a recent Congressional Research Service report made clear, this funding is closely scrutinized by Congress. But UNRWA underwrites the schooling of Palestinian refugees and thus provides money for textbooks

The issue of Palestinian textbooks is controversial, one the Palestinian Authority says it is addressing. We cannot immediately find evidence of the statement claimed by Gingrich, and it is not clear if he is referring to a statement in one of the newer textbooks.

There have been a number of reports by pro-Israel groups that say the textbooks in Palestinian schools reinforce hatred of Jews. But one Palestinian expert has argued that studies in English that claim to show such bias in Palestinian textbooks are “based on innuendo, exaggeration, and downright lies.”

Here is what the State Department’s human rights report said about the new Palestinian text books:

The PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education completed the revision of its primary and secondary textbooks in 2006. International academics concluded the textbooks did not incite violence against Jews, but showed imbalance, bias, and inaccuracy. Some maps in Palestinian textbooks did not depict the current political reality, showing neither Israel nor the settlements. Palestinian textbooks, used in Palestinian schools, as well as in Jerusalem municipality-administered schools in East Jerusalem, inconsistently defined the 1967 borders and failed to label areas and cities with both Arabic and Hebrew names.

But the Israeli media has reported that Israeli educational system “is hardly better than the Palestinian one when it comes to inserting political messages in textbooks.”

The WaPo story didn’t address the issues of Palestinian authenticity, the “rocket every day” canard, or unwillingness of Palestinians to cut a fair deal with the Israelis, because, Newt alleges, they instead want that ” not a single Jew will remain.”

Let’s examine the authenticity issue.  On Friday, in the JCCTV interview, Gingrich said:

“Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman empire.” He added that Palestinians were “an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs”.

Give that historian an “F-minus.”

The most authentic early mention of Palestine that has come down to us from an author outside of the Levant, is that of Herodotus, in his 420BCE book, the Histories.  He described “Syria Palaistine” several times.  But no Israel.  The earliest local authentic description of a word used elsewhere to identify the geographic area known more recently as Palestine, was about 700 years earlier, with the use by the XX Dynasty of Egypt (c. 1150 BCE) of the term “Peleset.” But no Israel.  That term did not exist to define a physical place until later.

1150 to 420 BCE were important times in the history of Judaism, and fundamentalist Christianity.  But a lot of what has and has not been found archeologically, that might show evidence of a strong state in the area of Palestine, that was predominantly or solely Jewish in a sense we might recognize, leaves immense holes in any assertion that accepts much of what early-date Biblical material fundamentalists believe as fact.  Many of these supposed historical events that fundamentalists accept as fact are not.  They are myths.

Since Herodotus called the area Syria Palaistine, the area now comprising Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, has been called something like that by post-Alexandrian Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Caliphs, Crusaders, Ottomans and British.  They have called the place “Palestine.”

So many tribes have moved into and out of the place over the thousands of years, that the political constructs of Arab and Jew, or Palestinian and Israeli are just that – political.  In countries that call themselves Muslim states or Jewish states, politics IS religion all too often.

The argument Gingrich is attempting to bring to the fore here isn’t just calculated to gain a few fundamentalist votes in Iowa and elsewhere.  It is a conscious effort by an experienced candidate to dig down into the lower reaches of the ideologies of GOP primary likely voters, to begin bringing out the same enthusiasm Palin could pull off in 2008.

Gingrich’s main inroads right now may be among Christian Zionists who were supporting Cain, and from a peeling away of evangelicals who were trying to digest Romney.  Maybe somebody reliable is polling that.

We’ll see if he can pull it off.  Maybe having Franklin Graham re-convert him to fundamentalism after Newt carries Pennsylvania (April 24th) would help cinch the deal.  After all, this is the most cynical and desperate set of major candidates many of us have ever witnessed.

Will Newt Have to “Reinvent” The Palestinian People for Today’s GOP Clownfest Debate?

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

This past week GOP presidential candidate hopeful Newt Gingrich, from his new perch as alleged frontrunner, made two controversial statements regarding Israel and the Palestinians.  Here was Wednesday:

Newt Gingrich told a gathering of Jewish Republicans Wednesday that he would name former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton to be his secretary of state if elected president, and would immediately move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mr. Gingrich showed his trademark flare for provocation as he spoke at a presidential candidates’ forum sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, pledging not to let President Barack Obama dodge his invitation to debate and invoking Mr. Bolton, who advocates an interventionist foreign policy and hawkish stance toward Iran, a longtime antagonist of Israel.

On Friday, Gingrich claimed that the Palestinians are an “invented” people, in an interview with the Jewish Channel Cable Network:

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state,” he said. “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.”

The promise on Bolton prompted some to question whether or not Gingrich may have violated some law by offering up Bolton’s name.  He had not.  He’s not the first presidential candidate to promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, either.  Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made the same campaign promise, only to forget about it once elected.

Gingrich’s statement regarding the Palestinian peoples’ authenticity has elicited some severe criticism from Palestinians in the occupied territories:

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, demanded that Gingrich “review history.”

“From the beginning, our people have been determined to stay on their land,” Fayyad said in comments reported by the Palestinian news agency Wafa. “This, certainly, is denying historical truths.”

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, accused Gingrich of incitement. “Mark my words … these statements of Gingrich’s will be the ammunitions and weapons of the bin Ladens and the extremists for a long, long time,” Erekat told CNN.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, a top official in the PLO, said that Gingrich was seeking a “cheap way” to win Jewish and pro-Israel voters in next year’s election.

Sen. Carl Levin, from Michigan, a state with many relocated Palestinians, was critical:

[Levin] said “Gingrich’s cynical efforts to attract attention to himself with divisive and destructive statements will not help his presidential ambitions since they are aimed at putting the peace between Israel and the Palestinians that Americans yearn for even further out of reach than it is today.”

The presidential hopeful, Levin said, “offered no solutions — just a can of gasoline and a match.”

The reactions prompted his campaign to have to issue a clarification today:

Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman issued a clarification Saturday afternoon. “Newt Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state,” the spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said in a statement.

“However, to understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history, which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing during the recent interview with The Jewish Channel.”

The competition among GOP presidential race candidates to show who is most loyal to the Jewish State is keen.  Remarking on how ridiculous some GOP statements of fealty to Zionism have been, one @chucktodd tweeted:

Will someone one-up Romney and pledge to give their inaugural address FROM Israel?

Israel has come up more in these debates than it did in the 2004 and 2008 national election cycles. Many have predicted this would happen, as the GOP candidates seem to feel compelled to outdo each other in criticism of Obama’s policies regarding this conflict.

The goal of these candidates, in bringing up Israel, is not so much designed to court Jewish Republican voters, but to court Christian Zionists.  78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, and most will vote for him again. Fundamentalist Christians who believe in the necessity of repopulating the “Holy Land” with Jews to facilitate the coming of the end times represent a high percentage of the GOP voters who will determine their party’s candidate in the caucuses and primaries.

I’m wondering if Gingrich is going to get off scott free on his statements and misstatements this past week.  Ron Paul, who was banished from the Republican Jewish Coalition debate, for having been critical of Israeli policies in the past, will probably lead attacks on Gingrich, but may steer clear of this set of issues.

Gingrich really is a target-rich candidate for a host of reasons.

Pearl Harbor Day Thoughts on Newt’s Books

4:50 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I’ve read seven books by Newt Gingrich.

I first read one of Newt Gingrich’s books in 1997.  The first edition of his book, To Renew America had come out.  Some friends were encouraging me to run for the Alaska Legislature in the 1998 cycle.  A bunch of Gingrichites had swept the Mat-Su Valley legislative slate in November, 1994:  Lyda Green in the Senate; Scott Ogan, Vic Kohring and Bev Masek in the House.  I decided to read Gingrich’s book so as to better understand where these people were coming from.

It was the only non-fiction book of his I’ve ever finished.  I found his arguments unconvincing, but he seemed more pragmatic in his conservatism than most “Contract with America” polemicists realized.  I don’t remember much about the book now, but this critical comment from Amazon.com might help:

This is an invaluable read for students of American history who want to understand what the “Republican Revolution” of 1992-1998 was all about. Newt is the Tim Leary to Rush Limbaugh’s Jerry Rubin.

I started reading his A Contract with the Earth (written with Terry L. Maple) when it came out, but had learned to distrust Gingrich as a political figure on environmental issues.  I found his ideas unworkable, and his concept of “ten commandments” for conservatives on the environment to be ridiculously unctuous:

A Contract with the Earth’s is, broadly, a manifesto that challenges those on the right to provide a strategy for repairing the planet and calls on government to embrace the concept that a healthy environment is required for a healthy democracy and economy. his approach, alternately branded mainstream and entrepreneurial environmentalism by the authors, requires that companies should lead the way in environmental issues while governments provide them with incentives to reduce their carbon footprint.

With its 10 “commandments”, A Contract with the Earth calls for politicians to abandon adversarialconservationists to form compatible partnerships. In one of the book’s themes, Gingrich and Maple argue that environmental efforts shouldn’t be exclusive to one political philosophy and reject the idea that free enterprise and a cleaner world are opposing forces.

In 1999, I picked up his book 1945 from the free book shelf at the barber shop.   It was the first of his many alternative history books written in partnership with William R. Forstchen.  Its premise is based upon a World War II in which Germany had not declared war on the US in December 1941, and after we had defeated the Japanese in the Pacific, were faced with a triumphant German adversary.

As these alternative history books go, it was a hilariously strange, somewhat inept attempt.  The denouement seems to be when Sgt. York of World War I fame, outwits and defeats German commando general Otto Skorzeny, in the latter’s attempts to destroy the Oak Ridge Tennessee atomic labs, in a sort of sniperfest in the Tennessee hills.  It was filled with way too much admiration for such German military figures as Skorzeny and Gen. Erwin Rommel.

I read all three of his Gettysburg series books.  Essentially, the plot is this:

On the second day of Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Longstreet and others convince Gen. Lee to abandon the Gettysburg position secretly, and come around to the south of the Union forces, between Gettysburg and Washington DC.  The Confederates decisively beat the Union forces.

Gen. Grant is called from Vicksburg to take charge of the shattered  Union forces.  The Confederates besiege Washington DC and occupy Baltimore.  They then defeat Gen. Dan Sickles.  But Lee’s forces have been weakened, and ultimately Grant defeats the rebels near Frederick, Maryland.  Lee’s retreat back to Virginia is stymied, and he surrenders to Gen. Grant.  The result is a late 1863 end of the Civil War, rather than one in early 1865.

Though the events in the book seemed plausible, the character sketches of historical figures were pretty shallow, and his supporting fictional characters, particularly those of African Americans who help in the siege of Washington and battle of Frederick, come across as caricatures Gingrich unconvincingly hopes to advance, showing he really does care for minorities.

Gingrich’s ongoing series about an alternative early Pacific War in late 1941, is further evidence that he admires strong military figures way too much.  He fixates over U.S. Admiral Bill Halsey, and other military icons.

In Pearl Harbor, Gingrich has the Japanese not only perform a third strike against U.S. military installations on Oahu, he improbably has them stay in Hawaiian waters, to try to engage the U.S. carriers that had been away during the sneak attack.  This was unfeasible, as noted by this critical review of the first book at Amazon.com:

The commitment of the [Japanese] 1st Air Striking Fleet was at the very limit of the operational range for the Japanese ships taking part in the attack. They had to refuel on the crossing and during the return to Japanese waters from fleet oilers. The IJN had insufficient oilers to support both all the other naval operations going down in South-East Asis and sustain a carrier force off the Hawaiian coast for several days of hard steaming.

If the IJN had committed three waves against Pearl Harbor, they would have had insufficient aviation fuel and ordnance to go hunting US carriers.

But hunt them they do, in book two – Days of Infamy.  Here’s a great comment from one of the readers who awarded the book one star:

The authors do not understand naval communications, in spite of the fact that one of their heros is a communicator, and communications play a huge part in their story. They have Japanese aircraft that did not carry voice radios having nice radio chats, and ships breaking radio silence over and over again thinking that a short broadcast would not reveal their positions, which was flat wrong for both sides. In fact, Japanese voice radios were unreliable and of poor performance, to the extent that most Zero pilots had their radios removed. Their only reliable long-range communications was HF CW keyed transmissions. Carriers in particular had limited numbers of radios that could monitor only one frequency at a time and had a large number of nets they had to monitor. Yet, the authors have the Japanese search aircraft each on a different frequency (wrong), has Navy strike aircraft talking to Army heavy bombers (different nets), and of course, with a politician as an author, the whole war stops and the admirals tune their limited number of radios to hear Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech. Only a politician would think that would happen.

All that having been said, I find it remarkable that Newt Gingrich the politician has taken such an abiding interest, as Newt Gingrich the “historian,” to constantly want to change the past in some way or another.  He has written (all in partnership with William R. Forstchen) eight alternate historical books – three about the Civil War, three about World War II, and two about the American Revolution.  In each, though he tries to humanize the historical figures – mostly generals and admirals, what one remembers, rather than these lame attempts, is his deep respect for hierarchical military structures, and how they are more reliable than personalities that inhabit them.  And of how politicians, whether they be Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill, are best off when they defer to their Grants, Lees, Halseys or Marshalls.  This unnatural deference to hierarchy may be part of the explanation of Gingrich’s conversion to Catholicism.

His main claim to having actually changed the past was picked up today by poll analyst Nate Silver, who wrote:

I have seen a lot of other commentators bring up versions of this point, but there is a reason why Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, see Newt Gingrich as by far their most qualified nominee and why they have been willing so far to excuse his periodic lapses from conservative orthodoxy.

The reason is simply that under Mr. Gingrich’s Congressional leadership, the Republican Party finally broke the New Deal coalition that had dominated American politics for more than a half-century, moving policy substantially to the right. That is a pretty impressive credential.

Silver, arguing that Gingrich is actually more conservative than his GOP rivals’ campaigns admit, continues:

The current 112th House is probably the most conservative since the New Deal on economic policy.

It is hard to say how much of this shift is because of Mr. Gingrich. Like the quarterback for a winning football team, he is probably given somewhat more responsibility for his party’s wins and losses than he truly deserves. Nevertheless, no other Republican candidate can come close to matching his record. It is also one that older voters in particular — with whom Mr. Gingrich performs extremely well — may be inclined to appreciate. Those older voters may have a keener sense of history and would have remembered that the House of Representatives had been dominated by Democrats for their entire adult lifetimes until Mr. Gingrich came into power.

As much as Gingrich both has sought to change history in his novels, and did in his congressional actions,  there is a lot of history he cannot escape.  I hope someone is going through all the old C-SPAN Book TV appearances he has made.  I understand he has made many comments over the years stereotyping various racial and cultural groups, at book tour events.  Maybe readers can help us find links.

On the one hand, Gingrich is far more comfortable in front of the media and in campaign appearances than any other GOP candidate.

On the other hand, he often doesn’t know when to stop talking.