The Jerusalem Post (Editorial)
December 13, 2011 - 1:00am

Less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, the first step in the US presidential nomination process, Republican presidential hopefuls seem to be engaged in an attempt to outdo one another in demonstrations of support for Israel.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives who has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in recent polls, has been the most outspoken. During a Republican debate held in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday night, Gingrich defended comments he made last week to the Jewish Channel referring to the Palestinians as an “invented people.”

“Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth,” Gingrich declared, adding that there was not much difference between Fatah and Hamas.

Romney, speaking at the same Des Moines debate, replied that he “happens to agree with most of what [Gingrich] said,” except for the “invented people” comment.

Rep. Michele Bachmann meanwhile attacked Palestinian incitement in school textbooks.

All of the speakers, proudly brandishing their pro-Israel credentials, touched on important points.

To better understand Gingrich’s statement that there is not much difference between Fatah and Hamas or Bachmann’s criticism of Palestinian text books, we recommend reading Deception: Betraying the Peace Process.

The book, launched at the beginning of the month in a New York event attended by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Advancing Human Rights founder Bob Bernstein, analyzes a year’s worth of cultural, educational and general media resources, in which the Fatah-led PA promoted messages of hate against Israel. Authors Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik of Palestinian Media Watch discovered that even in mundane contexts, such as the sports pages in official PA newspapers or in educational programs for children, Israel is routinely referred to as “the homeland that is occupied,” not just on the West Bank but within the Green Line.

Israelis policies are regularly demonized, Israelis are compared to Nazis, and Palestinian terrorists – alive and dead – are treated as national heroes.

Even Gingrich’s statement referring to Palestinians as an “invented” people, taken together with a clarification issued afterwards in which he expressed his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should not be dismissed as “irresponsible and dangerous,” like one senior Arab League did. After all, scholars of nationalism such as Benedict Anderson have referred to modern nation states – particularly those created at the beginning of the 20th century, such as Arab states in the region, and even European states such as Italy – as “imagined communities.”

People socially construct the idea of a nation in order to bring together a diverse people and foster a feeling of common purpose. The Jewish people, in contrast, can hardly be called an “invented people.” Even before they settled in the Land of Israel nearly four millennia ago, they saw themselves as a nation. And even after they were exiled from their land nearly two thousand years ago, they continued to pray and occasionally make physical attempts, to return.

Indeed, if there ever was a nation that was not invented, it was Israel.

Republican presidential candidates’ strong support for Israel and their deep understanding of the obstacles the Jewish state faces in its pursuit of peace are truly heartwarming.

Unfortunately, this unabashed support is being articulated at a time when key officials in the Obama administration – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman – have articulated criticism of Israel’s foreign and domestic policies, giving the false impression that Israel has become a partisan issue.

The comments led Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a veteran pro-Israeli lawmaker, to voice concern.

“I’ve never seen such partisanship,” Lowey said in a press briefing organized by The Israel Project.

We agree with Lowey that such partisanship on Israel is “very dangerous.” We also believe that this supposed partisanship is more perceived than real. After all, Americans share too many common values with Israel.

As it has in the past, support for Israel should not divide Americans, rather it should unite them – whether they be liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

In the final analysis, our two countries stand for the same ideals – and face the same enemies.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017