Mr. Gingrich: Are there no Palestinians?

To Mr. Newt Gingrich, Republican candidate for president, who says there are no Palestinians:

“There are no Palestinians. There are Arabs who inhabit the State of Israel.” These are your words, Mr. Gingrich.

So said the 19th century slave master who declared of captive Africans brought to the U.S., they had “no history,” no culture, no identity, but were good enough to serve the interests of their white masters.

So the Palestinian stands as a nonentity in your distorted view.

Let us ask the Palestinian people whose existence you disclaim as “nonexistent,” an “invented” entity. Let us ask the Palestinian mother living in the Occupied Territories, whose home is demolished by the Israeli Defense Force on the presumption that her son is a terrorist who lived there. Ask a thousand more Palestinian mothers who have known the same oppression: “Is there such a thing as a Palestinian, other than an Arab inhabitant of the State of Israel?”

You call yourself a Christian. Ask then that Great Teacher who Himself emanated from Palestine-Judea, who declared liberation and justice with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … to preach the gospel to the poor … to preach deliverance to the captive … to set at liberty those who are bruised.” (Luke 4:18) Words that preceded the modern Palestinian revolutionary struggle for a homeland, for justice, for both Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

Palestinian is what I amAna Falestini in Arabic – in the words of the late poet Mahmoud Darwish. My soul-brother poet, Palestinian Arab, has no existence for you.

The 1948 expulsion of the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim, from their traditional homes, to be replaced by Israeli settlements; the Deir Al Yasin massacre of Palestinian women, children and men by Israeli terrorists of the Jewish Ir-Gun brigades – this, too, has no existence for you.

The words of Yasser Arafat, calling for an independent state of Palestine for his people, the Palestinian people, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization – that, too, is a fiction for you!

What do you say to Professor Hanan Ashrawi when she speaks of “al miftah,” the key to their former homes many Palestinian families keep as a memento of their heritage as a people – homes to which they hope to return? Dr. Ashrawi has a website; you can present your argument there for the “nonexistence of the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian people are my Arab brothers and sisters, they very much do exist, carrying in their blood just as I do, strains of Arab, Ethiopic, Moor, Armenian and Byzantine – strains carried by diverse peoples of the Middle East, Christian and Muslim.

I will repeat the words of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s motto: “Faleshtin Tah’rir al-Hurriya!” Palestine will be Free!

Palestine will be free despite your lies that serve the ruling class of this nation! I dare you to repeat your disclaimer words in the face of a Palestinian man, woman or child, refugees in their own land, in the Occupied Territories of Israel!

Through the bars of my prison cell,” wrote the poet Mahmoud Darwish,

All I possess is the presence of death,Is pride and fury

O homeland, Palestine!
We were born and raised in your wound.

Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, University of California Press, 1974

…And the success of the Cause itself, the alteration of men and women on a mass scale, an alteration which can only take place in a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class (and read here also occupying colonial power) cannot be overthrown in any other way but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology

Sotere Torregian is a poet associated with the French Surrealist Group, visiting lecturer in Third World Studies at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif. Photo: Palestinian school children in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. Susan Webb/PW


Sotere Torregian
Sotere Torregian

Sotere Torregian is an American poet associated with French surrealist poets, former assistant to Dr. St. Clair Drake, Stanford University Afro-American Studies Program (1968-1975) and now occasional visiting lecturer, Third World Affairs, University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif.