Finally, weeks after Newt Gingrich’s remarks citing Palestinians as an "invented people," in last night’s Florida presidential debate, the GOP candidates were confronted by a Palestinian—and a Republican Palestinian too!
The man, Abraham Hassan respectfully affirmed that he does exists and asked Republican candidates to explain how they will bring peace to the Middle East. Hassan’s question:
Abraham Hassan from Jacksonville, Florida. How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? As a Palestinian American Republican I'm here to tell you we do exist.
Before Romney spoke, the first of the presidential hopefuls to respond, the crowd applauded Hassan’s question. Romney evaded the "invented" comment, and suggested Palestinian "aggression" was caused by Obama:
Well, the reason that there's not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because there is in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas who have as their intent the elimination of Israel.
And whether it's in schoolbooks that teach how to kill Jews, or whether it's in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have a right to have a Jewish state.
There are some people who say should we have a two-state solution, and the Israelis would be happy to have a two state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution, they want to eliminate the state of Israel.
And I believe America must say the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and appease, but it is to say we stand with our friend Israel.
We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel.
This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
This president threw (applause) … I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the 67 borders as the starting point of negotiations.
I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu.
I think he has time and time again shown distance from Israel and that has created in my view a greater sense of aggression on the part of the Palestinians [Emphasis added].
I will stand with our friend Israel.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) fact-checked Romeny's comments, catching him in a lie regarding Obama. The "Massachusetts moderate," claimed Obama:
said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The JTA pulled the speech Romney referenced and contrarily found:
The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. (Applause.) And -- and nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security. (Applause.)
We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It's not paid by politicians. It's paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night. It's paid for by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are all God's children [Emphasis added].
Next, Gingrich defended his assertion that Palestinians are invented. But of course, this time, he said it to an actual Palestinian (which was better than reality TV!):
It was technically an invention in the late 1970s, and it was clearly—it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese or Egyptian or Jordanian.
Let’s stop here for a minute to clarify what is a “Palestinian.” The term, which describes those who live/d in what constituents the borders of historic Palestine, has been in parlance since the British mandatory period. The first legal definition arrives in 1925 in the “Palestinian Citizenship Order,” and then again in 1950 with Israeli’s legal categorization of “Palestinians” in the Absentee Laws. Later, the in the PLO’s 1968 National Charter, the entire first section is dedicated to defining what is the Palestinian national identity. Enough, Gingrich. If the colonial institutions can acknowledge Palestinians exists, you should be able too as well--
There are a couple of simple things here. There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now imagine, in Duval County, that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process? And how many of you would say, "You know? That looks like an act of war." You have leadership, unequivocally—and Governor Romney is exactly right—the leadership of Hamas says, "Not a single Jew will remain." Well, you’re not having a peace negotiation then. This is war by another form.
My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom. And they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say, "Israel has a right to exist. We give up the right to return. And we recognize that we’re going to live side by side. Now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity." And you could, in five years, dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian.
But the political leadership would never tolerate that. And that’s why we are in a continuous state of war, where Obama undermines the Israelis. On the first day that I am president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The CNN moderators didn't allow Ron Paul a chance to respond. Would have been interesting to hear what he had to say.
To answer Hassan Abraham’s initial question: Neither Romney nor Gingrich will pursue any measures to help ensure peace. Rather, one will move the U.S. embassy and both will sustain U.S. aid to Israel. And, it seems, the GOP will continue to claim that Palestinians are invented.