We in the Libyan Constitutional Union (LCU) dearly hope that your mother's wish to visit her birthplace Benghazi is realised soon. We also support your right to receive the remains of relatives who were lost during the security disturbances which engulfed many Libyan towns, and which appeared to be a spontaneous public response to the 6-day war in 1967. We also support your wish to have the remains taken to their final resting places in the appropriate manner.
Head of Libyan Jewish Community (1967)
Libya’s Prime Minister (June 1967)
However, you were not completely accurate in your speech when you compared your situation with that of the Palestinian's and equated your ordeal with theirs. You were also far from accurate when you described the Israeli-Arab struggle as a conflict between a democracy and a dictatorship. I do not wish to elaborate further on this particular matter because I wish to focus our dialogue on the Libyan case in the hope that we succeed in building stronger friendly links based on truth and good intentions to bridge the regrettable sad gap that clearly exists between us.
In the above mentioned speech, you stated that in 1967 a decision was made to expel the Jewish community from Libya and that they were allowed only one small suit case and twenty pounds per person. Here I do feel that it is in the benefit of all concerned that this information is made accurate.
Travelling with this meagre amount of money was in accordance with the then existing currency regulations which prevented any Libyan national from taking abroad more than 20 pounds in cash. The regulation was not applied specifically or only to the Libyan Jews. It was possible to transfer any amount in accordance with the currency regulations of the bank of Libya in the form of traveller's cheques, bank credits or bank guarantees.
With regard to the decision to leave Libya hurriedly, it was a decision taken by the leaders of the Jewish community and was not an order of expulsion by the Libyan government. The Jewish historian, Renzo De Felice, published a book in 1978 entitled "epri in un paese Arabo", which was dedicated to this matter. On page 278 of the English translation of the book, he wrote: "The First official step was taken by Lillo Arbib on 17th June. He sent a message to Prime Minister Hussein Mazegh asking him to allow Jews so desiring to leave the country for a time, until tempers cool and the Libyan population understands the position of Libyan Jews, who have always been and will continue to be loyal to the State, in full harmony and peaceful coexistence with the Arab citizens at all times." The Government quickly agreed: the emigration office started work on June 20 preparing the documents necessary for departure."
In order to enable Al-Hayat readers to follow this dialogue, I wish to introduce a brief account of some relevant aspects of the case of Libya's Jewish community:
Herzl’s Young Zionist Group of Benghazi (1940s)
We have previously written on the subject in Al-Hayat and included the said British Government official papers in a three-part documentary series (21-23 September 1997). A copy of the series may be found through this link: http://www.lcu-libya.co.uk/documentary.htm#Docs3 .
Despite these hardships and a lack of any sign of recovery in the foreseeable future, about 7000 Jews were not influenced by the Zionist calls nor by The British "encouragement" and chose to remain in Libya. The stand shown by that section of the Libyan Jews at that time requires no rhetoric or further emphasis of loyalty or true belonging to their Libya.
The surprise came with the discovery of oil in the country after independence. Prosperity and wealth spread among all sections of the society. With that momentous change came suspicious interests in Libya by the International Zionist Organisations, wickedly employing the existence of the small Jewish minority in Libya. At the front of these organisations and most active in the sudden dubious interest was the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the president of which (Mr Louis Caplan) visited Libya in the summer of 1961. Following that visit the Jewish community leaders (Lillo Arbib, Hai Glam, Clemente Habib, Angelo Nahum, and Pinhas R.Naim) submitted a written complaint to the Libyan Prime Minister (Mr Mohammed Othman Assaid) demanding a list of rights for the Jewish community in the country. The International Organisations succeeded to convince the former UN envoy to Libya, Mr Adrian Pelt, to carry out a discrete investigation about the affairs of the Libyan Jews during his visit for the 10th anniversary of Libya's independence. His report, published on page 230 of Renzo De Felice's book, was disappointing to the organisations. "The former U.N commissioner wrote that anti-Semitism, in the sense in which it is understood in the west, did not exist [in Libya], but that there was strong feeling against Israel ((....)). In the field of personal relations there was not much animosity against Jews. ((....)) Arabs and Jews would meet privately...((...))". However, in spite of that, the Zionist international organisations continued to subject the newly born Libyan state to sustained pressure, intimidation and embarrassment portraying it internationally as an anti-Semitic country (as De Felice recorded). The sustained pressure forced the Libyan government to ask the leaders of its Jewish community to issue a statement to the UN contradicting the accusations of anti-Semitism. This request of assistance was refused.
King Idris Receives a Delegation of Libya’s Jewish Community
on Independence Day (1951)
"I have the honour to refer to your letter of October 15, 1964, concerning the position of the Jewish Community in Libya.
There are probably between 6,500 and 7,000 Jews in Libya, the majority of whom are resident in Tripoli. With the exception of a few manual workers, usually engaged in carpentry or the ritual preparation of Jewish food and wine, their means of livelihood are mainly commercial. They are merchants, commission agents, or shop keepers. At present it is probably true to say that they are experiencing, in common with Libya as a whole, prosperity unparalleled in the long history of the community.
There is no official discrimination against the Jews but the tension between the Arab States and Israel results from time to time in attacks in local press, which allege that some members of the community are agents of Zionism. This has on occasions resulted in local disorders, of whatever origin, taking on an anti-Jewish bias. ((....)) It is only fair to say however, that a very large part of local business is in Jewish hands including many of the most valuable British agencies. ((….)).
For this reason and because the Jews here are essentially a Mediterranean people, whose history can be traced back to Roman times, it is unlikely that any significant number would wish to emigrate to Canada unless under extreme duress ((....)). In fact about 300 are entitled to British passports facilities mostly on the basis of ancestors born in Gibralter in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The latter class of Jews are, of course, eligible to apply for permits to emigrate to Canada under existing regulations. It is perhaps indicative of the attitude to migration that the only recent application in this category dealt with by the Consular Section of the Embassy, that of the Habib family - which is the subject of your letter of 30 August 1963 - resulted in one member of the family leaving for Canada although the others were eligible to do so."
The question that forces itself here is: How and why the Jewish leaders in Libya took the decision on behalf of their community to leave the country in 1967? A choice which members of this small community refused to make in 1948 at a time of extreme poverty and hardships, with the lure of the Zionist movement on one hand and by the British "encouragement" on the other. Furthermore, the bloody clashes of 1948 were more serious than what they were subjected to in the riots of June 1967. How and why the leaders took the decision while the Jewish Libyan community were among the earliest to become wealthy from the returns of oil? It was clearly obvious to all that the economic improvements were only the beginnings of greater fortunes. Here we wish to introduce a testimony by Renzo De Felice about the state of affairs of the Jewish community in Libya during that period. On page 269 of the English translation of "epri in un paese Arabo", De Felice states: "Over less than six years [after discovery of oil in the country], the Jewish community's economic situation went from the "disastrous" condition of 1957 to one in which half of its members might be described as "well off"; there were cases for being "very wealthy" ((...))".
Libyan Prime Minister Mahmud Muntasir Receives B. Duvdevani,
Representative of the Jewish Agency’s (1951)
We are seriously concerned that the influence of the Jewish organisations inside the American institutions responsible for the Middle Eastern policies were employed to materialise the Zionist desires to control Libya politically and exploit it economically as soon as the Palestinian case reaches a solution and the two sides arrive at some sort of accord that satisfies the Arabs and forces peace between them and the Israelis. Thus came the Libyan coup d'Etat of 1969. A first step to prepare, with its extraordinarily narrow vision, the required environment for realising the scheme. The coup ruined the infrastructure of the country, spread anarchy and confusion in the nation and tarnished the reputation of the country until it was expelled from the international community and lost the respect and sympathy of all.
With a deep American sense of history and realisation that political secrets are only temporary, and with a full commitment to the reputation of America, these institutions planned that when the conspiracy is eventually exposed, it would appear to be an angry, vengeful reaction against a savage nation that ravaged a God-fearing minority. An act against every human standard and against the basic rules of the Islamic faith itself -expelling a minority from their own country, allowing each one only "a small brief case and twenty pounds". This (the plot) would appear to be a justifiable angry response and would result in few prepared to condemn it in defence of a country who's coup lost it its respect, credibility and every friendship of note. Neither would there be defence for the interests of a nation now retarded several centuries in every civilised field by the peculiar practices of the coup.
For history not to record that America conspired against a friendly nation and a loyal government, your community, Mr Lozon was manipulated and sacrificed to create that cover and to punish you for preferring Libya in 1948. Furthermore, your community is to be used for the return to Libya in a planned fashion as an organised, trained and united community with many of its members brainwashed and a new generation brought up with first loyalty to Israel. You have been convinced, as we are, that you were innocent victims. However, this is an undisputed fact, exploited to achieve an evil. Returning your community to a society in the grips of anarchy, ignorance and deep confusion will inevitably make you a leading elite minority in the society enjoying international respect and sympathy. The outside world would no doubt choose to with the country through you on political and economic affairs. The coup apparatus, once forced to realise that its existence and continuation are directly linked to the satisfaction of the elite minority, will endeavour to protect and serve it. Additional analysis related to this subject may be found in an article entitled "Gaddafi and the abandoned constitution": http://www.lcu-libya.co.uk/arab2000.htm#eng%20artcl .
Relationships can only be established and sustained on the basis of the fairness and righteousness that the heavens and earth were created upon. Therefore, Dear Rapahel, I hope that your community joins us in demanding an international inquiry into the case to unveil its mystery before final decisions are made. Perhaps the inquiry will unveil the most sordid conspiracy of the last century and save your community from being a Zionist tool (and enable you to realise the real reasons behind your exile) and participate in saving Libya's independence without jeopardising your right to an honourable return home.
Chairman Libyan Constitutional Union