Newt Gingrich and Dave Weigel Will Bomb Knowledge Back to the Stone Age


Dave Weigel is a history buff:

[Newt Gingrich’s] last full-on grapple with Romney came when the former governor attacked him, in a sort of more-in-sorrow-than-anger way, for saying that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” That, said Romney, was complicating things for Israelis.

“The Israelis are getting rocketed every day,” snorted Gingrich. “We’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration is making life more difficult.” Plus, he was right on the facts. “Palestinian did not become a common term until after 1977.” That’s the sort of knowledge-bomb that Republicans dream of dropping on Obama—they feel like this is right, but here’s a candidate who can say so.

I suppose we could argue over the definition of “common term.” I did a very fast, very lazy search for “Palestinian” on EBSCOhost. Five seconds’ work turned up references to Palestinians — in the Oxford English Dictionary sense of “an Arab born or living in the area of the former mandated territory of Palestine; a descendant of such an Arab” — going back to 1922.

That earliest reference was in The Nation, which used the term fairly often in the Twenties. But maybe The Nation lacks the common touch. What about Time magazine? Is that common enough for Newt and Dave? The magazine recommended by four out of five dentists began using “Palestinian” in the relevant sense in 1951. For a while, Time used it only before “Arab,” if that makes any difference, but as early as November 1957 the Arab part seemed to be understood:

At one time Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser commended himself to the world as a strongman of reason, more concerned to put his impoverished country on its feet than to stir trouble in the Middle East. But Nasser has increasingly resorted to the incendiary propaganda of the totalitarian dictator, has persistently used his radio Voice of the Arabs to incite the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, who brood in bitter idleness over their lost lands across the border in Israel.

By November 1960, Time considered “Palestinian” a noun:

Last week Pakistan’s Moslem President Mohammed Ayub Khan arrived in Cairo and throwing away a diplomatically phrased set speech, delivered the sharpest criticisms of Moslems by a Moslem heard in many a year.

Ayub spoke plainly on his view of the long-festering problem of refugees along the Israeli border, where more than a million Palestinians—those who fled or were ejected by Israel, and the children born to them since—still inhabit squalid detention camps in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

In fairness, I have yet to discover the first use of “Palestinian” in Highlights or the works of Michael Bay, so you can keep believing Newt Gingrich if you like.

Weigel link via Daniel Larison.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel, to his credit, has revised the article in question.

23 thoughts on “Newt Gingrich and Dave Weigel Will Bomb Knowledge Back to the Stone Age”

    1. True. But this does call into question Newt's value as a historian and Dave's value as a journalist.

      1. Matt Barganier · 6 hours ago
        True. But this does call into question Newt's value as a historian and Dave's value as a journalist.

        It speaks more about Americans than about Gingrich that Americans consider him any kind of historian.

        But then again, Americans aren't known for their intellectual abilities as evidenced by the current state of affairs.

    2. Exactly. Apart from the fact that Gingrich is wrong on the facts, who cares what they were called?

      Besides, before the dissolving of the Ottoman Empire, there were no such things as Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, etc either.

      1. Actually there were Syrians and Palestinians even under the Ottoman empire. That Westerners know very little about history, even their very own history, comes as no shock to anyone.

  1. Herodotus, 5th century BC, references Palestine. So it must have been Herodotus "invented" the place and the people.

    1. The geographical name "Palestine" was introduced by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, in order to rename the Roman province of Judea as 'Syria Palestina." Herodotus had nothing to do with it. The place and the people, of course, are two separate things.

      1. Herodotus actually did refer to “Syria Palestina.” The “invented” was interjection on my part to poke at Gingrich.

  2. Whatever they might have called themselves, the people of the villages of Palestine certainly knew that they and their neighbors had descended from families that had been on that land from time immemorial. Ben-Gurion wrote a book in 1918 claiming that, based on philological and other evidence, the Palestinian Arabs surely were descendants of the ancient Hebrews.

  3. This might help out Newt and Dave:

    (Here's a summary if they don't have time for the whole article)

    Philistines were a people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan at the beginning of the Iron Age (circa 1175 BC). According to the Bible, they ruled the five city-states (the "Philistine Pentapolis") of Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath, from the Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north, but with no fixed border to the east. The Bible paints them as Israel's most dangerous enemy. The total population of Philistia after the arrival of immigrants was around 25,000 in the 12th century BC (immediately after the migration), rising to a peak of 30,000 in the 11th century BC; the Aegean element was not more than half the total, and perhaps much less.

    The etymology of the word into English is from Old French Philistin, from Late Latin Philistinus found in the writings of Josephus, from Late Greek Philistinoi (Phylistiim in the Septuagint) found in the writings by Philo, from Hebrew Plištim, (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Samuel 1:20; Judges 14:3; Amos 1:8), "people of Plešt" ("Philistia"); cf. Akkadian Palastu, Egyptian Parusata.
    Biblical scholars often trace the word to the Semitic root p-l-š (Hebrew: ?????‎) which means to divide, go through, to roll in, cover or invade, with a possible sense in this name as "migrant" or "invader". The name of the Philistines in their own language is not known; however, the Bible also relates them as the people of "Kaftor" (????? in Hebrew, see for example the Book of Jeremiah Chapter 47, Verse 4). "Kaftor" is not of Hebrew or Semitic origin, which supports the possibility that this word is similar to the name they called themselves.
    Another theory, proposed by Jacobsohn and supported by others, is that the name derives from the attested Illyrian locality Palaeste, whose inhabitants would have been called Palaest?n? according to normal grammatical practice.
    Another historian suggests that the name Philistine is a corruption of the Greek "phyle histia" ("tribe of the hearth", with the Ionic spelling of "hestia"). He goes on to suggest that they were responsible for introducing the fixed hearth to the Levant. This suggestion was raised before archaeological evidence for the use of the hearths was documented at Philistine sites.

    (Dates are approximate)
    ?1475 BC: Thutmose III conquers Canaan: beginning of Egyptian domination of southern Canaanite plain
    ?1175 BC: Ramses III defeats the Sea Peoples including Philistines and settles captives in fortresses in southern Canaan (alternatively, Philistines invade and settle the coastal plain for themselves)
    ?1150 BC: final Egyptian withdrawal from southern Canaan
    ?10th–7th centuries BC: Philistines lose most of their distinctive culture and absorb that of surrounding peoples

  4. Those damn Arabs are an inconvenience to Israeli expansion. They need to pack their bags and find someplace else to live. It’s only fair. Newt comnands it!

  5. We Australians are also an invented people I guess, as are Americans, and…wait a minute…EVERYONE IS!!!! Isn't it obvious that the state of Israel was "invented" in 1948 by foreigners? BTW, I wanna know who actually invented Palestinians and when?!?! LOL

  6. The biggest error repeated across the media in hundreds of headlines and stories is that the Palestinians are seeking statehood at the U.N. In fact, Palestine is already legally a sovereign state and is seeking membership of the United Nations, not statehood. The United Nations does not grant or recognize statehood. Only states can recognize other states bilaterally.

    Last Friday Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted an application for U.N. membership from PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The very act of the Secretary General accepting the membership application is an acknowledgment from the U.N. that Palestine is already a state, since only states can apply.

    The Montevideo Convention of 1933 lays out the requirements for statehood: a population living on a defined territory with a government that can enter into relations with other governments. The Palestinians have all three.

    Palestine declared its independence on November 15, 1988. Almost immediately one hundred nations recognized an independent Palestinian state. Since then 30 more nations have recognized Palestine, some having opened Palestinian embassies in their capitals.

    Excerpted from:

  7. What Newt is hiding with the clear cry of fire in the theater is the modern exodus which is clearly in process. This uses an official Israel Central Bureau figure. The Christ science has reported that the number if much large today with a very large number of Dual citizens not having been in Israel for several years. The question is what kind of democracy has its citizens living in other lands? Would the nation of Israel has a vast majority of arabs who actually live there and a large non resident owners of land. Israel routine steals arab lands from abandoning it but they apparently do not apply that rule to this right religion.

    The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics states that as of 2005, 650,000 Israelis have left the country for over one year and not returned. The great majority of these were Jews. In addition, polls show that at least 60 percent and as high as 80 percent of remaining Israeli Jews “sympathize with those who leave the country.

    Among those who stay, there is the conviction that the safe thing is to have a second passport issued by the United States or a European country.

    At present, the United States has issued over half a million passports to Israelis and a quarter million additional applications are pending. Germany runs second with 100,000 passports given to Israeli Jews and 7,000 new ones issued yearly.

  8. The Islamic world is haven't hard time figuring out why what goes between the Arabs and Jews in the Middle East is at the top of the American political agenda when the very livelihood that used define Americanism is facing most dire of threats.

  9. Knowing Republicants are pathological liars. This comes as no surprise.

    Nuke GreenGrinch = FAIL.

    I had a “Palestinian” Physics instructor in 1975. THAT CLASS is what I remembered most throughout my life. Great teacher. Good people.

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