Mike Huckabee has revived the notion that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, repeating an assertion that has been debated, and largely condemned, by a wide spectrum of historians and political analysts.
The likely Republican presidential hopeful made the claim in an interview with the Washington Post, for the paper’s story on Huckabee’s guided tours of Israel. Tourists have the opportunity to hear from guest lecturers, including Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein. The Post reports that Klein had told Huckabee’s group that the idea of a Palestinian people is a fiction, a declaration with which Huckabee readily agreed.
“The idea that they have a long history, dating back hundreds or thousands of years, is not true,” the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host told the Post.
This isn’t the first time that Huckabee has promoted this idea. “I have to be careful saying this, because people get really upset — there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,” Huckabee told a Massachusetts rabbi during his 2008 presidential campaign. “That’s been a political tool to try to force land away from Israel.”
Newt Gingrich echoed Huckabee’s remarks back in 2011, saying, “we’ve had invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community.” Gingrich’s remarks attracted more than the predictable condemnation from Palestinian officials, as it also drew derision from Israeli historians and Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s GOP presidential rival.
As David Remnick outlines, the Huckabee-Gingrich school of Palestinian history is grounded in claims put forth by the late polemicist Joan Peters in her 1984 book “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine.” Peters’ book accepted former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s declaration that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian people,” arguing that people who call themselves Palestinians do not have deep roots in the territory. Remnick notes that even the conservative author Daniel Pipes, whose initial reaction to Peters’ book was a favorable one, would later concede that Peters was guilty of sloppy scholarship and “ignor[ing] inconvenient facts.”