Newt Gingrich’s citing, during the Republican candidates’ debate Saturday, facts regarding Palestinians’ history and the problem of hate education in the Palestinian territories have grabbed headlines. It seems Gingrich understands the propaganda war being waged against Israel and feels obliged to speak the truth about it. He is also shrewd. His choice to come out strong on the issue at this juncture was probably strategic.
After Gingrich made politically incorrect statements and refused to back down during the debate, even the normally unflappable Romney appeared blindsided, and flummoxed.
Gingrich understands the mountain of propaganda that’s been heaped on Israel for the past several decades. He also understands the incitement and dehumanization of Israelis and others that goes on in Palestinian schools and mosques, as well as in official Palestinian media, that the U.S., preposterously, helps fund “through our aid money,” as Gingrich said. He did the right thing to speak up about it. But why did he choose this moment?
As a shrewd politician, Newt saw an opportunity to break from the Republican pack and “out-Israel-support” the rest of the candidates in advance of the Iowa caucuses. Rather than doing so in a predictable way (by spouting pledges and platitudes), he spoke truths that many American Jews and other pro-Israel Americans, and even some Israelis themselves, today shy away from saying. As Gingrich said, “This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage and we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies.”
Gingrich demonstrated not only that he grasps certain politically incorrect realities, but also that he has courage; he demonstrated he is able to endure condemnation from many corners for questioning the status quo. His words, in that sense, were not just words. Because they could and almost certainly will have some negative consequence for him–if only incurring the wrath of those who benefit from the status quo–they constituted an action.
The ability to act with courage, more than anything, is what voters who care about a strong America and a strong Israel want to see. Never has that been more true than now, when Israel faces a potential existential threat from Iran.
In noting that Gingrich was probably being strategic, I don’t suggest he’s not sincere. The way he attempted to explain the nature of the propaganda war against Israel suggests to me he grasps the situation perfectly and cares about it, as well as about the truth.
That he also chose to voice these truths at this moment should not be held against him. One can be simultaneously strategic and sincere.