American billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owner of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, said on Sunday that he agreed with Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's controversial suggestion that the Palestinians are an "invented" people.

Gingrich's "invented Palestinians" remarks to the Jewish Channel, a U.S. cable TV network, earlier this month were met with widespread criticism.

Addressing a Hanukkah celebration for hundreds of youths visiting Israel as part of the Taglit Birthright program on Sunday, Adelson said, "Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people. There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.

Adelson also appealed to the hundreds of Jewish young people in the audience to study history and be "goodwill ambassadors" for Israel.

"When you return to your countries of origin, speak in support of Israel - don't let Muslim student organizations take over the campuses. Learn history, go back to the Ottoman Empire and the First World War, and know the issue under discussion, and when you return to your homes, you will remember that you are goodwill ambassadors for Israel," Adelson said.

Over 290,000 young Jews from 54 countries around the world have visited Israel as part of the Taglit Birthright program, a free 10-day tour that aims to forge links between young Diaspora Jews and Israel. The Adelson family has been one of the main donors of the program in the past six years.