Thursday, November 03, 2011
MP calls for compensation to Libyan Jews
A Westminster MP whose grandfather had been forced out of Libya has called on the British government to help obtain compensation for exiled Libyan Jews and other victims of the Gaddafi regime.
Speaking at a Westminster debate on UK relations with Libya on 1st November, Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow (pictured), recalled that his grandfather Renato had fled pogroms in 1967. His home and clothing business, along with property owned by all Jews and Italians, were seized by the Gaddafi regime.
Not a penny in compensation has been paid to dispossessed Libyan Jews or other victims of the Gaddafi family, Mr Halfon said. He suggested that the British government consider compensating Jews and the families of those who have been killed with some of the assets sequestered from Gaddafi. “ Colonel Gaddafi ’s son lived in some splendour in a large house in north London,” he remarked.
Dr Saul Zadka, who has led the storming and occupation by squatters of the mansion in north London owned by Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saadi, welcomed Mr Halfon’s statement : “This house should not be unfrozen until the new government in Libya will address the past when Gaddafi confiscated Jewish properties in Libya. Jews at that time were oppressed and murdered and this property and other assets can be used to broker a deal for compensation.”
The house owned by Gaddafi's son Saadi
Mr Halfon also called on the British Government to encourage the forces of liberalism in Libya. “We should impress on the national transitional council interim Government that we stand with them against Islamic fundamentalists, and that we hope they will revive a good relationship with Christians, Jews and other minorities, “ he said.
The previous day in the House of Commons, Mr Halfon had met the representative of Libyan Jews in the UK, Raphael Luzon. Mr Halfon found it encouraging that Mr Luzon, known by the key people in the transitional council, had been invited back to work with the new government and perhaps stand for office.
Not a single Jew remains in Libya, and numbers of Jews in Arab countries have dwindled from almost one million in 1948 to less than 4,000. “During the past 60 years, Arab states have ethnically cleansed ancient Jewish communities, creating the largest population of refugees in the region—far larger than that of the Palestinians—and incurring property losses many times greater,” Mr Halfon declared.” I commend what the Government have done, and I hope that they will work closely with the new Libyan leadership to help them develop democracy. I look forward to visiting Tripoli when it is more stable and retracing my dear grandfather’s and father’s footsteps.”
Lyn Julius, co-founder of Harif, a UK group representing Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, hailed Mr Halfon’s intervention in the Westminster debate: “ Robert Halfon has broken new ground by drawing attention to the terrible injustices committed against Jews and other minorities in the Middle East. Libya is Judenrein, yet Jews lived in Libya centuries before the Arabs. A new Libya, built on principles of tolerance and liberal democracy, could usher in an era of reconciliation in this troubled region.”
You can read the transcript of the Westminster debate here
Libyans try to get back property seized by Gaddafi (The Guardian)