Libya needs her Jews as much as they need her

Three tower blocks, the el Emad Towers , reportedly stand on the site of the Tripoli Jewish cemetery, Libya (From Facebook via Lyn Julius of Harif/Jewish News)
Three tower blocks, the el Emad Towers , reportedly stand on the site of the Tripoli Jewish cemetery, Libya (From Facebook via Lyn Julius of Harif/Jewish News)

Last week we marked the commemoration day for the expulsion of Arab Jews from their countries. In 1967, Jews were stripped of citizenship and property and expelled from Libya, each allowed nothing more with them than a single suitcase and $20. It was a crime against humanity in the full sense of the word yet, strangely, there had never been any UN resolutions in this regard.

The longest continuous human settlement for the Jewish people is in Libya. Jews continuously lived there for some 2,200 years. They are Libyans beyond any doubt. History and archaeology testify to that. Moreover, they had never been involved in any conflict with fellow Libyans. Indeed, Islam grants freedom of religion to all peoples and does not approve of the persecution of any minorities whatsoever.

What happened to Libyan Jews was blatantly against Islam. The Democratic Party stands in solidarity with the right of return of Libyan Jews and there is no linkage whatsoever between them and any other regional conflict.

Those who continually insist on defending the 1967 expulsion of the Libyan Jews from their country by linking it to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict simply fail to provide any moral argument to support their case. They are defending the indefensible. The Quran states clearly: “No one can bear another’s burden.”

It is a sad fact that many Libyans do not realise there exists a whole Libyan Jewish community in exile. All Libyan Jews were expelled, so the majority of Libyans have never come into contact with any Libyan Jews. Some mistakenly think Libyan Jews were expelled owing to their loyalty to Israel; that they chose to be Israelis thus losing any legitimate claims to being Libyan.

Such totally mistaken views are fuelled by some Libyan businessmen who became rich after the expulsion of the Jews through illegally confiscating their commercial and residential properties. Naturally, this group is totally against the return of Libyan Jews.

These gross misunderstandings and distortions were largely enforced by Gaddafi’s brand of Arab nationalism, which rejected all non-Arab minority rights. The subject of Libyan Jews was simply a taboo under Gaddafi.

The Democratic Party considers it to be its duty to clear such historical misunderstandings, and makes the right of Libyan Jews to return to Libya a fundamental party policy. It is an Islamic and a human right.

The Jews of Libya share the same Libyan culture, traditions and customs. They lived in harmony with the rest of Libyans for millennia.

Archaeological evidence tells us that the original inhabitants of Libya were the Amazigh and the Jews. The way Libyan Jews were expelled was neither Islamic nor human.

The former President of the Libyan Jewish community in diaspora and a founding member of the Democratic Party, the late Rafael El-Falah, used to repeatedly say that “Libya would not rise as a peaceful and prosperous country unless it transcends its state of denial of the historical wrong that befell her Jews and accept them back home”.

As we Libyans stand nowadays to establish a functioning secular democracy, we must take what Mr El-Falah said to heart. A democratic Libya will have no place for racism. We can only gain global respect of other nations if we collectively address this issue honestly and fairly.

The return of Libyan Jews is in the country’s national strategic and security interest. Libya needs her Jewish citizens as much as they need her. Their return will reactivate the private sector, it will make technology transfer possible and will bring to Libya a highly skilled manpower, which the country greatly needs, given the brain drain it suffered under Gaddafi.

Libyan Jews have excelled in the diaspora. They are highly educated and well connected. They are in a position to contribute greatly to the Libyan economy and to its global standing. Libya needs to be built from scratch given the utter destruction it suffered under Gaddafi’s barbarism and 10 years of chaos beyond him.

The Jews of Libya can help us in state building given their invaluable knowledge and experience especially in the areas of IT and advanced agricultural systems. They will protect Libya from those who only perceive her as oil and gas fields to be exploited and who have disregard for the wishes of her people.

In short, with her Arab, Amazigh and Jewish sons and daughters Libya will be a democratic, powerful and advanced state to be compared with Israel. God Willing. Long Live Libya.


About the Author
Ahmed Shebani is President of the Democratic Party of Libya