Rafael Haddad escorted by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on 9 August 2010, the day of his release
'The police arrest you not for any reason, but because they can'. That was one painful lesson Rafael Haddad (Rafram Chadad)learned about autocracies. He tells Yoav Fromer of The Tablet his story for the first time: Haddad was held in a Libyan prison for five months in 2010, although he was never charged. An Israeli of Tunisian origin, Haddad was on a mission to photograph the remains of Libya's Jewish heritage when he was arrested by the secret police. (With thanks: bh)
Late last March, a series of confounding and conspicuously opaque news reports began to appear in the Israeli press regarding an Israeli citizen who had vanished in North Africa. While the initial reports were hazy and facilitated an inevitable surge of innuendo and speculation, they were eventually all suppressed by the government censor, who decided to enforce a complete media blackout on the story.
That changed in early August, when, out of the blue, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that a 34-year-old citizen by the name of Rafram “Raphael” Chadad, who had been held captive for five months in Libya, had just been released and was on his way back to Israel. At the same time, details behind his disappearance began to emerge: Chadad, a Tunisian-born Israeli who maintains dual citizenship, had been arrested by Libyan officials in Tripoli while on assignment there for Or-Shalom, an Israeli non-government organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the 2,500-year-old Jewish community in Libya. Despite efforts by Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and Nicolas Sarkozy, it was the well-connected Jewish-Austrian billionaire Martin Schlaff who ultimately secured his release. Having flown Chadad out of Libya on his private jet, Schlaff brought him to Vienna, where he was met by Foreign Secretary Avigdor Lieberman. With Shlaff’s mediation, Lieberman had apparently orchestrated the entire deal behind closed doors.
Although the exact nature of the agreement that brought about Chadad’s release is still unknown, the deal reportedly included Israeli permission to transfer Libyan aid supplies into Gaza (as well as $50 million from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s charity foundation, marked for rebuilding houses in Gaza). “These have been reasonable demands by Libya,” announced Lieberman upon Chadad’s return. “Libya’s responsible behavior was a pleasant surprise.”
Greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by a swarm of reporters, the otherwise serene, gentle, and extremely amicable Chadad was noticeably taken aback by the microphones stuck into his face during what was supposed to be a private reunion with his family. Accordingly, he hastily thanked all those who had helped secure his release, gave a few token remarks to the press, and made his way home without ever revealing what he had been through in Qaddafi’s prison. But last month, exactly six months after his return, Hadad agreed to finally break his silence and discuss with Tablet Magazine what he jokingly refers to as his “spa vacation” in Libya.
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Israeli-Tunisian tourist released from jail