Two separate states cannot exist peacefully in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, Muammar al-Qaddafi, controversial statesman of Libya, said via translated-live video feed on Wednesday in the Intercultural Center Auditorium.
Professor Michael Hudson of the School of Foreign Service moderated the event, "White Book Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict," sponsored by ExxonMobil and co-hosted by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the University Lecture Fund and the Georgetown International Relations Club. Al-Qaddafi described his plan for the creation of a single democratic state called "Isratine," while also fielding questions regarding Libya's alleged involvement with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the United States' new administration, oil nationalization and nuclear non-proliferation.
"This is a broken world facing many problems. Maybe this contribution will salvage whatever can be salvaged through the proper means, so that we can have a brighter future for mankind," al-Qaddafi said in his opening remarks.
His "White Book" is a discourse on his solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, which also stipulates that all Palestinian refugees should be able to return the Holy Land. He said that prior attempts at solving the problem, such as the Camp David Accords and Arab Peace Initiatives, have not halted the violence and that a more radical solution is necessary.
"Those who call for two states don't really understand the demography of the area," al-Qaddafi said. "If the Jews want to live in peace, they have to accept Palestinians. Peace can only be achieved if each accepts the other."
He also believes that the Arabs and the Jews are not enemies, but rather that the Americans and the Europeans have historically been adversaries.
"The Balfour Declaration wasn't to give them a national home, but to get rid of them," he said.
In response to the assertion from the audience that Zionism relies on the existence of a Jewish state, al-Qaddafi said that the Israelis will not live in peace if they wish to preserve a pure Jewish state that excludes the Palestinians.
"Jew or non-Jew, Palestinian or non-Palestinian . Such differences are not important. You can worship God in any way you like," he said. "Religious differences do not allow us to find each other."
The event sparked controversy last week when Hafed Al-Ghwell, a former World Bank executive, wrote an open letter to CCAS director Michael Hudson saying that, by allowing al-Qaddafi to speak, the university was condoning his past actions - including public hangings, forced exiles, home demolitions and abuse, according to Al-Ghwell.
Some students recognized that a few of al-Qaddafi's statements in the videoconference could have been seen as out-of-line, but still believed that the conference was a valuable learning experience which offered a non-Western perspective.
"Did he say anything that could have shocked some people? Perhaps. As he spoke through his speech, as he got more comfortable with the format . his language changed and what [changed] was that how he used his words betrayed what he was trying to portray," Brandon Butterworth (SFS '11) said. "In my opinion, it was great that Georgetown brought him . I think that if [the audience] listened carefully to [his] speech, and attended [the] event with an open mind, they not only learned of a new view of the Israel-Palestine crisis, but came to their own opinion [on it], as I did."
Members of the organizing groups were also extremely satisfied with the outcome of the event.
"When organizing the Qaddafi video conference, I was well aware that this event would not only challenge the Georgetown community, but also the speaker. I believe it is our responsibility as Georgetown University students to welcome all perspectives on complex issues, but to challenge those thoughts and decide for ourselves. I believe that the students present at the video conference did just that by asking the probing questions which define the academic pursuit of our university," said Jasdeep Singh, chair of the Georgetown International Relations Club. "Moreover, students were given the opportunity to hear the perspective of those affected by the Lockerbie incident. Given that, I believe the event was a great success."
Following initial remarks, al-Qaddafi accepted pre-approved questions from the audience and those submitted prior to the event online. However, when the topic of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, for which he was accused of not extraditing two Libyan suspects, was brought up, al-Qaddafi would not offer apologies or further explanations. Two Georgetown students were victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988. The parents of these two students were invited by the university to respond to al-Qaddafi's speech.
President John J. DeGioia said in a university press release that he supported the decision to allow al-Qaddafi to speak on campus.
"We have been asked to cancel the lecture by some family members of civilians killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 - for which Libya has paid compensation to families and formally 'accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials,'" he said.
DeGioia added that though al-Qaddafi is speaking at the university, Georgetown does not support al-Qaddafi's past actions.
"I want to make clear that just because the event is taking place on Georgetown's campus, the university does not endorse the speaker nor his ideas," he said. "In fact, I will be disappointed if members of the audience fail to ask Qaddafi about Lockerbie and other matters of historical record and grave concern, because he should and must be held accountable."
Although al-Qaddafi was asked about Pan Am Flight 103, he refused to speak about it.
"This file has been closed. It is not in the interest of anyone to grave dig," he said.
Al-Qaddafi also stated that he believed that the new U.S. administration would be one of change. He noted that he has seen many positive signals so far, such as the closing of Guantánamo Bay and the review of U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There is a new America. It is an America of change which we hope is not an imperial America or an America of aggression," he said. "Obama should be given a historic chance. We should actually try to look at America with a fresh look, and try to turn over the page of the past."
He also suggested that we should consider that Osama bin Laden may want peace, and advised that bin Laden should be given the opportunity to express himself.
"Maybe we can hold a dialogue with him and [discuss] the reasons that led him in this direction," al-Qaddafi said.
After al-Qaddafi left the stage, more than half of the people in attendance left the room before the parents of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims went on to speak. One of the mothers refused to speak to a crowd that was not paying attention, and thus the family members cut their remarks short.