Newt Gingrich’s speech yesterday to the Republican Jewish Coalition was standard right-wing boilerplate intended to appeal to Republican Jewish donors and hardcore Christian Zionists. But notably and disturbingly, Gingrich lauded the throngs of Jews who danced through the streets of occupied Jerusalem earlier this month to celebrate what they call the “reunification” of Jerusalem.
Here’s Gingrich (my emphasis added):
It was on this Feast of Shavuot 44 years ago, in June of 1967, a mere six days after the Old City of Jerusalem had been reunited in the Six Day War, that for the first time in almost 2,000 years, Jewish people were once again able to visit the Western Wall and walk the streets of the Old City as citizens of a sovereign Jewish nation.
Hours before dawn that day, thousands upon thousands of Jews gathered at the Zion gate to await entry into the Old City.
At 4 a.m., the crowds were finally allowed to stream into east Jerusalem — the first time Jews had been allowed to carry out a pilgrimage to the Western Wall, as members of a Jewish nation, celebrating a Jewish festival — since the pilgrimages to the Temple 2,000 years earlier.
As the sun rose over the Old City, a total of more than 200,000 Jews made their way through the city streets to a site that today remains the heart of a people, a religion, and a nation.
Each year the Festival is celebrated in a similar fashion, by a pedestrian pilgrimage through the streets of Jerusalem to the Western Wall.
It is a pilgrimage of which generations of Jews could only dream, and signifies the unbroken connection between the identity of the Jewish people and the land of Israel that has existed not for mere decades, but for thousands of years.
During this last week, today’s generation of Jews made a similar pilgrimage through the streets of Jerusalem, knowing that the freedom that allows them to visit their holiest sites is more endangered at this moment in history than at any time since that Shavuot morning four and a half decades ago.
Leave aside the whitewashed talk about the 1967 war, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were made refugees. The most significant aspect of Gingrich’s speech is his wink and a nod to the Jerusalem Day revelers who marched through occupied Palestinian parts of the city and chanted, “Butcher the Arabs” while Israeli police protected them in early June. See these videos here and here to see what the “pilgrimage through the streets of Jerusalem” was really about. Gingrich is lauding state-supported violence and racism directed against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
The political reasons for the tacit support of the ethnic cleansing project in Jerusalem is clear. Right-wing Jewish donors–including Democratic Party donors–and Christian Zionists insist that Israel hold on to Jerusalem as the state’s eternal capital. The speech also allows Gingrich to shore up his Arabophobic and Islamophobic credentials as the Republican Party primary heats up. But let’s be clear: Gingrich is playing with real fire when he lauds those Israelis who openly incite for the killings of Arabs.