FACT CHECK: Gingrich’s Incendiary Example From Palestinian Textbook Was Bogus

Reposted by arrangement with Think Progress

For all the hawkish Mideast rhetoric among the GOP presidential field, Newt Gingrich is quickly distinguishing himself for right-wing stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the latest such posturing, the former House speaker cited an example of Palestinian incitement against Israelis — a real issue, but just not quite in the fact-free way Gingrich confidently spoke of in last week’s Republican debate.

Gingrich was asked about his earlier remark, plucked from “an ideological tract disguised as history,” that Palestinians are an “invented” people — a view he hasn’t walked back, but qualified with support for a two-state solution to the conflict. At last week’s GOP presidential debate, however, Gingrich doubled down and declared of the Palestinians, “These people are terrorists.” He went on:

They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, ‘If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?’ We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East.

Watch a video of Gingrich’s remarks at the debate:

Gingrich invoked truth and spoke with certainty. But an Associated Press fact check of his quite specific claim — that U.S. money pays for school textbooks that teach math by counting Jewish deaths — found it didn’t check out:

Three researchers — [George Washington University political scientist Nathan] Brown, Itamar Marcus from Palestinian Media Watch and Eldad Pardo from IMPACT-SE — said the example Gingrich cited in the Dec. 10 Republican debate does not exist in the texts. Gingrich’s office did not respond to two emailed requests for further comment.

Incitement in the Mideast conflict is a complicated and serious issue, and it’s an impediment to peace. By making false claims about incitement, Gingrich cheapens the discourse on this serious issue.

The full AP article describes religious schools in Occupied Palestinian Territory — constituting about 750 Palestinian students of the Territories’ 1.6 million students — that glorify martyrdom. A study found that government schools, which teach more than 700,000 students, had two examples of anti-Jewish sentiments in their textbooks, but the largest concern was that the Israeli national narrative was omitted from the books.

Last year, the Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP) noted some progress against Palestinian incitement in textbooks, while important areas of concern persist. “We need to recognize what needs to be improved and recognize and praise the progress that’s been,” WINEP chief Robert Satloff said. “We need to stay away from hysteria and its opposite, whitewash.”

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. How much do Israeli texts acknowledge the Nakba, the occupied territories? What are the borders that Israeli students are taught, define Israel? Does Israel have borders? It seems it is the only country that expands on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Perhaps the Arabs and Christians are incapable of comprehending this due to prohibitions on interest. Perhaps we should say Israel accrues more territory. Somehow, I think that is a policy as bankrupt as a Maddoff investment account. I think we’ll look up and see there is nothing there someday.

  2. On the subject of provocative language – last week Susan Rice (US ambassador to the UN) in a speech to a Jewish organization, from whom she was receiving an award, used the word “frontier” to refer to the Israeli border with Gaza. This seemed like a term chosen to accommodate a settler point-of-view, in which Israel’s borders are still expanding as Israeli settlers move the frontier west as the settlers in the old west of the USA did. Is the word “frontier” a loaded one in the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis?

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