Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says GOP hopeful Mitt Romney was right to suggest that Israelis were superior to Palestinians because of their culture.
Palestinian officials on Monday had accused Romney of racism after he seemed to tell wealthy donors — including billionaire Sheldon Adelson — that Israelis were more economically successful because of their culture and intervention by God.
On Tuesday, however, the presumptive Republican nominee tried to walk back those remarks, telling Fox News that he “did not speak about the Palestinian culture.”
And then later that day, Romney said he stood by his initial remarks.
“During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it,” the former Massachusetts governor wrote in the National Review. “But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?”
During an interview that was aired on Wednesday, CNN host Soledad O’Brien asked Gingrich if Romney had been correct about the differences between Israeli and Palestinian culture.
“I don’t think he made a mistake in Israel,” Gingrich explained. “I think the comments about culture were right, and I wish the elites of this country had the courage to look at the United Nations refugee camps [in the West Bank] and realize what an anti-human disaster those refugee camps are, how much they have been breeders of terrorism, how fundamentally wrong their design is and how much we have done a disservice to the people of Palestine and Palestinians by allowing them to be subjected to that kind of government run, totally inappropriate structure.”
“So, there, I hope that Gov. Romney will stick to his guns,” the former House Speaker added. “Let’s have the argument.”
According to the CIA, Israelis had a 2011 per capital income of $31,400, while Palestinians had a per capita income of just $2,900.
Activists have long said that Israel’s restrictions on trade and strict border blockade are responsible for crippling the Palestinian economy.
“Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid,” Amnesty International estimated in 2010. “As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.”
Watch this video from the CNN’s Starting Point, broadcast Aug. 1, 2012.