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Newt Gingrich defends calling Palestinians 'an invented' people

December 10, 2011|By Kim Geiger
(Jeff Haynes / Reuters )

After sparking controversy when he said that the Palestinians are “an invented” people, Newt Gingrich doubled down on the comment Saturday despite being scolded by rivals.

”The fact is, the Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story,” Gingrich said. " 'Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977. This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage and we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies.”

Rival Mitt Romney chided Gingrich for the “incendiary” comment but didn’t object to the premise.

“I happen to agree with most of what the speaker said, except by going out and saying the Palestinians are an invented people,” Romney said. “That, I think, was a mistake on the speaker’s part. I think you – I think the speaker would probably suggest that as well.”

No, Gingrich nodded, he still didn’t think it was a mistake.

“Ultimately, the Palestinians and the Israelis are going to have to agree on how they’re going to settle their differences between them,” Romney said. “And the United States of America should not jump ahead of Bibi Netanyahu and say something that makes it more difficult for him to do his job,”

Gingrich made the comment in an interview with the Jewish Channel that was aired on Friday.

Referring to the early 20th century, Gingrich said: “I believe that the commitments that were made at the time – remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places.”

Ron Paul said Gingrich was “just stirring up trouble.”

“Technically and historically, yes, you know, under the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinians didn’t have a state, but neither did Israel have a state then, too,” he said.

Still, Gingrich stood by the comment.

 “It’s fundamentally the time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Enough lying about the Middle East,' '' Gingrich said, drawing applause from the audience.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum refused to say whether he agreed with what Gingrich had said, but he too scolded Gingrich for saying it.

 “I think you have to speak the truth, but you have to do so with prudence,” Santorum said. “…This isn’t an academic exercise. We have an ally, and the policy of this country should be to stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s response drew the most praise from the crowd.

 “Let me just say that I think this is a minor issue that the media is blowing way out of proportion,” Perry said. “...This president is the problem, not something that Newt Gingrich said.”

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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