Readers of this blog should know by now that I’m a proponent of the one-state solution for Israel and Palestine. So I was amused yesterday to see the Times run an op-ed piece by none other than Libya’s Brotherly Leader, Muammar Qadaffi. Despite the ridiculous name of “Israstine” (if Belgium and Norway can have different names in their official languages, then why not Israel/Palestine?), I agree with most of what Qadaffi has to say. The readership of the Times though, it should go without saying, mostly did not.
One letter to the editor, however, was surprising in its candor and levelheadedness:
Kudos to The New York Times for printing the Op-Ed article from Muammar Qaddafi, which challenges the political orthodoxy in this country that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution.
While there are undoubtedly huge obstacles to a realistic one-state solution — one of which is the hatred of Jewish people, which has now been engendered in large parts of the non-Jewish population of this area — the two-state solution depends upon a doctrinal base that we should always reject: that one ethnic-religious group is entitled to rights superior to another.
It is baffling to me that people of good will who would denounce this doctrine in any other context are willing to accept it when it comes to Israel.
There is no doubt that the Jewish people have been subjected to horrendous persecution throughout history, with this evil reaching its apex in the 20th century, but the answer to such oppression must not be the oppression of others.
Most of the rest of the letters are full of outrage that Qadaffi would even be given a voice in the Times (of course, I imagine there was no such outrage over articles by Begin or Sharon, who have more than their fair share of blood on their hands) or shrill accusations about how Qadaffi wants to “destroy Israel.” Lockerbie was, of course, brought up, despite more recent developments in that case. One letter, however, was so silly that it deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
To the Editor:
An ingenious and diabolical solution to Middle Eastern turmoil: the creation of “Isratine,” or “one state for all.” All that it requires is the eradication of Israel. Perhaps Muammar Qaddafi would consider a trial run with “Libgypt.”
Jerold S. Auerbach
Wellesley, Mass., Jan. 22, 2009
The writer is a professor of history at Wellesley College.
This letter is stupid on several levels. First of all, there is no parallel here between Egypt and Libya on the one hand and Palestine in Israel on the other. In case Auerbach hasn’t noticed, Egypt is a sovereign nation that is not occupied by Libya. Also, while to the best of my knowledge Libya has never tried to merge with Egypt, it has announced plans to merge with two of its other neighbors, Chad and Sudan. The case of Chad was a belligerent grab for more “living space” that bears some resemblance to Israel’s brief seizure of the Sinai in 1956, whereas plans to unite Sudan and Libya were put forth by the governments in both Khartoum and Tripoli.
I don’t want to give the impression here that I like Qadaffi. On the contrary, authoritarian regimes should be opposed, and if you need any other reasons to dislike the regime in Tripoli, Hisham Matar’s story offers plenty.
Yesterday, in fact, I joked with some friends of mine that being supported by Qadaffi actually probably does more harm than good to the prospects of the one-state solution. But be that as it may, credit where credit’s due: Qadaffi and I agree.