Thursday, June 11, 2009

Libyan Jew 'had secret compensation talks'

As Italian Jews agonise over whether to meet Colonel Gaddafi on Shabbat, a Libyan-born Israeli reveals that he had, in secret talks with a Libyan official, worked out a detailed plan for compensation. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Shlomo Teshuba, president of the Libyan Jewish community in Italy and vice-president of the Rome Jewish community, stated that "friendly contacts" with Libyan diplomats were under way to change the meeting date. The organization has already publicly stated its opposition to a meeting on Shabbat.

The Italian Jewish community is divided on the issue. Some feel that accepting the invitation would be humiliating and would confirm Gaddafi's classification of Jews as "dhimmis" (protected but second-class minorities).

This is the view held by David Meghnagi, former vice president of the Italian Jewish community. He also feels that requests for Libyan recognition of Israel and a reexamination of Arab-Jewish history should become part of future negotiations for material restitutions.

No official Jewish delegation will attend the meeting, but one representative of the community said that even if it were not rescheduled for Thursday or Friday, a few people might walk to the meeting on Saturday.

Previous attempts to talk to Gaddafi were made by pioneers such as the late Raffaele Fellah, former president of the World Union of Libyan Jewry, who visited the leader in the early 1990s, and by a small delegation two years ago led by Teshuba. The representatives said they had been received cordially, but returned without tangible results.

Rames Cahlun, who recently resigned as president of the World Organization of Libyan Jewry, revealed to The Jerusalem Post a series of negotiations kept secret until now.

"Two years ago, when I was serving as colonel for the IDF in the [Palestinian] territories, I was approached by an Arab Israeli MK who proposed meetings with an official of the Libyan Embassy in Amman," Cahlun said. "After informing the Foreign Ministry, I met four times with the Libyan official, Otman Ben-Balka. We worked on a minutely detailed plan for compensation and the conservation of what is left of the immense Libyan Jewish patrimony."

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