Who’s a terrorist, Newt?
By Patricia Smith
Founder, Peace X Peace
Editor, Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women
“I am almost daily stunned by the gap between what is in our media and, thus, in some of our attitudes, and the truth.”
Newt Gingrich is a phenomenon that baffles and stuns me. I was willing to let it slide and trust the American people to see and reject his hypocrisy, financial and ethical wrongdoing, megalomania, and opportunistic deception. Last week, however, he overstepped my patience when he referred to Palestinians as an “invented people” and presented himself as having “the courage to tell the truth” that “these people are terrorists.”
I am willing to let hypocrisy and financial wrongdoing be handled by the leavening effect of other citizens’ concerns and reprimands. After all, there is only so much a person can do each day. But on racism I clamp down, especially when it insults my friends, reinforces hateful misinformation, fuels prejudices, and does great damage. My truth is that Newt Gingrich is getting primetime media coverage for racist venom, and that makes him dangerous.
Let me state right now that, as I have hundreds of Israeli friends, I have hundreds of Palestinian friends inside and outside of Palestine. Let me state right now, I have never met a terrorist. And I have never met “an invented” Palestinian.
Who I have met are gentle people, people who have lost their homes and olive groves, articulate people, people forged in a cauldron of occupation. People who have patience beyond my understanding. People of immense courtesy and kindness and hospitality. People who treasure education and their culture, and good food, and their families. People who have had their spouses, siblings, and children killed. People who have had their lands taken, their water rights stolen, and who have been boycotted and bombed, and when I ask, “How do you keep hope?” answer “I must keep hope for the sake of my remaining children.” People who when I ask, “Aren’t you angry?” answer “It happens to everyone here, it is not unusual.”
I saw a row of waiters, busboys, a maitre d’, and a chef stand in silent tribute as I left a restaurant with a woman who fought to get them out of political prison. Each one of them! Newt Gingrich does not have the right to tell his lies unchallenged. He does not know these people! He does not know their lives, their fortitude, or their dreams.
I am almost daily stunned by the gap between what is in our media and, thus, in some of our attitudes, and the truth. I cannot fathom it, and I cannot fathom not wanting to find the truth, not searching it out for our sake, for the sake of the Palestinians, for the sake of our Israeli friends.
I cannot fathom a Congress that seriously planned to block all its financial aid to a walled people while giving the most foreign aid it gives to any country―$3 billion in 2011 alone―to the people who built the wall.
I cannot fathom a serious U.S. Presidential candidate who is so aggressive and incendiary that Israelis feel they can do without his kind of help in their efforts toward peace with their neighbors.
Is Newt in his hypocrisy more or less than the sum of the rest of us? How did we come to a place where such a person is considered a fit candidate to be the President of our nation? Which came first: Newt or an American culture that doesn’t instantaneously reject someone who does not honor honesty or who “invents” his own reality?
Have I missed something? Am I getting too agitated too soon? Will he be soundly rejected quickly? Is he primarily a media flash? Will our people measure carefully and vote accordingly?
We are a democracy. Does this mean the people will search out the truth? It is not only the best future for Israel and Palestine that demands we all know the truth, but it is the best future for all of us. I want to believe that Honesty 101: of the people, for the people, and by the people has more power than advanced courses in racism and opportunism.