By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gaddafi to Israel: Drop dead

In the endlessly depressing category of “you can’t make this stuff up,” the New York Times today runs an op-ed by erstwhile Boston Globe columnist Muammar Gaddafi, the terrorist-coddling, human rights-abusing dictator of Libya.

Gaddafi has a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: wipe Israel off the map. Funny, but I somehow knew he was going to say that.

The Globe’s Kevin Cullen weighs in usefully on Gaddafi today, and Universal Hub wraps up the whole miserable affair.

Note: Gaddafi, Qaddafi and Khadafy are all the same person. I’m going with Gaddafi because that’s how the Globe recently spelled it.

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  1. cavard

    Dan, while I think this is stupid and careless, I was wondering if you will show the same outrage, as a journalist, to similar comments made by Jewish government officials and supporters of Israel. That’s the part that’s baffling. I’d also like to know what you think about This event as reported by independent reporter Max Bluementhal. Will you include a blog post about these individuals, and if not why? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy everything you write about the state of journalism, politics, and other current events observations. I just wish you would display the same kinds of comments when directed at Palestinians. No offense, but I don’t think you give the same amount of scrutiny or show the same kind of outrage to those who you may (or may not agree) with. Why? I feel like you often give Israel a pass on several occasions and make this all about Hamas. It’s a two way street.

  2. Tony

    Thanks for posting this. There is and has always been a double standard on this issue. It reminds me of the video posting during the campaign of New Yorkers calling McCain/Palin supporters Nazis and other horrible things, but the only thing anyone was outraged about was a video of a guy with a Curious George doll named Obama.

  3. O'Reilly

    On issues in play in Gaza and Israel and the US since 2006:Dr. Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy. Porter is the author of four books…Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for IPS News, discusses the – Bush/Olmert plan to force Hamas to take all power in Gaza in order to try to provide an excuse for undoing the election results of 2006, – how Hamas followed by and Israel broke the cease-fire of June, 2008, – backlash against Bush’s capitulation to every Israeli demand, -implications of Obama’s appointment of Jim Jones for National Security Advisor, -the military’s push to rename all the combat forces in Iraq and stay forever and -the danger of keeping Robert Gates at the to audio

  4. cavard

    Gareth Porter is a “fantastic” journalist. He provides a perspective on the Mideast conflict that’s SORELY lacking in the traditional U.S. media. I realize the Israeli-Palestine conflict is complicated but Porter’s IPS dispatches provide a meaningful and accurate context to the crisis I wish Americans would see more of. It still baffles me there aren’t a lot of American journalists who report like Porter and their stories ever see the light of day in major American media outlets. What does that tell you of the state of American media in light of the Mideast? Personally, there is a major imbalance and we have to turn to alternative, foreign or independent outlets to get a real idea of what the Israel-Palestine conflict is about. Off tangent… I’d also recommend Helena Cobban of the “Christian Science Monitor.” Another journalist, op-ed writer willing to talk about the plight of Palestinians and the economic, political, and social injustices they face on a daily basis. Check out her blog.

  5. O'Reilly

    Obama’s plan seems balanced, reaffirming both sides valid need for security, reaffirming both sides accountability for their actions. Obama at State yesterday video part 1 80 secs.Obama at State yesterday video 4 mins.

  6. Neil

    Well whatever we think of him, claiming Gaddafi’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to “wipe Israel off the map” is a pretty flagrant mischaracterization of what the piece actually says. This “wiping off the map” phrase is tossed around too carelessly. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was accused of saying the same thing a couple of years ago, even though it’s an English idiom. Gaddafi, or more likely his talented ghostwriter at Brown Lloyd James, is proposing a “one-state” solution:In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an “Isratine” that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.Of course you can argue about the merits of such a position, but it’s obviously not in the same category as “wipe off the map”. The piece does a good job of explaining why this is a reasonable solution, and concludes with:living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peaceIt’s fair game to question the Gaddafi’s true motives here, as Cullen’s piece does. But taking the NYT piece at face value, it simply doesn’t support the “wiping off the map” interpretation.

  7. Brad

    I agree with Neil 100%. Dan – you’re salting your credibility and leaving it hung out to dry. Gaddafi is a murderous tyrant dictator, but just like the last op-ed, that does not necessarily mean he is automatically right or wrong.After all, Abraham Lincoln trampled the Constitution and yet he’s heralded as one of our greatest Presidents. Your actions don’t always mean you don’t have the right ideas…and vice versa, I might add.After being an international news junkie for 35 years, I’m starting to think the only real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to kick EVERYONE out, give the Israelis their own country carved out of a hunk of Oregon or something, the Palestians another country somewhere far, far away (Gulf Coast, maybe) and then neutron-bomb the crap out of the entire state of Israel so NOBODY gets it for the next 50,000 years.It seems pretty clear to me that people will keep killing each other over something, frankly, as retarded as “land” no matter WHAT solution is attempted. Since none of the kids can play nice in the playground, the playground should be closed.

  8. Michael Pahre

    I commented on your previous post that Gaddafi should not be rejected a priori as a columnist, since the possibility exists that he might provide insight (into Russia then, or into Arab sentiment about bringing peace to the Mideast more recently).Gaddafi’s op-ed in the Globe was, however, so badly written that I assumed it was propaganda and shouldn’t have been written. (Cullen got an anonymous Globe editor to say that they verified, to some extent, that Gaddafi had actually written the piece.)This new NYT op-ed reads far less as propaganda (although I still can’t believe he actually wrote it).Instead, Gaddafi resurrects the debate within Zionism from the 1920s between a two-state solution and “bi-nationalism” (=”one-state”). Some Jewish intellectuals argued up through 1947 that only a single state, which could have shifting majorities over time of Arabs or Jews, was a viable solution, but the two-state approach eventually won the day with the UN. It’s ironic that Gaddafi may be unwittingly channeling Martin Buber in his piece.What Gaddafi seems to be in a state of denial about is that the mass exodus of 1948. After 60 years, there is little chance that a peace agreement would give Palestinians an absolute right of return. It just ain’t gonna happen. And without a right of return a one-state solution makes much less sense. Buber and company basically gave up on bi-nationalism after 1948, and Gaddafi ought to, too.What I wonder is this: Is Gaddafi spouting off on his own, or does he represent thinking on the Arab street?

  9. HNG

    I’m happy to see that one of your commenters makes the point I made in my email to you: Gaddafi doesn’t argue that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” whatever that means.

  10. Michael Pahre

    I will come slightly to Dan’s defense here:Gaddafi’s argument is that Israel, defined as a religiously Jewish state with an overwhelmingly majority of Jews, should cease to exist.While he doesn’t say so explicitly, Gaddafi is arguing for what was called (pre-1948) to be “bi-nationalism”, then recognized with the name given to the region for the immediate past, “Palestine.” It would be a state without the majority Jewish residents or explicit religious alignment of the nation-state.In other words, Gaddafi argues that Jewish Israel should cease to exist, and should be replaced by secular Palestine.So Dan’s not totally off the mark, if you interpret “wipe off the map” in the sense of how to organize the governments — not “wipe off the map” in the sense of murder of Israeli Jews espoused by some in the Mideast.

  11. James

    Dan, I love your blog and your thoughtful commentary on a host of subjects, but I think your take on the Arab-Israeli conflict is getting tired and you are becoming blinded to objectivity on the issue. Without disagreeing that Gaddafi’s record continues to be despicable, I think this op-ed was quite a step forward in the fact that a major Muslim/Arab leader made the following comments in the most important newspaper in the US:1) Calls out (presumably) Hamas/Hezbollah as extremists: “…deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.”2) I can’t imagine leaders of any moderate Arab country having the political willpower to say something like this: “The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.”3) “It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians.”You could have argued in your post that the one state solution is biased because it would result in the return of refugees and higher birth rates among Palestinians thus diluting the Jewish population and marginalizing their presence there. But to sum up the piece as “Drop Dead” is to ignore the benefit to everyone when a radical, extremist dictator attempts to come back to the mainstream and enter into a rational discourse about the major dilemma of his region. How much longer can he keep political prisoners locked up if he intends on working with democratic nations towards regional change? Engaging him is the way to go here.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    James: You and others have asserted that you generally like what I write and agree with my opinion, but think I’ve gone off the deep end on the matter of Israel and Palestine.I want you to consider, just for a moment, that perhaps I’m being entirely consistent on principles and values. It is absolutely true that I hold what would generally be regarded as conservative positions on Middle East issues. I believe they’re consistent with my liberal worldview.I am not impressed that Qaddafi has hit up on kinder, gentler language in calling for the destruction of Israel. You shouldn’t be, either.

  13. HNG

    It wouldn’t bother me if you didn’t have a “liberal worldview.” What worries me is that you’re a media-savvy intellectual who subcribes to the rigid posture of the Israel-is-always-right crowd. Surely, the pro-Israel lobby doesn’t need another one of those. I’m not a Palestinian, but I sympathize with the Palestinians’ cause, and what I want to see is an open-mindedness in the West that also recognizes the legitimacy of their cause.

  14. James

    Dan,I can see several ways in which your views would be consistent with your liberal world view. I agree that if your headline read “Cheney tells his critics to drop dead” after his exit interviews, I would have chuckled and pleasantly read whatever you had to say on the issue. I think that the issue I have is when fellow liberals do not admit that Israel (and maybe moreso the US or foreign Jewish community) has displayed extremism itself in this conflict and that this extremism is a contributing cause to the continued problems in the region. I don’t particularly find the Palestinians to be on the right side of the issue and I strongly feel that both sides share the blame for not resolving their differences (in particular I blame the governments for their continued behavior that adversely affects their constituents). As a liberal, I tend toward protecting those that are at a disadvantage, which is the current case of the Palestinians and previous case of the Jewish community. Had I been alive during the first half of the 1900’s when the oppression of the Jews reached its modern climax, I would have strongly supported the oppressed side over the other. Because the balance has tilted in favor of Israel, I think I am naturally tending towards the opposite side in the recent decades. My perspective comes from when I attended an international high school where we had ethnic Palestinians who were refugees without a state or those whose families had been forced to flee their family homes in Israel who were all living alongside Israelis who had Holocaust survivors in their families or who were victims of terrorism in modern Israel. As those students entered the school each year they began at odds, but almost always ended up closer to each other than people from other regions, because of their shared culture, semetic ethnicity and experience. The overwhelming conclusions I drew from my experience was that there was more common ground between the groups than anyone outside the conflict realized, and that with some strong Turkish coffee and rational late night debate, each side was able to work out their differences and arrive at a compromise.Admittedly, we lived in a sort of youthful bubble that offered a certain luxury not available in Israel/Palestine today. But since that time many years ago, I tend to react negatively towards lines drawn in the sand by either side when it comes to this conflict. My complaint with an enduring situation like this is that hard line positions are futile and do more damage to the majority of people to the point that a legitimate principled position begins to fade into irrelevance because those protected by principle are made to suffer to the point that their basic civilized existence is threatened. At this point in the conflict, I feel that compromise is required and principles need to be moderated to the extent necessary for peace. And I am talking about both sides here.After the failure of the Oslo process, the situation has regenerated to a neverending misery for Israelis and Palestinians. It is too easy for us to sit in our heated homes and blog about this topic while others wonder if they are going to have rockets or bombs fall onto their own homes halfway across the world. I defer to what I imagine must be the overwhelming feeling in that region that our opinions on the matter are truly irrelevant while the affected population concerns themselves with their continued existence. When someone like Gaddafi adopts kinder, gentler language I see that as an opportunity regardless of whether he internally desires the destruction of Israel. If the players determine that a one-state solution is not the way to go (I am not convinced that it is), then I defer to their conclusion. But at least discussing a one state solution, acknowledging Arab extremism, justifying existence of a Jewish state, and admission of past multinational oppression of the Jewish people is some sort of step in the right direction on behalf of a major Arab leader. I don’t think there is any Arab or Muslim state that publicly recognizes any legitimacy for the existence of Israel. Apparently the leader of one of these states has done so in the most public way possible. Note that privately my Arab or Muslim friends will admit a certain legitimacy and can use it to seek common ground with their Jewish counterparts. While their own governments refuse to do the same, both sides lose.If there is a lasting peace in the Middle East, I will expect that the peacemakers might never alter their inner hatred and bias towards each other. But for the common person who can begin to live a normal existence, I don’t think they really care as long as they can go work and play without living in fear.

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