When you stand upside down on your head, the world looks upturned too. So it’s just as well that US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich thinks the Palestinians are an “invented people.” He told the US Jewish Channel: “I think we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. They had a chance to go many places and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel since the 1940s, and it’s tragic.”
Gingrich’s pearls of wisdom have stunned even those who have long been used to the lopsided nature of US politics and the hostility with which the Arabs and Palestinians are viewed by the US establishment.
You wouldn’t take these views seriously if it wasn’t for the fact that Gingrich is not just any US politician playing to the gallery, but a former speaker of House of Representatives and Republican frontrunner for the White House. He could face President Obama in next year’s polls and, if elected, could end up in the most powerful office on the planet. Compared to Gingrich, our friend George W. Bush comes across as the apostle of peace and very epitome of sweet reason.
This dangerous disconnect with reality is not an exception but the norm. Gingrich represents the larger reality of US politics. While over the past few years, the world at large has rallied behind the Palestinians and is increasingly outraged by the suffering and persecution of a dispossessed people, American politicians are outdoing each other in genuflecting before Israel and sanctioning the crimes of an evil, Apartheid state.
So while the world community stands up and cheers for a Palestinian state at the United Nations, the Nobel laureate US president threatens to block it. And a vindictive Congress votes to block humanitarian aid to a long besieged and starving people.
But then what do you expect from those who have a long history of beating into submission, or worse, obliterating the indigenous people and cultures wherever they headed? The native Americans, or red Indians, are to be found today only in isolated protected sanctuaries in their own land. Tens of thousands of lives were wiped out as part of the West’s glorious mission to spread sweetness and light in Americas.
History repeated itself in Australia. The Aborigines have been confined to their wretched habitats in the outback where they are fighting for survival. And who could forget the centuries of colonial games in Africa? The fabled riches of the continent where human civilisation is said to have begun the financing of the empire and its people enslaved for four centuries — not to mention hundreds of thousands of Africans who were captured and sent to build the “new world”.
No wonder Gingrich and his kind see the Palestinians as an “invented people.” They are just as invented as the native Americans and Australian aborigines are. Driven out of their homes and lands six decades ago, Palestinians have been desperately looking for an identity and a home to call their own. People like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, born thousands of miles away in Russia, Europe and America seem to have an inalienable right to steal their country and build their homes and colonies where their own homes, mosques, churches and olive trees once stood.
And it’s only natural that defying all reason and world opinion, the neocons and bigots like Gingrich should support Israel and its crimes against the Palestinians. After all, Israel is an imperial project. Created as the last colonial outpost in the heart of the Islamic world by the Second World War victors — Winston Churchill is said to have famously scrawled the map of a “new Middle East” on a napkin during his summit with Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Black Sea resort of Yalta — Israel has been the blight and bane of the region.
The Middle East — and the world — ha not known peace and stability since the West passed on the heavy load on its conscience to the Arab-Islamic world. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may sound like a fruitcake, but he’s not far off the mark when he asks why the Arabs and Muslims should be paying for Europe’s crimes against the Jews.
Imagine the consequences if Gingrich, who has a long history of Islam-bashing, had accused the Jews of being an “invented people.” He would have been hit so hard by the almighty lobby that he wouldn’t remember his German-English-Scottish-Irish ancestry.
Who could argue with those who have shut their eyes and ears to the truth? The Palestinians have a history that goes back thousands of years, the earliest of references being found in ancient Greek historian Herodotus’ writings, who talks of Palaestina, stretching from Phoenecia to Egypt. And this history is being challenged by folks whose own past begins after the European Renaissance, in the 17th century. But that is beside the point, of course.
The issue here is not about Palestine or Palestinians, but about the self-serving, cynical nature of the US politics and the critical role the Zionist lobbies, money bags and votes today play in controlling it. Gingrich is not an isolated aberration. Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s Republican rival and presidential contender, accuses Obama of throwing Israel “under the bus” by not attacking Iran. Romney has assured Israel and its friends that if he were in the White House, he would call up Benjamin Netanyahu before taking any decision on the Middle East: “If I was president, I’d get on the ‘phone to Bibi and say ‘Would it help if I said this?’”
Things are little different in Obama’s Democratic camp. Both sides of the political divide speak a language that even the New York Times’ Jewish columnist, Tom Friedman, thinks is “grovelling for Jewish votes, by out-loving Israel.” It’s as though, as Alan Hart suggests, Israel’s Netanyahu is the frontrunner in the race for the White House. So much so, in a close race between Obama and his Republican rival, the Lobby could determine, once again, who gets the key to the White House.
Will this ever change? At a time when the Middle East, long lectured by America and the West on virtues of freedom and democracy, is increasingly breaking free of its shackles and chains, throwing one tyrant after another, the land of the free is hardening its own. The nation of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King has been reduced to Israel’s cheerleader. As Friedman puts it in rare candour, America’s role today is to “just applaud whatever Israel does, serve as its ATM and shut up. We have no interests of our own.”
When will this reality dawn on the ordinary Americans? When will America break free of the shackles of lobbies and special interests? When will the Arab spring come to America?
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf-based writer. You can follow him on www.twitter.com/aijazzakasyed