Palestinian leaders said U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich had invited more conflict in the Middle East by calling the Palestinians an "invented" people who want to destroy Israel.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, described his comments in an interview as "despicable."
Hanan Ashrawi, another top official, said Gingrich's "very racist comments" showed he was "incapable of holding public office."
"This is the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach," Erekat, a close adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, told Reuters. Such comments served only to "increase the cycle of violence," he added.
"What is the cause of violence, war in this region? Denial, denying people their religion, their existence, and now he is denying our existence," said Erekat, for years a leading figure in peace talks aimed at the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In an interview on December 9 with the Jewish Channel, Gingrich predictably sided with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, who are seeking a state of their own on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war.
But the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives departed from official U.S. policy that respects the Palestinians as a people deserving of their own state based on negotiations with Israel.
"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire" until the early 20th century, said Gingrich, who has risen to the top of Republican polls with voting to start early next year to pick a nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.