For all the hawkish Mideast rhetoric among the GOP presidential field, Newt Gingrich is quickly distinguishing himself for right-wing stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the latest such posturing, the former House speaker cited an example of Palestinian incitement against Israelis — a real issue, but just not quite in the fact-free way Gingrich confidently spoke of in last week’s Republican debate.
Gingrich was asked about his earlier remark, plucked from “an ideological tract disguised as history,” that Palestinians are an “invented” people — a view he hasn’t walked back, but qualified with support for a two-state solution to the conflict. At last week’s GOP presidential debate, however, Gingrich doubled down and declared of the Palestinians, “These people are terrorists.” He went on:
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.
Watch a video of Gingrich’s remarks at the debate:
Gingrich invoked truth and spoke with certainty. But an Associated Press fact check of his quite specific claim — that U.S. money pays for school textbooks that teach math by counting Jewish deaths — found it didn’t check out:
Three researchers — [George Washington University political scientist Nathan] Brown, Itamar Marcus from Palestinian Media Watch and Eldad Pardo from IMPACT-SE — said the example Gingrich cited in the Dec. 10 Republican debate does not exist in the texts. Gingrich’s office did not respond to two emailed requests for further comment.
Incitement in the Mideast conflict is a complicated and serious issue, and it’s an impediment to peace. By making false claims about incitement, Gingrich cheapens the discourse on this serious issue.
The full AP article describes religious schools in Occupied Palestinian Territory — constituting about 750 Palestinian students of the Territories’ 1.6 million students — that glorify martyrdom. A study found that government schools, which teach more than 700,000 students, had two examples of anti-Jewish sentiments in their textbooks, but the largest concern was that the Israeli national narrative was omitted from the books.
Last year, the Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP) noted some progress against Palestinian incitement in textbooks, while important areas of concern persist. “We need to recognize what needs to be improved and recognize and praise the progress that’s been,” WINEP chief Robert Satloff said. “We need to stay away from hysteria and its opposite, whitewash.”