Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has been slammed by Palestinians for telling a Jewish television channel that they are an "invented" people.
"These are extremely trivial, demeaning and ridiculous remarks," Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said, according to the Ma'an News Agency . "Even the most extremist settlers of Israel wouldn't talk in such a ridiculous way."
"Ignorant" and "despicable" were also used by top Palestinian officials to describe Gingrich's comments.
"This is the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach," said lead negotiator Saeb Erekat. The comments only "increase the cycle of violence."
Gingrich told the Jewish Channel that Palestinians are "invented" because there has been no state of Palestine.
"I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community," said Gingrich. "And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it's tragic."
The land of Israel and the Palestinian territories was part of the Ottoman Empire before being taken over by Great Britain. Mandated Palestine, as it was known, was then partitioned by the United Nations in 1947.
Gingrich went on to call the Israeli-Palestinian peace process "delusional" and that President Barack Obama's treatment of Palestinians is "favoring the terrorists."
Gingrich's argument is regularly made and far from new.
In 1969, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."
"This proves that in the hysterical atmosphere of American elections, people lose all touch with reality and make not just irresponsible and dangerous statements, but also very racist comments that betray not just their own ignorance but an unforgivable bias," said top Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond released a statement today in response to the Jewish Channel interview:
"Newt Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state," the statement said. "However, to understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history, which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing during the recent interview with The Jewish Channel. "