Despite the passing of the 4th of July holiday some weeks ago, there were plenty of fireworks left at the launch of Pádraig O’Malley’s “The Two-State Delusion: A Tale of Two Narratives” at the Mark Twain House and Museum on Tuesday night. Speaking before a capacity crowd in the facility’s Lincoln Financial Auditorium, what was billed as a promotional launch quickly turned into a more broadly based discussion on various elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which involved at various times, the author, moderator, and members of the audience.
O’Malley spoke eloquently of his role in conflict negotiations in the Arab-Israeli conflict, offering insights into the varying difficulties that continue to face the respective delegations, while drawing parallels to similar advisory roles he has held in the Northern Irish and South African conflicts.
At times, O’Malley’s quick wit and humor shone through as he playfully sparred with fiery and verbose moderator, Dr. Norton Mezvinsky. Mezyinsky, whose protracted questioning techniques drew an unfavorable response from both the crowd and O’Malley, could have perhaps taken heed of these words from the man whose name graces the museum where the launch was held, “let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
The second half of the program, a question and answer session with the author that ultimately drew an equal amount of queries for the outspoken Mezinsky, abruptly came to a close shortly after a combative audience member’s assertion that the moderator had somehow misrepresented the historical nature of the conflict throughout various points of the presentation. The very issues that O’Malley uncovered during his research, including the desire on the part of Palestinian civilians to recover a sense of human dignity and respect, came into play on the night of the lecture. Immediately following the audience member’s chastisement of the moderator, she engaged in an emotive conversation with a Palestinian resident who was also in attendance. While O’Malley stressed his neutrality multiple times during the evening, the ugliness of this exchange ultimately proved his thesis that, for those immersed in these two cultures, a two state solution seems unlikely at this point.
O’Malley concluded the evening by noting that, while he had anticipated that the highly charged content of the book would draw impassioned responses from audiences, he didn’t foresee such sparks on its opening night.