JEWS OF LIBYA
Following the publication by “Reuters” of the article regarding the compensation to the Jews of Libya that led to reactions in the Arabic and Libyan press and websites, I am taking this opportunity to explain and clarify my personal viewpoint in this matter, using my own words. My position is based on historical, verifiable facts, which can only be distorted by fabricating the past.
1. The existence of the Jews of Libya goes back 2400 years – 1300 years before the arrival of the Arabs there.
2. Jews always lived in harmony with the nations of the Middle East and the Islamic World. Although forcibly evicted from their homeland – at times by compulsory emigration or escaping with little but their lives – the Jews of Arab countries clung to their traditions, heritage, Arabic language, native music and food and they tried to pass them on to their children. Witnessing Iraqi Jews enthusiastically participating in the recent election in Iraq from overseas is proof that the Jew is not ready to let go of his roots and still feels a strong attachment.
3. Jews took an active & important part in administering the different countries conquered by the Arab armies during the Islamic conquests as well as under the Ottoman Empire and participated in the economical, commercial, social & cultural development of the area.
4. When the Italians and the Fascists occupied Libya in the 19th century, Jews fought side by side with the Libyan Heroes against the fascists. My grandfather, Raphael Luzon, fought with the hero Ramadhan Al-Shteui in Musrata.
5. No Libyan Jew wanted to leave his homeland until 1945, when bloody street demonstrations against the Jews took place for no obvious reason. This incident led to loss of trust by some members of the Jewish community. The second wave of demonstrations in 1948 only confirmed their doubts. The number of fatalities soared to 400 people with many more injured. Shops, houses and other properties were looted and burnt down.
6. As a result, fear descended over the vast majority of the Jewish population, which led to mass immigration to Italy & Israel – the only countries willing to offer asylum. Had these harmful events not taken place, I doubt that 10% of the Jews would have emigrated from their homeland. The vast majority of Jews who left Libya did so out of fear and not out of Ideology.
7. Following Libya’s independence, the number of Jews in Tripoli and Benghazi hovered around the 7,000 mark. These were honest, decent, hardworking citizens who wanted nothing other than to be able to earn a living and discharge their duties and responsibilities (such as paying taxes) with honesty. In reality they were denied several human rights, including the right to vote or to stand for election, the right of application to work in the Public Services or Governmental posts and the right to serve in the army.
8. There are those who seek to imply that the matter of compensation to the Jews of Libya is connected to the Palestinian matter. I do not understand this logic: two wrongs do not make a right.
9. The Jewish Libyan community stayed close to their roots despite everything they went through. The community that numbered approximately 7000 people, suffered again in 1967 with another wave of atrocities. Houses and other properties were burnt down, and 16 people – including 8 members of my own family (among them a woman and her 6 children) – were killed in cold blood and without any provocation by a Libyan officer heading a unit of the Royal Libyan Army. Soon after that, a law was
passed to deport all the Jews (each person was allowed to take a small suitcase and 20 Libyan pounds only). They were forced to leave all their properties and monies – everything they had worked so hard to accumulate over the years and it was all then confiscated.
10. The Jews of Libya avoided involvement in any political activities or support of any political party, because their loyalty is purely to the homeland – Libya – and not to any ruling body. The proof of this is that when the Embargo was imposed on Libya, no Jew supported it; on the contrary. Unfortunately, Libyan activists in Human Rights matters never included the case of the Jews of Libya. I hope this is only an oversight and not a deliberate policy. As an optimist, I can see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel with the announcements of Mr. Saef Al-Islam (Ghaddafi’s son) regarding the rights of the Jews of Libya and I am hopeful that I will, one day, be allowed to visit my homeland, Libya. In spite of these declarations, I have already applied twice for permission to visit but have been refused. I am eagerly waiting to do so again.
11. I am asking for my Libyan and Arabic identity to be recognised, and I see no conflict with the fact that I am a Jew. Just as an Arab who lives in Israel carries an Israeli passport and follows Islam or christianity, or a Druze. My wish is to be able to visit my place of birth accompanied by my octogenarian mother, to fulfil her dream to visit Libya, just like many Libyans (Muslim, Christian and Jews) who are longing for
the day of return. I also wish to accompany my daughter in whom I instilled a love of Libya through my childhood memories and my mother’s tales; I want my daughter to see with her own eyes the places where I and her ancestors were born and lived and to know more about Libya besides its location on the map.
12. I am not asking for compensations for me personally or only for Jews but I ask for Justice for all my Libyan brothers, without any racial or religious discrimination, and for my murdered Family.
13. As a person who is very interested in History, I do not deny that throughout many centuries the Jews lived under the umbrella of Islam. They prospered and contributed to many fields such as culture, science, commerce and economics. They were always proud of their Arabic roots and of their Judaism. I would like to add that Western Jews suffered much more under the Crusades and Nazism.
I hope there are Arab Muslims and Arab Jews who, like me, believe that we have to reach an understanding between us. In order to become closer, we must emphasise what we have in common NOT what sets us apart.
Let us look forward with optimism to a beautiful future for our beloved Libya.
Peace upon you all.
Chairman of Jews of Libya- UK
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بيان حول اللقاء بين كوبلر ويهودي ليبي
إلى أهلنا في ليبيا
إلى السلطة التشريعية – مجلس النواب الليبي
إلى المجلس الأعلى للدولة
إلى المجلس الرئاسي لحكومة الوفاق الوطني
إلى المبعوث الدولي إلى ليبيا، مارتن كوبلر
إلى منظمات المجتمع المدني والمؤسسات الفاعلة في ليبيا والإعلاميين والمثقفين الليبيين
نحييكم تحية ليبية صادقة ملئها السلام والمحبة والتمنيات بالاستقرار والأمان
نحن ممثلي إحدى أكبر الشرائح من اليهود الليبيين نتحدث إليكم من المهجر الذي طال لعقود من الزمان، وكنا خلالها دائما على تواصل مستمر نتابع ونبذل جهودا وطنية حتى نرى ليبيا، التي هي أمنا مهما طال الزمن، بلادا آمنة مستقرة منتجة.
تابعنا خبرا نشر قريبا على صفحة السيد دايفيد جربي، وصفحة يهود ليبيا يعودون إلى وطنهم، على الفيس بوك مصحوبا بفيديو يظهر فيه السيد جربي وهو يصافح المبعوث الاممي إلى ليبيا، السيد مارتن كوبلر، وكان دايفيد يعرض عليه مقترحا أو مقترحات بخصوص ملف يعمل هو عليه.
وعلى الرغم من أن السيد جربي على اتصال كما علمنا بفئة نحترمها ونكن لها كل تقدير ومودة، فإننا نفيد الجميع بأننا في هذا البيان كممثلين لمجموعة منظمات يهودية ليبية نعلن بأننا لسنا بصدد الحديث عن عودة اليهود الليبيين إلى ليبيا، وذلك لسبب مهم وهو أننا نسعى لبذل جهود حتى تستقر ليبيا وبإمكاننا أن نساعد في حل مشكالها الراهنة، التي منها تقديم الدعم والنصيحة في محاربة الإرهاب المتمثل في التنظيم الإرهابي الذي يدعي أنه اسلاميا؛ وكذلك يمكننا أن نساعد في إيجاد حلول لمشاكل مثل انقطاع الكهرباء ومشكلة السيولة وتفعيل الحوار الليبي ليتحول إلى الأفضل.
كما أننا نصر دائما على أن يكون تواصلنا مع إخوتنا في ليبيا بمؤسساتها المختلفة من خلال تواصل وحوار ليبي-ليبي، وذلك مع احترامنا للجهود التي قامت بها الأمم المتحدة من خلال مبعوثيها، وكذلك الاتحاد الأوروبي وأمريكا. لكننا نرفض التواصل إلا من خلال وسطاء ليبيين مقبولين لدى جميع الأطراف، يفهمون شعورنا وأهدافنا النبيلة ويفهمون كذلك أوضاع البلاد أفضل من السيد كوبلر أو المؤسسات الدولية.
وقد تعاملنا سابقا مع المجلس الانتقالي من خلال وسطاء ليبيين أثناء ثورة السابع عشر من فبراير التي شاركنا فيها ودعمناها بما نستطيع، مثلنا مثل بقية الليبيين.
ونحن إذ نكرر تأكيدنا على التواصل الليبي-الليبي، فإننا نثق في أن مشاكل ليبيا لن يستطيع حلها إلا أهلها الذين يعيشون مشاكلها، ونحن بإمكاننا أن نضغط دوليا لندعم أهلنا في ليبيا، فنحن صوت مهم في العالم من خلال منظمتنا في بريطانيا ومنظمتنا في إيطاليا، ونستطيع أن نتحدث عن القضية بما يساعد عمليا في حل المشاكل وتجاوز الأزمات.
وللعلم فإن منظمتنا في بريطانيا ومنظمتنا في إيطاليا تمثل الأغلبية، ولا يمثلنا شخص واحد لا يمثل إلا نفسه، كما حدث بخصوص اللقاء مع كوبلر الذي نصدر هذا البيان بشأنه.
مرة أخرى نحن لا نتحدث هنا عن العودة إلى ليبيا لأننا نعرف جيدا حساسية هذا الملف الآن، ولا يهمنا حاليا إلا أن تستقر ليبيا حتى لو كان ذلك على حساب قضيتنا الخاصة وعلى حساب معاناتنا الوجدانية كفئة مهجرة فعلا منذ عام ١٩٦٧م.
عاشت ليبيا حرة موحدة
والسلام على أرواح من قضوا في هذه الأزمة الشديدة
رئيس اتحاد يهود ليبيا – بريطانيا
Download Statement Arabic
Regarding the meeting between Kobler and the Libyan Jews
To our Libyan people
To the legislative authority – the House of Representatives (HoR)
To the High Council
To the Presidential Council of the Government of National accord (GNA)
To the Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler
To Civil Society Organizations and institutions in Libya, to Journalists and Libyan Intellects
We greet you with a warm and honest Libyan greeting filled with peace, love, and hopes for stability and security.
We are representatives of one of the Libyan Jewish communities speaking to you straight from the diaspora which we have grown accustomed to. We have been in direct and continuous contact with Libya, with our nationalistic efforts striving to see Libya once more, our motherland no matter how much time passes by, a secure stable and productive country.
We followed the recent news released on Mr. David Gerbi’s Facebook page, and also on Libyan Jews and their return home, the video of Mr. Gerbi shaking hands with Mr. Kobler, Mr. Gerbi had a few notes and suggestions in relation to the subject he is working on.
Although Mr. Gerbi is in contact with a very respected faction, we assure everyone as representatives of Jewish Libyan Organizations that we are not in talks of returning to Libya, more importantly we are devoting all our efforts to ensure Libya’s stability, we are willing to help find a solution to the current crisis, and especially give support and advice as how to overcome the terrorist threat. We are also able to assist in the Infrastructure and Liquidity situations as well as enhancing the dialogue platform.
We maintain that our communication with Libya and its different institutions is to be through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue, with all our respect to the UN’s efforts and its delegates, alongside the EU and the US. We refuse any means of communication unless it involves Libyan intermediaries approved by all groups, intermediaries who appreciate our situation and understand our noble objectives, and are more aware of the country’s situation than Kobler or the International organizations.
We previously dealt with the National Transitional Council (NTC) through Libyan intermediaries during the revolution, which we were involved in and supported just as much as the rest of Libya.
We reaffirm the importance of a Libyan-Libyan dialogue, trusting that Libya’s issues can only be resolved through Libyans who have experienced its complications firsthand. We are capable of applying pressure on the international community, for we are an important voice in the world through our organizations in the UK and in Italy, where exist a legal Committee that acts in the frame of the Italian Jewish Community there. We have the ability to discuss and find a practical solution for the ongoing crisis.
Let it be known that our organizations in the UK and Italy represent the majority; we are not represented by a single person representing only his interests, similarly to the situation with Kobler, which is why we are issuing this statement.
Once again, we are not discussing our return to Libya due to the sensitivity of the topic at the moment; our main focus is Libya’s stability, even if our own issues and tribulations as a displaced faction are overlooked.
Long lives a free united Libya
And peace to those who lost their lives in this crisis
President of the Union of Jews of Libya – UK