So I was watching the news on Friday (as I always do… remember, CNN is a social activity for Palestinians), and I heard Newt Gingrich say the following:
Newt on CNN: “I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state.” Me at home: “OK…” Newt on CNN: “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire.” Me at home: “Uh oh.” Newt on CNN: “And I think we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, who are historically part of the Arab community.” Me at home: “Huh?”
Now, as a Palestinian, I’ve heard a lot of racist stuff about us. I’ve heard Abba Eban say that Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” I’ve heard Menachem Begin call us “beasts” and Ehud Barak call us “crocodiles.” I’ve even heard Ariel Sharon say he would “kill as many Arabs as necessary.”
But now, we’re “invented”? I’m still not sure what it means. So, were we there before Israel? Were we not there? Lies about us usually have some level of clarity. But this one is just confusing. I want to be mad. I do. But I just don’t know what to do.
Now, to be fair, Newt does have some company. Golda Meir was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1974 and she said a lot of stuff about us. Most famously, she told the world, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” When addressing the Palestinian right of return to their homeland, she stated, “We shall not let this happen.” She defiantly told us, “Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem just cannot be.” And to top it all of, she declared, “How can we return the occupied territories? There is no one to return them to.”
So I guess Newt Gingrich can claim some sort of camaraderie with Golda Meir. But it’s nothing to be proud of. She was more evil than Ann Coulter, Casey Anthony, Lady Macbeth, Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”… combined.
Of course, Newt was just trying to cozy up to Jewish voters in America by telling them something he believed they wanted to hear. But doesn’t he know that denying our existence is out of style? Even the Israelis now acknowledge our existence. Benjamin Netanyahu calls us a “demographic threat.” See Newt, you can’t be a threat if you don’t exist!
But being “invented” might not be that bad. People have invented things that were really good for people, like penicillin, the smoke detector, and seatbelts. A lot of really cool stuff was invented too, like the Internet, the iPhone, and Twinkies. But I listened to Newt’s tone when he spoke. Somehow I don’t think he meant we were a “good” invention. My suspicion is that he was lumping us in with the bad inventions, like the Snuggie, the Macarena, and Farmville. I think he meant the world “invented” the Palestinians, just like it “invented,” say, Kim Kardashian.
In last night’s Republican debate, Newt staunchly defended his comments, saying that what he said was “factually accurate.” But he didn’t stop there. He said Palestinians were “terrorists,” and that we have hateful entries in our textbooks like, “if there are 13 Jews and 9 Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?” The claim that that sort of stuff is in Palestinian textbooks is, of course, false and racist. But in case he was wondering, the answer is 4. We’re not a bunch of inhumane terrorists, but we’re not dumb either.
At any rate, we Palestinians have been around for a very long time. Just ask Jesus. But all this talk about inventions does remind me of another famous Israeli quote spoken by David Ben-Gurion, the chief “inventor” of Israel:
Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul, Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta, Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis, and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
We were not “invented.” But our struggle was… by the same people that deny it today.
* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."