Palestinians dismayed by Gingrich remarks

Palestinians dismayed by Gingrich remarks

Palestinians dismayed by Gingrich remarks

Republican presidential candidates Romney (L) and Gingrich are seen in this photo. AP photo

Palestinian officials reacted furiously Dec. 10 to Newt Gingrich’s assertion that they are an “invented” people, accusing the Republican presidential hopeful of incitement and staging a “cheap stunt” to court the Jewish vote.

Gingrich’s remarks struck at the heart of Palestinian sensitivities about the righteousness of their struggle for an independent state and put him at odds not only with the international community but with all but an extremist fringe in Israel. Mainstream Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, support the idea of an independent Palestine alongside Israel as part of a final peace agreement.

In footage released Dec. 9, the former House speaker told a U.S. cable TV network that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. 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,” Gingrich said according to a video excerpt posted online.

Gingrich sought to clarify his position later Dec. 9, saying in Iowa that he supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, including a Palestinian state. In a statement, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said that “to understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history ” which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing.” Those latest comments appeared unlikely to calm the uproar among Palestinian officials.

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.

Israeli raids continue
Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft struck the Gaza Strip early yesterday, wounding a 12-year-old girl and her father, according to a Palestinian health official. The Israeli military said in a statement that it targeted a weapons factory in response to rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza into southern Israel. A missile hit the residence of a Gaza militant who was not home at the time, but flying shrapnel injured the girl and her father in a nearby house, Palestinian health official Adham Abu Salmia said. Israeli forces have carried out multiple airstrikes against suspected militants and their facilities in recent weeks, in retaliation for sporadic but persistent rocket fire. An airstrike Dec. 9 killed a 12-year-old boy and his 42-year-old father who lived in a house near a targeted site. Three militants were also killed in airstrikes last week. About 20 rockets were launched Dec. 9-10, the military said, causing no serious casualties but disrupting daily life in southern Israel.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.