Friday, October 21, 2011

'Gaddafi wished to wipe out Jewish history'

Muammar Gaddafi's policies brought about the elimination of Libya's Jewish community, as David Gerbi explains in this interview with The Jerusalem Post. But now that the dictator is dead, it is easy to forget that the Jews were the objects of violence and marginalisation well before Gaddafi seized power - denied citizenship, voting rights and the right to run their own institutions.

David Gerbi recalled on Thursday his first and last face-to-face encounter with Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator killed earlier in the day by rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte.

In 2009, Gerbi, a Libyan-born Jew, accepted an invitation to meet Gaddafi in Rome to speak about improving relations between the regime and Libya’s Jewish Diaspora.

“I can see his face in front of me now,” Gerbi related in an interview conducted via Skype from Rome. “He had the eyes of a Beduin, someone who could find water in the desert, but he could not connect with our reality.”

Gerbi was one of the few members of the Jewish Libyan community in Rome who came to the meeting. The rest had boycotted the gathering because it was provocatively held on a Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. During the meeting, Gerbi said he pressed the autocrat to restore the rights of Jews and permit the reopening of the country’s synagogues, which lay in waste.

“He said, ‘Yes, yes, there would be no problem,’” Gerbi recalled, “but nothing happened.”

The killing of the Libyan leader on Thursday marked the final chapter in the troubled history between Gaddafi and Libyan Jewry.

When the young colonel came to power in 1969 the Jewish community of Libya, which traced its history back to antiquity, had already been decimated by pogroms carried out by Muslims angered over the Israeli-Arab conflict. From a peak of around 30,000 during the 1930s, only a few hundred remained, but it was Gaddafi’s policies that brought about the community’s elimination. He confiscated private and communal Jewish property, withheld civil rights for Jews and forbade those who had taken refuge abroad from returning.

“The damage he did in 1969 was that he did not allow Jewish people to come back; he did not allow them to renew the passports,” said Gerbi.

“He destroyed the Jewish cemeteries in Tripoli and Benghazi. He converted synagogues into mosques. He wanted to eliminate our memory of 2,000 years of Jewish people in Libya.”

The few Jews who were still in Libya fled. By 2002, none remained.

In recent years Gaddafi held irregular talks with Libyan Jews in the Diaspora, preferring to deal with those in Italy over their brethren in Israel, the “Zionist entity” he would often vilify in his lengthy tirades. The self-styled “Brother Leader” and “King of Kings” would sometimes promise to consider returning their rights and property, and allowed a few individuals to visit, but nothing ever came to fruition.

By the time the revolution against his regime came late last year there was talk of progress, but it was too little, too late.

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

anyone who wants to wipe us out should have the same end!!!
I vote that we get a day of celebration for the defeat of one of our enemies!
sultana latifa
former Egyptian Jewish refugee

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

The Post article is wrong in that it falsely asserts that pogroms against Jews in Libya derive from the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, Jews in Libya were subject to the same oppressed status as Jews elsewhere in the Islamic domain. Pogroms against Jews took place in Libya during the German occupation.

bataween said...

Eliyahu, you are right that the pogrom happened prior to the Arab-Israeli conflict (in 1945), but the British were occupying Libya then. Before that, it was an Italian colony and the Jews were subject to Mussolini's race laws.

Rahul said...

He was a great Pan Africanist with beautiful Ideas,maybe he did not just take the right path to realize his ideas,who knows what really happened?We just see the picture painted by the media and those hunting Africans riches.If these guys love Africa,the should give their help where it is really needed.Stop the modern slavery and metal manipulation.Innocent kids and people are dying in Somalia,There are African rulers are worst than Gaddafi he at east developed his country.Take a good example of my country,I wonder what good our pesidenths done since his rule in 1982.oohhh i remember now,he changed the constitution to sit again after his mandate is over.Naeto don't see this coz we cont have oil.Wake up Africa,one love from Cameroon

Sylvia said...

Those who will feel his loss are the Palestinians. He was the first Arab leader to rationalize the one state solution he called Isratine. he was adored by Israelis such as Ahmed Tibi who has addressed him as "the King of Kings of Africa".
It is true that he invested in a lot of projects in Africa, but with the purpose to divide and rule, and dominate Africa in the Nasserist tradition but with his own twist. Let's hope that these projects will resume with the strings attached.
He sank a lot of money in the Palestinian cause, but left his own people brainwashed and backward.

Sylvia said...

I meant to say of course "without the strings attached"

bataween said...

Sylvia, didn't Gaddafi expel 30,000 Palestinians from Libya as punishment for the OSlo peace accords?
I seem to remember that a Palestinian doctor was jailed along with Bulgarian nurses in an HiV scandal.
Perhaps Gaddafi was just a fairweather friend of the Palestinians.

Anonymous said...

Believe me Rahul I have the greatest sympathy for those poor people in Africa, but what can I do singlehanded ?
Of course they are exploited and that by their own leaders!
sultana latifa
once an inhabitant of an Arab country. Thank you my God for taking us out a second time.
I am now retiring for shabbat, because here where I live I am free to practise my religion!

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here is something on the Palestinian Arab physician jailed along with the Bulgarian nurses.

As to pogroms during the German occupation, the American journalist A J Liebling reported during the war on meeting Libyan Jews after the German defeat in Libyan. He was told of a pogrom encouraged by the Germans. Apparently the Italians didn't allow that.
AJLiebling wrote reports for the New Yorker magazine, some of which were collected in a book. The book was called The Press.