Former House speaker and GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said during Saturday’s ABC News/Yahoo News Republican debate that Palestinians are “terrorists.” The comment came after Gingrich was asked about his statement in the days leading up to the debate that Palestinians are an “invented” people. The comment set off a firestorm of criticism, including by establishment Middle East figures, and Gingrich’s campaign told the New York Times on Saturday that the candidate supported the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But asked about the comments by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos before a debate crowd later that night, Gingrich didn’t back away from the comment and doubled down on his Palestinian-bashing:
GINGRICH: Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States — the current administration tries to pressure the Israeli’s into a peace process? [...]
Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East.
After Gingrich’s remarks were greeted by a round of applause, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney commented, “I happen to agree with most of the Speaker said, except by going out and saying the Palestinians are an invented people.” Romney then said that Gingrich might feel the same, that it was a “mistake” to say Palestinians are “invented.” Gingrich then shook his head in disagreement. Watch the video of the full exchange:
As the New Yorker’s David Remnick points out, Gingrich’s claim that Palestinians are “invented” is not historically accurate, but rather was borne out of a long-since debunked piece of “propaganda.”
And while the Hamas organization and political party that seized the Gaza Strip by force in 2007 in a pre-emptive counter-coup is listed by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terror organization, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and its constituent Fatah party that rules the Palestinian authority are not considered terrorists by the U.S.
Romney could have been reflecting on the breadth of Gingrich’s comments when he said he agrees with the former Speaker. While he should be given credit for repudiating the line about “invented” people, enterprising reporters should nonetheless ask for a clarification from Romney and his campaign as to whether he agrees with Gingrich’s statement that “These people [Palestinians] are terrorists.”