Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Will Libya's Jews get back what Gadhafi confiscated?

Another article for an Arab readership by Michael Fischbach, an American history professor who specialises in Palestinian and Jewish refugee compensation issues, this time about progress on the Libyan track (with thanks to Faelino). The article is not entirely accurate, and certainly distorts the history of the Libyan Jews, whose situation began to deteriorate in the 1930s well before the creation of Israel, but is nonetheless of interest.

The matter of Arab states, compensating their former Jewish citizens for property abandoned when they left their countries of origin during and after 1948 was long ago made an issue of international diplomacy. After decades of relative obscurity, renewed focus on Jewish property claims against Arab states has emerged during the past two years.

In Iraq, the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime initially led to movement on compensation for abandoned and sequestered Jewish property, although the current instability in the country has stalled this. Much more tangible progress on compensation, however, was recently made by former Libyan Jews, who have held discussions about the matter with high-level Libyan officials, including Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi himself. Gadhafi has spoken out publicly in favor of compensation, and reports claim that two months ago a high-ranking Libyan official actually visited Israel, where most former Libyan Jews now live. Could a deal be in the works?
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