Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 1967: third pogrom in Libya

 Continuing our series about the repercussions of the Six-Day War leading to the liquidation of the Jewish communities in Arab countries, we re-visit Libya: the 1967 riots were the third pogrom in 20 years to target Jews.
David Meghnagi, today a professor of clinical psychology in Rome, recalls the bitter memories preceding his flight from Libya  in an interview with Informazione Corretta (February 2014). (With thanks: Eliyahu)

David Meghnagi

Among my most disconsolate memories, there is a night spent burning all photos and letters from relatives in Israel. The Libyan government, after putting the Jewish community under its direct control, appointed a governmental officer to collect information about those who left the country. I cried all night for those photos: they were the only visual memory I had of my family.
I was not sure I would have met them. We were hostages. If someone had to leave, even for medical reasons, someone had to stay hostage to guarantee the other would return.

Violent attacks broke out again in 1967, after increasing hostility against Israel and the Jews: what happened?

On Friday 2 June 1967, the ulemas incited to holy war from the mosques, while meanwhile the government joined the Syrian and Egyptian initiative of celebrating a week in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The King declared the state of “defensive war” and offered support for the liberation of Palestine. Radios reverberated everywhere that the Zionist entity had no chance to survive.
Jewish notables sent to the King a declaration of solidarity, recalling their neutrality and loyalty. We were disquieted and, as every year in occasion of the Palestine Day, the wealthiest men of the community had to give a “donation” for Palestine. Hideously maltreated, they had to pretend to be happy, hoping that would prevent further harm. We fasted; we lighted candles in honour of Rav Meir and Bar Yochai.

I was terrified of violence against women; I was in fear for what could happen to my sister, my mother, my father. Somehow this fear toppled with the distress of Arab armies surrounding the Jewish state. Tel Aviv was a few kilometres away from the Eastern border, while the border in Jerusalem was just  barbed wire.
During the silent and gloomy nights, I wondered what could happen if the Arabs would attack first. When the war broke out, on 5 June 1967, the crowd was exulting in the streets. Radio Cairo announced the destruction of Tel Aviv and Haifa: we knew that it was just Arab propaganda, but we were in fear. From the PLO building, voices cried out for holy war.

Waiting endless and voiceless hours for my loved ones and my neighbours to come back home, I wondered what we should do had the crowd tried to break into our home. My brother Isaac managed to jump out of the window while the building where he worked was burning.

As in 1945 and in 1948, youth had put a sign to tag Jewish homes and businesses. After declaring the state of emergency and imposing the curfew, the authorities managed to get back in control. On Thursday 8 June, the police had to hold back a crowd of peasants from the nearby village of Zawia, where several volunteers were recruited for “the holy war against infidels”. They were heading toward Tripoli to cleanse it of Jewish presence.

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