Historian Bernard Lewis was surprised by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s 2006 invitation to visit Libya. After a flight from Tripoli into the desert, Lewis was taken into a big tent where the head of state waited for him.
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Geometric patterns in white, green and gold decorated the walls, while bare bulbs illuminated the dim interior. On the table were long branches to be used as fly chasers. Qaddafi was clad in a black, long-sleeved tee shirt and a brown blanket, which he wore over one shoulder.
Speaking through a translator, Qaddafi noted that more than a million Arabs live among the Jews in Israel. He said that proves the two groups can peacefully co-exist.
Why not create a single state for both Jews and Palestinians?
Qaddafi even had a name for it: “Isratine.”
I spoke with Lewis, author of “Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian,” on the following topics:
1. Clash of Civilizations
2. Western Influence
3. History as Propaganda
4. Misleading Documents
5. Islamic Rage
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
Muse highlights include NYC Weekend Best and theater reviews.