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There is more than one “Middle East Refugee” problem. Along with the Palestinian refugees who were begged to stay in Israel, there were the Jews in Arab nations some 850,000 of them that were thrown out of Arab countries. Those are the refugees that no one talks about. When the UN was a fair organization, the Jewish Refugees were given the same status as the Arab ones:

On two occasions, in 1957 and again in 1967, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) determined that Jews fleeing from Arab countries were refugees who fell within the mandate of the UNHCR.

“Another emergency problem is now arising: that of refugees from Egypt. There is no doubt in my mind that those refugees from Egypt who are not able,or not willing to avail themselves of the protection of the Government of their nationality fall under the mandate of my office.” Mr. Auguste Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session – Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957.

“I refer to our recent discussion concerning Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries in consequence of recent events. I am now able to inform you that such persons may be considered prima facie within the mandate of this Office.” Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967

Resolution 242 stipulates that a comprehensive peace settlement should necessarily include “a just settlement of the refugee problem.” No distinction is made between Arab refugees and Jewish refugees.

The international community’s intention to have Resolution 242 include the rights of Jewish refugees is evidenced by the fact that during the UN debate, the Soviet Union’s delegation attempted to restrict the “just settlement” mentioned in Resolution 242 solely to Palestinian refugees. (S/8236, discussed by the Security Council at its 1382nd meeting of November 22, 1967, notably at paragraph 117, in the words of Ambassador Kouznetsov of the Soviet Union). This attempt failed clearly signaling the intention of the international community not to restrict the “just settlement of the refugee problem” merely to Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, Justice Arthur Goldberg, the United States’ Chief Delegate to the United Nations, who was instrumental in drafting the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, has pointed out that:

“A notable omission in 242 is any reference to Palestinians, a Palestinian state on the West Bank or the PLO. The resolution addresses the objective of ‘achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.’ This language presumably refers both to Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars…

Many of Jewish Refugees Hold Deeds to Former Homes in Arab Lands But their plight is still ignored in today’s Arabist political world. The example below is what happened to Just one of the Jewish Community, the Jews of Libya. There was an active vibrant Jewish Community in Libya from the time of the destruction of the first Temple 2,500 years ago, till about fifty years ago.

The Final Exodus of the Libyan Jews in 1967*

Maurice Roumani

The Libyan Jewish community, which went back 2,500 years, has ceased to exist. Its decline began in the 1940s with the application of Italy’s Racial Laws, Libyan Jews’ internment in concentration camps, and pogroms under the British administration. This led the large majority of Libyan Jews to emigrate to Israel after its establishment. The community’s situation continued to deteriorate after Libya’s independence in 1952. The country’s fierce nationalism expressed itself in anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish policies. The Arab League’s boycott of Israel damaged Libyan Jews economically. In the 1960s, the Libyan government restricted the Jews’ civil and religious liberties. The situation culminated in violent outbursts against the community at the time of the Six Day War, leading to its evacuation from Libya.

Creeping Sanctions and Denial of Basic Civil Rights

After perhaps 2,500 years of presence, there are no Jews left in Libya. More than 90 percent of the one hundred thousand Libyan Jews live in Israel, where they maintain a communal identity. The decline of Libyan Jewry began with the 1938 Racial Laws initiated in Italy and then applied to Libya Libya in 1942, their internment in concentration camps in 1941-1942, and the pogroms under the British administration in 1945 and 1948. From 1949 to 1952, over thirty thousand Jews, or well over 90 percent of the 36,000 Jews then living in, left for Israel.

The forced evacuation of the approximately 4,500 Jews (other population estimates range from 5,000[1] to 6,500 Jews)[2] still living in Libya on the eve of the June 1967 war was rooted in issues that arose long before the outbreak of Arab-Israeli hostilities. Once Libya gained independence in January 1952 and joined the Arab League, the Jewish community felt increasingly imperiled.

The deterioration in the Jewish community’s situation after independence stemmed from both internal and external factors. Personal and political rivalries among families close to the king, the lack of a clear policy toward the Italian and Jewish populations, and the abolition of the 1951 constitution boded ill for the Jewish community.[3] Furthermore, the traditionally profound differences and mutual distrust between the Tripolitanians and the Cyrenaicans persisted while the population’s nationalist elements rallied behind Egypt president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s model of the new Arab nation and abandoned King Idris who seemed weak and too friendly to the West.

On 22 March 1953, Libya joined the Arab League and agreed to participate in the Arab boycott of Israel, “and in other ways publicly supported the Arab position of hostility to Israel. The local Jewish community is distrusted both as foreigners and as potential Israel sympathizers…. Libyan Jews are subjected to various restrictions although they are not actively persecuted and their synagogues continue to function.”[4] The boycott began to be rigorously enforced only after 30 March 1957. According to one report, the Arab boycott in Libya was “very active.”

“The officials are known to have instigated night visits to Jewish homes to inspect all the families’ correspondence. They look for letters from Israel, and if such correspondence is found, or even anything bearing Hebrew lettering, the person is arrested. If there is no concrete evidence of mail being exchanged with Israel, then the person is released.”[5]

The boycott damaged the Jewish community’s economic position and Libya’s development in general. It contributed to the impoverishment of at least half the Jewish community of Tripoli and provoked “general discouragement, spreading absenteeism, lack of interest in Community life, and increasing fear” among community members.[6]

In 1953, when Libya joined the Arab League, the Libyan government still permitted both British and American military bases on its territory and thus was considered pro-Western. However, local nationalist elements, encouraged by Nasserist propaganda and incited by the large number of Egyptian teachers and technicians in the country, posed a challenge to King Idris and his foreign policy. Pressure was exerted on Idris to demonstrate his loyalty to Arabism by banning foreign bases from Libya.

Finally, in December 1963, Nasser publicly demanded that British and American military bases in Libya be dismantled. The Libyan government complied, opening negotiations with the British and the Americans and securing vague agreements that fulfilled Nasser’s demands and that eventually closed these bases.[7]

The first two decades of Libyan independence were marked by fierce nationalism that expressed itself through xenophobic, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israeli policies. From the very beginning of the lengthy preindependence negotiations, it was clear that the Libyan government had no intention of including Jews in the political life of the new state.[8] Any promises made to the Jewish community or to the United Nations before independence were systematically abandoned afterward.

No Future in Libya

On the eve of independence in 1951, Prime Minister Mahmud Muntasser, partially reflecting the opinion of King Idris, remarked that the Jews would be protected but “he could see no future for them in Libya.”[9] The new Libyan government had more urgent matters to tend to than its minority Jewish population. Maintaining Libya’s fragile unity was of far greater concern to the government. Any rapprochement with the Jewish community would most likely have proved damaging to the government’s relations with political and nationalist groups. Although the Jewish community tried to live a normal life and keep a low profile, it could not ignore the emerging political climate in the country.

The change in policies adopted by the government after independence regarding foreign nationals and against the Jewish community was part of the progressive deterioration of the minorities’ situation.[10] Taking these policies into account, the evacuation of the last Jews in 1967 should not have come as a surprise. The 1967 Arab-Israeli war was only a trigger for the inevitable. Thus the departure of the last Jews from Libya was the final culmination of years of growing nationalist, anti-Western, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israeli policies adopted by a weak government trying to appease young nationalist leaders influenced by Egypt and its leader, Nasser.

Measures taken against the Jewish community were political, cultural, and economic. Soon after independence, Jewish emigration to Israel was restricted. Before Libya became independent in 1952, postal contacts such as letters, packages, and telegrams between Libya and Israel were not limited. These contacts were slowly reduced and halted altogether in 1954. Libyan Jews who used to visit relatives in Israel were no longer permitted to do so, and those who did emigrate were not allowed “to return to Libya, even for a brief visit.”[11]

Also in 1954, the Maccabi social and sports club was closed down and taken over by the government on the pretext that it “directed a net of Zionist espionage.”[12] This deprived Jews of sports, cultural, and entertainment activities. On 3 December 1958, the Libyan government dissolved the Jewish community of Tripolitania and assigned a Muslim commissioner to take over community administration including finances, materials, documents, registers, and correspondence. On 31 December 1958, a government decree was issued giving “the Commissioner, Sayyed Amar Sasi Atya, the same powers that the deposed Administrative Council had exercised.”[13]

On 9 May 1957, the Libyan government issued a decree whereby all Libyan Jews with relatives in Israel had to register with the Libyan Boycott Offices.[14] Since more than 90 percent of Jews had left Libya from 1949 to 1952, this law applied to virtually every Jewish family in Libya.

On 2 April 1960, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, a school that had been operating in Libya since 1889, was closed down by the government without any explanation. Law No. 6, passed in 1961, required that all “property in Libya belonging to entities of persons residing in Israel or linked to it by citizenship or through work connections [be] put under custody.” The law continued to dictate that the Libyan Council of Ministers would appoint a general custodian who would be “responsible for their [Jewish] administration and management…take all appropriate action for the proper exploitation of the industrial and commercial activities… seize [the Jewish] assets and liquidate [them].”[15]

This law was followed by another decree dated 15 July 1961, stating that anyone “wishing to acquire property and engage in certain other commercial transactions [needed to] present a certificate of Libyan nationality-and that whereas Libyan Moslems get this without any difficulty whatsoever, Jews simply do not.”[16] This decree also permitted a government administrator to take over the CABI (the Administrative Committee for the Management of the Immovable Assets of Emigrants). This was a legally recognized corporation whose directors were appointed by the Jewish Community Council. When a government administrator took control of the CABI, it was estimated that the community’s assets were worth 25 million francs.[17]

Restrictions on Rights

Other steps taken against the Jewish community by the Libyan government in the early 1960s affected civil and religious liberties. These included:

1. Jews cannot vote, attain public offices nor serve in the army or police.

2. The government is authorized by law to take title to the “properties of certain Jews.”

3. Jews are prohibited from acquiring new property.

4. Jews cannot receive passports or certification of their Libyan nationality. If a Jew wants to leave the country he may obtain a special travel document which does not indicate that he has Libyan nationality. If he does not leave within six months after receiving the document, it expires and he automatically loses his nationality and property rights.[18]

Jews continued to be victims of minor assaults and harassment. There was fear among community members that their daughters would be forced to marry Muslims. Several Jewish girls attended a secretarial school in Tripoli and when one of them married a Muslim the other girls were immediately taken out of the school and a few even sent to Italy.[19]

Jews also were excluded from directly benefiting from the discovery of oil in Libya. In 1958, oil was discovered in commercial quantities, forever changing the country’s economy. By the early 1960s, more than seventeen foreign oil companies were operating in Libya. The government pressured these companies to employ only Arab Libyans; foreign nationals and Jews were completely excluded.[20] Young Jews, comparatively more educated than local Arab Libyans, were excluded from seeking employment with these oil companies or the AID Agency, which provided foreign aid for development in Libya. They could only work with the diplomatic service of the United States or other countries.[21]

Meanwhile, in October 1964 the Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, established by agreement with Libya in 1954 and considered “the largest US Air Force installation outside the continental United States,” became the focus of a brewing diplomatic storm between the two countries.[22] The New York Times and Herald Tribune reported a complaint sent to the Jewish senator Jacob K. Javits (Rep., New York) by one of the American Jewish airmen on the base citing religious discrimination and censorship. These airmen and their dependents (twenty-five airmen and thirty-two dependents) “were being prevented from openly practicing their religion” in deference to the sensitivities of their host country, Libya.[23]

The American Jewish airmen made three charges. First, there was censorship of “all references to Jews and Judaism, as well as to Israel and Zionism, from radio and television programs broadcast over the Air Force facilities in Tripoli.” Second, harassment of the American Jewish airmen “by the local Arab community” forced them “to conceal their Jewishness and stop teaching their children Jewish customs and rituals.” Finally, the air force was “not only condoning this deplorable situation but… actually advised Jewish servicemen to conceal their religion and has even pressured them to display Christmas trees during the holiday season in order to demonstrate that they are like all other Americans in Libya.”[24]

In addition, the serviceman complained that “we have had to hide everything that says we are Jewish and read Jewish literature under cover.” Senator Javits’s response was to request “an end to censorship” and add that “the Air Force should make ‘suitable provision’ for Jewish Sunday school for the children of Jewish servicemen.”[25] Although the agreement between the Libyan government and the United States allowed the use of the Wheelus Air Force Base until December 1971, Muammar al-Qadhafi demanded its premature closure and its facilities turned over to the Libyan people a year and a half early, in June 1970.

More threatening measures to the community’s survival both in cultural and social terms included the closing of the Rabbinic Court, the lack of Jewish educational institutions, and the restrictions placed on movement and citizenship. These latter constraints proved to be the most problematic for the Jewish community. International Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) intervened on behalf of the Libyan Jewish community, viewing these restrictions as violations of basic civil rights and a dangerous precedent for other newly independent North African states.

Issues of Citizenship

The debate over the question of citizenship for Jews played a major role in Libya’s negotiations with the minorities representative of the United Nations before independence. At the twelfth meeting of the Constitutional Committee of the Founding Libya National Council held in Tripoli on 12 June 1951, the definition of a Libyan and a foreigner was discussed. At the end of the debate, this resolution was adopted:[26]

1) Any person who resides in Libya and has no citizenship or foreign nationality is considered a Libyan national if he fulfills one of the following conditions:

a) he was born in Libya.

b) one of his parents was born in Libya.

c) he has resided in Libya for no less than ten consecutive years.

2) The wife of a Libyan citizen is considered Libyan.

3) In defining the terms for acquiring Libyan citizenship by foreigners the law prescribes, “to facilitate [the acquisition of citizenship by] those who had permanent residence in Libya from the first of January 1943 until the issue of this law and for those who are engaged in important economic activities and have good conduct.”

In addition, the Constitutional Committee added a new clause 27 to article 11 that stated: “the law should abide by the principles of the international law and those people who are not governed by Islamic law have the right to attend to their personal matters themselves.”[27]

These resolutions were integrated into the Libyan constitution in articles 8 and 11. The latter article stated: “Libyans shall be equal before the law. They shall enjoy equal civil and political rights, shall have the same opportunities, and be subject to the same public duties and obligations, without distinction of religion, belief, race, language, wealth and kinship or political or social opinion.”[28] However, Jews were not allowed to vote, could not hold political office, and their “passport was considered only as a travel document, not easily renewable after its expiration.”[29]

Article 31 stated: “Property shall be inviolable. No owner may be prevented from disposing of his property except within the limits of the law. No property of any person shall be expropriated except in the public interest and in the cases and in the manner determined by law and provided such person is awarded fair compensation.[30]

Article 32 stated that “the penalty of confiscation in general of property shall be prohibited.”[31] The constitution also protected the personal rights of non-Muslims. Article 192 stated categorically: “the State shall guarantee to respect the system of individual rights for non-Muslims.”[32]

These guarantees were grounded in the constitution and designed to protect minorities. However, they remained on paper and bore no resemblance to the reality that unfolded before the Jewish community’s eyes from 1952 to 1967. In particular, the issue of citizenship was at the core of Libyan Jewish existence. It involved basic rights of freedom of movement and of owning and selling property. This affected the Jews when they were evacuated from Libya to Italy in 1967 and the issue of citizenship was contested between the Italian government, the Jewish community of Rome, and the newly established Association of Libyan Jews in Rome.

Meanwhile an anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist campaign was unleashed in daily and weekly local newspapers. The following excerpts, taken from a survey of Libyan newspapers of the time, demonstrate the indiscriminate nature of the attacks on the Jews in Libya:

● El-Raid (The Guide), 15 August 1960: “A settling of accounts between the Jews and Islam is indispensable.”

● Tarablus al-Gharb (Western Tripolitania), 17 August 1960: “The Jews are the authors of the misfortunes of all colonialist countries.”

● Al-Libi (The Libyan), 19 August 1960: “Peace is impossible so long as Jews are permitted to exercise their implacable hatred against the Arab world and the lands of Islam.”

● Al-Tali’a (The Vanguard, a weekly), 7 December 1960: “The Arab League is seeking the traces of more than half a million Arabs who emigrated more than half a century ago to the countries of Latin America…Africa, the United States…. This force should be employed to struggle against world Jewry to combat American Judeo imperialism, and to check the maneuvers and intrigues of the Jewish race…. The task of regrouping…has been confided…to a new office directed by M. Adel Yusuf whose mission will consist of propagating the word: ‘The enemy of humanity is the Jew.'”[33]

The Beginnings of Violence

What is interesting is that during this period, the daily Barqa el-Gedida (The New Cyrenaica), considered the unofficial organ of the government and King Idris, did not launch any attacks against the Jews.[34] However, in the summer of 1963 the community witnessed a horrific event that shook its members and reminded them how vulnerable they were. Halfalla Nahum, one of the most prominent Jews in Libya, who had served the community under the Italian, British, and Libyan governments, was murdered in his home in Tripoli at the age of eighty-four. He was first threatened with letters allegedly asking for protection money, and when he refused to pay the second demand, the murderers came to his home, tied him to a chair, and killed him.[35]

It appears that early in 1963 an Arab gang trained by foreign agents was organized to become a hit squad or “terrorist association, with the aim of hitting Jewish personalities.”[36] The police initially suspected twenty Jews for this act, arguing that a Jew must have killed Nahum because he was a generous donor to Arab philanthropies and Arabs would not have killed him. According to one report a certain Rabbi Baruch, who also happened to be a shochet (ritual animal slaughterer), was held as a suspect because of bloodstains on his shirt.[37]

Following Nahum’s murder, other influential Jews received similar threats. For example, Beniamino Haddad, former treasurer of the community and owner of the Firestone tires agency, was assaulted by the same gang and lost an eye. Following this incident, realizing that the Jews were not responsible for Nahum’s murder, the police decided to release Rabbi Baruch. They finally apprehended the gang, composed of ten Arabs and one Maltese, and punished them severely.[38]

Pressure on the government by nationalist elements in the country continued to mount. Sometimes the government intervened to protect the Jews from physical attacks. In one incident reported in January 1964, “extreme nationalists and pro-Nasserists” took to the streets to protest against the king for what they saw as his failure to give more energetic support to the Arab Summit Conference that was convening in Cairo.[39] The government sent police reinforcements to protect the Jewish quarters of Tripoli and Benghazi and thus attacks against Jews were averted.

A few months before the outbreak of the 1967 war, “a communiqué…to lawyers and legal offices made it particularly impossible for Jews to sell real property.”[40] Given the dramatic events of 1967 that led to their forced evacuation, none of these or other developments surprised the Jews. They were aware that Libya’s internal politics could not ignore the volatile regional situation. The climate left no doubt that they could no longer stay in Libya. They tried to postpone that day as long as possible, but they knew it would eventually come.

Unlike the previous pogrom of November 1945, which caught the Jewish community unaware and left 130 dead and much devastation of Jewish property, the 1967 outburst culminated years of economic and political sanctions that could neither be halted nor reversed. The progressive deterioration of the situation before 1967 left many Jews uneasy, but as long as they could continue their daily activities unharmed they chose to ignore the looming dangers. The outbreak of the 1967 war and Israel’s swift victory came as a surprise to all. So did the speed and intensity of the community’s evacuation. Jews knew that it was only a matter of time before they had to leave or be expelled from the country of their birth. Many may have even prepared for that day but they did not expect it to be so soon.

A description of these Jews’ state of mind is found in Victor Magiar’s discussion of his parents’ indecisiveness and their ambivalence toward Libya and the Libyan Arabs: “History pursued us for generations and my parents resisted on this shore, not facing the sea and not pulling up the anchor, because they were afraid of the storm, but a storm came searching for us anew, passing over the seashore, penetrating deep in our home.”[41]

The Outbreak of Hostilities against Jews in 1967

Unlike the pogrom of 1945, when neither independent Libya nor the state of Israel existed, the 1967 evacuation of the last Jews of Libya occurred in the wake of both a regional and national crisis. The years before 1967 saw the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Nasser’s ambition to export his revolution to the conservative regimes of his Arab neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa. Indeed, on 29 May 1967 Nasser stated to his National Assembly: “the issue today is not the question of Aqaba or the strait of Tiran…. The issue is the rights of the people of Palestine, the aggression against Palestine that took place in 1948, with the help of Britain and the United States…. We want the rights of the people of Palestine-complete.”[42] The day before, Nasser gave a press conference during which he declared that “if things should develop into a general struggle in the Middle East, we are ready for this struggle.”[43]

These messages and others by Nasser were broadcast by the Voice of the Arabs, the popular radio station listened to by many Libyans, the younger generations in particular. This was happening at a time when King Idris and his regime were subject to severe criticism in the country for corruption, nepotism, and pro-Western sympathy, and for neglecting the Arab cause and specifically the Palestinian question. “Youthful revolutionaries began to organize workers in the cities and the oil fields where the petroleum industry created a new proletariat, and in this sector, too, Arab nationalism and the Arab revolution won willing converts.”[44] The consequences of the regional and internal developments were described by The Economist: “Libya reacted violently to the war in the Middle East…. This little kingdom contained more conflicts than casual visitors credited it with.”[45]

Libyan Jews, relying heavily on King Idris as their protector against the new pro-Nasserist and pan-Arab nationalists in his country, had a false sense of security. They had seen the rising tide of extreme nationalism both in Libya and the region. However, the thriving economy (which also benefited the Jews), the dependence and trust in the king who had been friendly to them, and their exclusion from any participation in Libyan politics for at least the past seven years left the Jewish community with no choice but to continue living as detached observers and hope for the best.

The Beginning of the End

During the month of May 1967 the world witnessed the intense diplomatic efforts of the great powers and the United Nations to avert the new crisis unfolding between Israel and Egypt. During this month there was also a media campaign against Jews in the Arab world. Starting on 2 June 1967, this spilled over into the mosques, which preached jihad against Jews. In Libya, the week of 5-12 June was declared a week for the Palestinian cause during which funds would be raised and “to which collection the Jewish community would contribute as it had done in the past for AlgiersLibya, such as the Italians, Maltese and Greeks would also take part.”[46] and in which the communities residing in

The Council of Ministers, under pressure from nationalist groups, permitted demonstrations and declared in the name of the king that Libya was ready to allocate all its resources to the liberation of Palestine. In addition, the king, realizing that his rule was endangered, tried to appease the extreme elements among the population by donating 10,000 Libyan pounds to launch the demonstration week.

Monday, 5 June 1967, began as a normal day in Tripoli. Children were sent to school and heads of families went to work.[47] At 9 a.m., when the first news of the war was heard on the Libyan radio, people were urged to stay home. What began as orderly demonstrations for “Palestine Week” soon turned into mob attacks on Jews and Jewish property.

By ten in the morning, a few Jewish mothers saw the first disorders and rushed to the Italian school to take their children home. The demonstrators arrived an hour later, but by then the Italian ambassador had arrived at the school and sent everyone home. It did not take long before the shops of Italians and Jews in the center of the town and in the old city were set on fire.

The mob, drunk with fanaticism and constantly agitated by false news, hurled itself ferociously and violently upon Jewish stores, warehouses and homes provoking fire, destruction and massacre. The sections most heavily attacked, in addition to the hara [Jewish quarter]… were the new sections of Sciara Istiklal, Sciara 24 December and Sciara Mizran.[48]

Because the attacks against Jews started in the morning as individual family members were on their way to work and school, family members hid in separate locations and were thus cut off from each other for a span of weeks. The element of surprise enabled the mobs to pillage, and the police were only armed with sticks and unable to handle the situation. The government proclaimed a state of emergency and toward evening declared a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 the following morning.

The same day, over 60 percent of Jewish communal and private property was destroyed and, according to one report, “at least ten people were killed and many others suffered grave violence.”[49] The government soon realized that the situation was getting out of hand and hoped, by removing the Jews from the scene, to restore order. For the sake of safety, the Jews of the hara were taken for protective custody to a government enclave in Gurgji four kilometers outside of the city, and others barricaded themselves in their homes under police protection. According to Mr. Sasoon, “one of the spokesmen and leaders of the Jews in the Gurgji camp vis-à-vis the Libyan authorities,” the camp was established to protect Jews from the mob and therefore could not be considered “a detention measure against Jews.”[50] The Jews there were treated well by the authorities, provided with a kosher kitchen and kosher food. The Red Cross, interested in feeding the children, was allowed to visit the camp and made recommendations that were implemented.

Nevertheless, during 6-9 June the situation in the city was chaotic and Jews were cut off from one another, living in constant fear. As Lillo Arbib, former president of the Jewish community of Tripoli, described the situation:

The Jews remained closed in their houses and lacked many essential things, particularly bread, since, when the Arab bakers understood that bread purchased either by Christians or Arabs might be for the Jews, they refused to sell it. Several Arabs and Italians who tried to buy bread for their Jewish friends were blackmailed and threatened with serious measures if they did it again… Among the buildings destroyed were the Synagogues, Bet El in Sciara Khartum and the Talmud Torah School (Dar Serussi) in the Hara Kebira [Jewish quarter]. The Bet El Synagogue contains about ten Sefer Torahs [Torah scrolls] richly decorated with silver and ivory and many hundreds of sacred books: Psalms, Prophets, Bibles plus many prayer books, talithim and tefillim [prayer shawls and phylacteries] belonging to individuals. The building was completely destroyed by flames which had already destroyed an adjacent Jewish Printshop “Tipografia La Rapida.”[51]

Another report from the Paris office of the American Jewish Committee dated 14 June 1967Tripoli shopping streets… It was not uncommon for an already-burned store to be put to flames a second time a few days later, to make sure it would be completely gutted.”[52] describes “the prime objective of the rioters” as “destruction, not pillaging, [wreaking] havoc along the main

The Beginnings of the Exodus

On 11 June, a plane with 130 passengers of different nationalities landed in Rome. Crowded on an Alitalia Caravelle, some of the passengers had to stand while traveling. As they described their story:

We come from the hinterland. We are alive by miracle. From the day the war broke out the Libyans gave us no peace. They came to look for us even when we were barricaded in our homes. Every twenty minutes, systematically, someone telephoned and menaced us with death. Outside, on the streets, a mob of rioters possessed by the most furious fanaticism set fire to stores and villas, and attacked and beat up the first stranger that passed. At first they chased Jews like ourselves. Then they vented their fury on all foreigners, no matter of what nationality.[53]

After anti-Jewish riots in Libya in 1945 and 1948, the mufti of Tripoli and the rabbi of the community formed the Arab-Jewish Pacification Committee to condemn the riots and restore peace between Jews and Arabs. This time, the appeal to the mufti fell on deaf ears. It appears that Lillo Arbib, following the precedents of 1945 and 1948, dispatched a letter to the mufti, Sheikh Abdurrahman al-Galhud, on 8 June 1967, “appealing to his religious and humanitarian sentiments and proposed a meeting of Arab and Jewish leaders for the purpose of clarifying the position of the Jews in Libya and re-establishing security and tranquility in the country.”[54] Although he received no reply, Arbib notes that the mosque sermons that were broadcast the following Friday, 9 June, were “somehow less ferocious.”[55]

The situation in Benghazi was no different from Tripoli. The Jews of Benghazi were few in number, approximately three hundred people. Still, Giorgio Fattori of La Stampa reported on 20 June 1967 that he saw “all the Jewish owned shops destroyed, some large shops burned, the British Council reduced to pieces, and the American Consulate and the home of the American consul blackened by fire.”[56]

Here too, to protect this small minority of Jews from the mob, the police gathered them in barracks, a military-academy compound situated near the seashore outside of the city. They remained there for twelve days. Some were permitted a police escort at night for a brief visit to their homes to change clothes and replenish supplies. In one of these visits the Jews were asked to take only one suitcase and from there were brought directly to the airport where a plane was waiting to fly them to Rome.[57] The Jewish passengers were not asked to pay for the flight.

During 6-9 June, some of the Tripoli Jews were murdered. First there was the case of two Jews who were reported to have been stabbed to death: a butcher by the name of Vito Mimum, son of Elia, and his wife.[58] Then there was the case of two families who paid the highest toll in Libya in 1967. The Raccah family consisted of the parents Efraim and Fortunata, their children Rachele (born 6 February 1947) and Isacco (born 6 February 1949), and Efraim’s eighty-year-old mother. The Luzon family consisted of the parents Shalom and Zakia and seven of their children, Abraham, Arye, David, Esther, Meir, Rafael, and Yosef.

Both families were taken from their homes in Giaddat Omar Mukhtar No. 139, allegedly by a Libyan army major together with other soldiers. This was supposedly done to take them to safety in the Gurgji camp. At the time, another daughter of the Luzon family was married and lived somewhere else in the city. The report states that nine days later their corpses were found in a quarry; they had been massacred with clubs. They were brought to the government hospital where autopsies were performed by the Italians Dr. Domenico Cicogna and Dr. Fione, director of the hospital.[59]

The Libyan major’s family is believed to have originally been from Crete and converted to Islam. One of Shalom Luzon’s brothers and his mother attempted to reenter Libya to “find out more details about the fate of their closest relatives and also to liquidate some assets.”[60] But they were turned back when they arrived at the Tripoli airport on 20 September 1967. They never set foot in Libya again.

According to Arbib, in this chaotic climate he consulted with other Jewish-community members and then took the initiative to contact several government officials. One was Haj Muhammad al-Koni, the government commissioner, whom he requested to visit the Gurgji camp and ascertain the conditions and needs of the Jews there. He also informed him of a community fund that would be available for the needy and injured, and for burying the dead.

The next day, Arbib addressed a letter to Prime Minister Hussein Mazegh that described the Jewish community’s difficult situation and implored him to ensure a quick return to normalcy. More important, Arbib suggested that the prime minister

permit the Jews who so desire, to leave the country for a certain period until spirits would be calmed and the Libyan population would understand the position of the Libyan Jews who have always been and will continue to be completely loyal to the State always in full concordance and peaceful co-existence with the Arab citizens through every period.[61]

Arbib’s letter seems to have changed the whole situation and later proved to be a face-saving device for the Libyan government. The government knew only too well that to restore calm to the country and confidence in the regime, the Jews had to be expelled. Nevertheless, it was embarrassed to send them away. Thus in response to Arbib’s letter, the prime minister sent three high police officials to ask him for more details that would be submitted to the Council of Ministers for their decision.

It did not take long before a favorable decision was handed down on 20 June, and “the Emigration Office worked day and night without interruptions to meet the requests for travel documents.”[62]

The Evacuation: Air and Sea Lift and Italian Hospitality

The Libyan police went to each Jewish home to collect passports and issue exit visas and travel documents for all those who wished to leave. These included both the Jews still hiding in their homes and those in the camps, who were urged to leave. It would soon become clear that the government and the Jewish community had different intentions at the time.

The Jews thought their absence from Libya would be temporary and last “until the spirits . . . calmed,” at which point they could return and continue to live in Libya, or at the very least return to liquidate their assets in peaceful circumstances.[63] However, it became evident in the subsequent months and years that the government had a different plan. It began by redefining the Jews’ nationality and thus preventing them from returning, owning, selling, or recovering their communal and private property. The issue of citizenship also embroiled the Italian government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the international Jewish organizations that again came to the aid of Libyan Jews.

To begin with, those with regular Libyan passports received normal exit visas and hence were permitted to stay abroad throughout the entire period of such passports’ validity (1970). Libyans Jews possessing only a “Temporary Travel Document” received a three-to-four-month visa and could renew them at Libyan consulates abroad. If the Jews did not renew their travel documents within the specified period of validity, they would lose their residence rights in Libya and not be able to return. Foreign Jews (Tunisians, Italians, British, French, and Dutch) received reentry and exit visas that only were valid for three months. They too would lose their residence rights if they did not return within the required time.

While the paperwork for the evacuation of the Jewish community was being prepared, Herbert Katzki and Daniel Lack of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Geneva were holding meetings with Assad Sadry and Warren Pinegar of the UNHCR to discuss “the movement of Jews out of Libya… [assuming] that most, if not all, of the approximately 5,000-strong Jewish community [would] leave…under what seems to be a Government ‘evacuation’ of Jews because the Government is not in a position to maintain their security.”[64]

The JDC wanted to find out from the UNHCR whether or not stateless people with Libyan travel documents and other Libyan passport holders were within the UNHCR’s mandate. The JDC proposed that other agencies help prepare for the reception, care, and maintenance of these new refugees and inform the Italian authorities that, though Italy would serve as an asylum for them, they might come under the jurisdiction and care of the UNHCR. Reportedly, Italy was willing to accept Libyan Jews without Italian nationality, but France hesitated to accept refugees who were not French nationals.

The UNHCR representative promised to look into the matter but said it was “doubtful” whether the UNHCR could consider Jews with Libyan passports, who intended to use them for their return to Libya, as refugees.[65] By September 1967, in a memo to the JDC in New York, JDC European Headquarters stated that “nothing is to be expected by way of a grant from the UNHCR given the political pressures from Arab sources that would militate against such an action.”[66]

However, a letter dated 26 February 1968 from Loni Mayer of JDC Rome to Dr. E. Elfen of JDC Geneva lists “11 cases, 17 persons” as “Hardcore Caseload of Candidates” for submission to the UNHCR “who appear to qualify for UNHCR annuities, and the amount of the grant required to guarantee the annuity.” At the same time, Mayer reminds Elfen “that the refugees from Libya, as well as all other refugees from non-European countries, are potentially eligible under UNHCR Mandate only, and are not recognized by the Italian government as political refugees under the Geneva Convention.”[67] Out of the seventeen persons only fourteen qualified for the UNHCR monthly annuity of 23,000 Italian liras, totaling 27,755,176 liras for the entire group.

The Libyan authorities were helpful in expediting evacuation of the Jews from camps and their homes by issuing travel documents and providing “free air passage for many people.”[68] However, the question of who would ultimately pay remained unclear. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) told the Italian airline Alitalia that it was ready to pay for those who were willing to leave. But those who were taken on charter flights and had adequate means were required to pay for themselves.

At the time the JDC people believed, however, that Libyan Jews who received tickets from the Libyan government’s representatives at the airport and did not claim the money for the tickets were effectively expelled by Libya.[69] The majority were granted a return visa, however, and the Italian government issued two-to-three-month entry visas thanks to the intervention of the Unione delle Comunità Israelitiche Italiane (UCII) (the Rome-based Union of the Italian Jewish Communities). Jews were initially allowed twenty British pounds and one piece of hand luggage. Later the amount was increased to fifty pounds and toward the end of the evacuation process a few Jews received a higher amount of three hundred British pounds.

The evacuation was carried out under “difficult circumstances” through charter flights provided by the Libyan government and Alitalia. It is believed that the former used the Jewish-community funds that were then under government control to pay for these flights and the expenses for the poor people in the Gurgji camp.[70] Planes did not always land in Libya on schedule because travel documents were issued at the last minute and people had to be escorted from camps and their homes.

The words “Libyan Jew” were stamped on travel documents and passports. Some of them had only “temporary travel documents” stamped in Arabic over the words ‘”good for one return journey.” In addition, passports were also stamped with the words “this document does not certify that bearer was a Libyan subject.”[71] At the time, the Unione, the JDC, and Deputazione Israelitica di Assistenza (DIA), the Rome Jewish welfare organization, started negotiating with the Italian government on where to house the new arrivals and for how long. The Italian government assumed that the influx of these refugees was “a temporary measure” but it soon became clear that “the matter [would] not be settled in two months or so, as had been thought at first.”[72]

Libyan Jews arrived in Italy in chartered flights, regular flights, and also by ship, such as the SS Torres. The JDC in Rome issued a series of bulletins describing the evacuation and placement of the new arrivals. Two camps were allocated by the Italian government: in Latina one hundred kilometers from Rome, and in Capua about twenty kilometers from Naples. Most of the Tripolitanian Jews were taken to Latina and the Jews of Benghazi to Capua.

Persecution in Libya

In Libya, because of the riots, Jews were not allowed to leave for twenty days. The first flights left on 28 and 29 June. They included three charter, one Libyan, and two Alitalia flights carrying a total of 233 people. Of these, 175 accepted camp accommodations and fifty-eight made their own arrangements.[73] Over the following two days only one plane landed with seventy-six passengers; two Alitalia flights were canceled for technical reasons.[74] From 28 June to 3 July, “eight special flights chartered by [the] Libyan government arrived with 192 from Benghazi and 446 from Tripoli. Two Jews have remained behind in Benghazi at their own request. This ends the historic Benghazi community.”[75] Of the total 638 refugees, 543 came from protective-custody camps and ninety-five from their own homes.

During June and July, the number of Libyan Jews who arrived in Italy was estimated to be 2,800. By 2 August, more than 306 of this total departed for Israel. This left about eight hundred to one thousand Jews in Libya,[76] where their situation continued to worsen.

According to one witness, the government seized Jewish-owned stores and their contents as well as any goods that arrived in customs. In addition, on 31 July “a violent press campaign started, directed against those Jews who have left Libya. The articles in the newspapers pointed out that shops and stores full of valuable goods had been left behind; the Libyan economy needs these goods, why not to take them and hand them over to a specially created company for this purpose.”[77]

By 15 August, about three thousand Libyan refugees had arrived in Italy; two thousand of them were given “some form” of assistance by the JDC and six hundred emigrated to Israel.[78] By 3 September, 664 Libyan Jews in Italy emigrated to Israel and this number was expected to rise to one thousand by the end of October.[79] By this time there were only 217 people left in the Gurgji camp in addition to those still living in their homes. Jewish community life in Libya had effectively come to an end.

In the following years some Libyan Jews who were in camps in Italy managed to return for short visits to Tripoli to assess their losses and determine what they could save.

1969: Qadhafi’s Coup

On 1 September 1969, Muammar Qadhafi, a lieutenant in the Libyan army, staged a coup while King Idris was out of the country. The consequences of the takeover quickly became obvious to the Jews. According to a firsthand report, in November 1969 there were cases of harassment, physical violence, and abuse against Jews.[80] Jews of foreign nationality were beaten with rifle butts and placed in jail. One example is Aldo Haggiag, a French citizen, who was “severely beaten up and took refuge in the French Embassy where he remained for 10 days.”[81]

Giulio Hassan, son of a wealthy Jew of Libyan nationality, was assaulted by an Arab mob and then picked up by the military and thrown into jail without any charges against him. His wife was refused the right to see him and he could only be contacted by phone. Another case was that of Lilly Guetta, a sixty-two-year-old woman who was at home when three soldiers entered and threatened her at gunpoint.

On 31 October 1969, El-Raid initiated a campaign against the Jews that was followed by other newspapers. The campaign demanded the confiscation of all assets, public and private, of the Jews who had left Libya after 1967 and their restitution to the Libyan government.[82]

El-Raid, which became the official organ of the new government, explicitly stated under the headline “The Public Opinion”:

Confiscate the assets of the Jews (in the name of the people). In Tripoli the custodian of the assets of the Jews who have abandoned the territory after 5 June 1967 for Italy and who fought us and were our enemies from time immemorial their assets will therefore be confiscated by the revolutionary government and returned to the people… It is an unavoidable duty of the city councils of Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata, etc., to remove their [the Jews’] cemeteries immediately, and throw the bodies of their dead, which, even in their eternal rest, soil our country, into the depths of the sea. Where those dirty corpses are lying they should put buildings, parks, and roads. Only thus can the hatred of the Libyan Arab people toward the Jews be satiated.[83]

In 1970, the Governing Revolutionary Council hastened to introduce new laws to strengthen the Libyan hold on Jewish assets by confiscating the assets and distancing the Jews from Libya. Under Idris’ reign, a law had been passed on 21 March 1961 (article 1 of Law No. 6) stating that: “All existing assets and property in Libya belonging to entities or persons residing in Israel or linked to it by citizenship or through work connections are put under custody.”[84] The Council of Ministers appointed a general custodian with wide responsibilities. In effect, he not only managed and administered these assets but could “sell wholly or partly… assets whose custody constitutes an excessive charge” and also was able “to sell the assets and liquidate the industrial and commercial activities.”

The new law introduced by the Qadhafi regime on 7 February 1970 essentially extended the 1961 law to include not only those who had left for Israel but also those “who have left Libyan territory definitely to establish themselves abroad.” A group of Jews, to whom this description did not apply, petitioned the Libyan government twice, on 25 March and 5 May 1970, emphasizing that they “have not left Libyan Territory to reside abroad permanently.”[85]

On 14 May 1970, a new law No. 57 listed “about eighty Jews” in addition to others who were abroad and who might have chosen not to return; their assets were put under the administration of the general custodian. Article 3 of the law gave the custodian the authority to “settle or surrender wholly or in part credits” as well as other rights of representing the person in “legal proceedings.” Here too Jews appealed to the Revolutionary Council in Libya and to the Libyan embassy in Rome, but to no avail.

On 21 July 1970, another law was introduced that sealed the fate not only of the Jews but this time of the Italian nationals residing in Libya as well. For the Italians, the law ordered the permanent confiscation of their property since they had to pay for what their ancestors had usurped during the Italian occupation. Since the Jews were not held as accomplices of the Italians, they were promised compensation for their confiscated assets with government bonds payable in fifteen years. Thirty-seven years have since passed and no payments have been made to Libyan Jews.

The Jewish cemeteries have been leveled off and buildings were erected on them without giving the families the opportunity to remove the remains of their dead. These included four cemeteries in Tripoli, one in Benghazi, and sixteen in small towns.[86] This act by the Qadhafi regime forever erased the Jewish past from Libya. The same can be said for the seventy-eight synagogues that were turned into mosques or, as in the case of the Central Synagogue in Benghazi, a Coptic church. Sixty-four of them were destroyed-forty-four in Tripoli, three in Benghazi, and seventeen in small towns.[87]

There are no official statistics or census of Libyan Jews who arrived in Italy and of those who chose to settle in Rome. Of the approximately five thousand Jews evacuated to Italy in 1967, 1,500 to 1,800 stayed there and the rest emigrated to Israel within the first three years of their arrival. Today, almost forty years later, it is estimated that the community numbers about 4,500 people.[88]

On 10 October 2003, Libya watched the last Jew leave its soil. Rina Debash, an eighty-one-year-old woman living in an old-age home in Tripoli, was finally permitted to leave after her nephew David Gerbi, a psychologist living in Rome, intervened on her behalf with the Libyan and Italian authorities. His efforts took over a year to accomplish.[89] David Gerbi himself was one of those evacuated from Libya in 1967 and remained in Rome.

Unlike other countries in the Middle East and North Africa where a few Jews still reside, today there are no Jews left in Libya. In their newfound homes, mainly in Israel and to a much lesser extent in Italy and elsewhere, the religious heritage and long-kept traditions remain the elements that fuel their identity, having helped them cope with colonialism, persecution, and displacement over the centuries.

* * *


* This article is based on Prof. Roumani’s forthcoming book, The Jews of Libya: Coexistence, Persecution and Resettlement, due to appear later in 2007.

[1]. Protocol of the Association of Jews of Libya meeting, Rome, 20 November, 1971, 1 (UCII Archives, busta 124, fasc. 2, s.p. 82) [Italian]. AJDC, “Statement Concerning the Position of Jewish Refugees from Libya,” 10 July 1967, 1, AJDC Archives. Others like Sion Nemni, “who had assumed the function of chief of the Jewish Community of Tripoli,” stated that “the Jewish Community in Libya was not bigger than 4,500.” Herbert Katzki, “Memorandum for the files, Jews in Libya, Meeting with ICRC Delegate” 1 September 1967, 4, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[2]. “I profughi ebrei della Libia raccontano le persecuzioni patite,” Corriere della Sera, 13 June 1967. [Italian]

[3]. Renzo De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 258-61.

[4]. Letter of George E. Gruen, AJC New York, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, “Background Facts: Libya, the Arab League and the U.S.,” 9 November 1964, 1, AJC Archives.

[5]. M. A. Leavitt, AJDC (American Joint Distribution Committee) New York, to Abe Loskove, AJDC Rome, “Measures in Operation against Jews Living in Libya,” 15 November 1961, AJJDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) Archives, Jerusalem.

[6]. De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, 268.

[7]. “Libyan King Sacks Nasserist Ministers: Pro-Egyptian Politicians Arrested,” Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, 6 November 1964, 5.

[8]. De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, 237.

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Ibid., Ch. 9.

[11]. “Libyan Emigrants Cannot Return: Government’s Decision,” Jewish Chronicle, 20 June 1952.

[12]. “Report on Libya, Country Looking for a ‘Liberator’: Jews and Europeans under Pressure,” Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, 3 March 1961.

[13]. WJC, “Bulletin No. 85,” 22 January 1959, 5: “The decree empowered the Commissioner to: ‘take over all operations of the Jewish Community and all its monies, properties, deeds, papers, books, correspondence files and other things concerned with its (the Community’s) affairs.'”

[14]. Letter from Zachariah Shuster, AJC Paris, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, 15 November 1961. See also a “Report of the American Jewish Committee on the Jews of Libya-1961,” October 1961, AJC Archives.

[15]. Law No. 6, promulgated at Gasr el-Khold, signed by Prime Minister Muhammad Uthman Sayyed and by Finance Minister Lutfi el-Kadi. Libyan Official Gazette, 21 March 1961. [Arabic]

[16]. “Suggested Letter to the New York Times in Reply to Libyan Ambassador,” 15 November 1961, attached to a letter from Zachariah Shuster, AJC Paris, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, AJC Archives. This letter was in response to a letter written on 30 October 1961 by Mohieddine Fekini, ambassador and permanent representative of Libya to the United Nations, published in the New York Times on 10 November 1961.

[17]. Letter from Zachariah Shuster, AJC Paris, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, 13 November 1961, AJC Archives.

[18]. Article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Bulletin, 29 October 1961, AJC Archives. See also Lillo Arbib, Gli Ebrei in Libia Fra Idris e Gheddafi, 1948-1970 (Roma: Tiratura speciale per il Secondo Convegno Internazionale degli Ebrei di Libia, Antonio Stango Editore, 1989), 61-84. [Italian]

[19]. See the memorandum sent from the AJC Paris to the Foreign Affairs Department, AJC New York, “Situation of Jews in Libya,” 23 October 1963, AJC Archives.

[20]. “Summary of Impressions,” 19 January 1962, AJC Archives.

[21]. Author’s testimony. In his case, after several futile attempts to seek a position with AID in Benghazi, in 1958 the author was told by Mr. Hyder that he could not be hired because he was Jewish; he was referred to the American embassy where no such restrictions were in force and in fact he was hired by Dorothy A. Leadbetter of the American Embassy in Benghazi. However, when in 1960 he left for Brandeis University after receiving the Wien International Scholarship, the Libyan weekly El-Rakeep (Al-Raqeeb) of 17 October 1961 was puzzled by the “ease” with which “this Jew” was accepted when “some of our Arab graduate students encounter difficulties and are given the runaround in addition to repetitious test[ing] and in the end are refused acceptance because they will not recognize the Libyan University,” El-Rakeep, 17 October 1961 [Arabic]. See also De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, 273.

[22]. “Complaint Sent to Javits: U.S. Jews at Libya Air Base Live in Fear,” Herald Tribune, 26 October 1964.

[23]. Letter of George E. Gruen, AJC New York, to Simon Segal, AJC New York, “Alleged Discrimination against Jewish Servicemen in Libya,” 9 November 1964, 1, AJC Archives. Gruen remarked, in an attached report to his letter, that: “The problem of the Jewish servicemen in Libya and the New York elections” casts doubt as to the importance of this issue and whether or not it was related to the New York senatorial campaign of Jacob K. Javits.

[24]. Ibid.

[25]. “Complaint Sent to Javits.”

[26]. Proceedings of the Founding Libyan National Council, Constitutional Committee: Protocol of the Twelfth Meeting Held on 12 June 1951 (Cairo: Publishing House of the Egyptian Leagues, 1950-1951), 169. [Arabic]

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. Arbib, Gli Ebrei in Libia, 63.

[29]. Ibid.

[30]. Ibid.

[31]. Ibid., 64.

[32]. Ibid.

[33]. Letter from Zachariah Shuster, AJC Paris, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, 13 November 1961, AJC Archives.

[34]. Barqa el-Gedida, 30 November 1960, 7 March 1962, 11 March 1962, 21 March 1962, 8 April 1962. [Arabic]

[35]. See the memorandum sent from AJC Paris to the Foreign Affairs Department, AJC New York, “Situation of Jews in Libya,” 23 October 1963.

[36]. Arbib, Gli Ebrei in Libia, 80. For a detailed biography of Halfalla Nahum, his rich career in the public and commercial sectors, see also 119-24.

[37]. See the memorandum sent from AJC Paris to the Foreign Affairs Department, AJC New York, “Situation of Jews in Libya,” 23 October 1963, 4.

[38]. Arbib, Gli Ebrei in Libia, 81.

[39]. Letter of George E. Gruen, AJC New York, to Dr. Simon Segal, AJC New York, “Libya, the Arab League and the U.S.,” an attachment to his letter of 9 November 1964, 1.

[40]. De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, 273.

[41]. Victor Magiar, E venne la notte (Firenze: Editrice La Giuntina, 2003), 235. [Italian]

[42]. Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948-1967 (New York: Pegasus, 1969), 270.

[43]. Ibid., 291.

[44]. Eugene M. Fisher and M. Cherif Bassiouni, Storm over the Arab World: A People in Revolution (Chicago: Follett, 1972), 194.

[45]. Ibid., 195.

[46]. Report of Lillo Arbib, former president of the Jewish Community of Tripoli, “The Anti-Semitic Riots in Libya of June 5th,” 18 July 1967, AJDC Archives.

[47]. Giorgio Fattori, “Paura e segreta tensione a Tripoli dopo giorni di sanguinose violenze,” La Stampa, 18 June 1967, 3. [Italian]

[48]. Ibid.; see also Arbib, “Anti-Semitic Riots,” 3.

[49]. Loni Mayer, AJDC Rome, “Report on Welfare Activities,” 1969, 3 (UCII Archives, busta 122, fasc. 10, s.p. 1352). [Italian]

[50]. Ibid.; see also Arbib, “Anti-Semitic Riots,” 3; Isaac Kleinbaum, “Position of Libyan Jews in the Gurgji Camp in Tripoli,” 27 July 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[51]. Arbib, ibid., 4.

[52]. See the report of Zachariah Shuster, AJC Paris, 14 June 1967, 2, AJC Archives.

[53]. “Jewish Refugees from Libya Recount Persecutions Suffered,” Corriere della Sera, 13 June 1967. [Italian]

[54]. Arbib, “Anti-Semitic Riots,” 4.

[55]. Ibid., 5.

[56]. Giorgio Fattori, “Benghazi Is Calm, but Full of Fears after the Serious Violence of 5 June,” La Stampa, 20 June 1967. [Italian]

[57]. Author’s interview with Judy R. Saphra, Rome, 9 September 2006.

[58]. Ricciardetto [Augusto Guerriero], “Tripoli: Massacre of Jews,” Epoca, 17 September 1967, 14-16. [Italian]

[59]. Letter of the brother of Quintino Luzon to Dott. Sergio Piperno, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Rome, 24 December 1967 (UCII Archives, busta 122, fasc. 8, s.p. 84). See also Kleinbaum, “Position of Libyan Jews.” Parts of the story of the Luzon family have been confirmed in an author’s interview with Jack S. Musani of Tripoli, now living in Milan. Interview conducted in Rome, 4 September 2006.

[60]. Isaac Kleinbaum, “Libyan Refugees Bulletin No. 10, JDC Italy,” 29 September 1967, 2, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem. See also the letter of Hai Luzon to S. E. Essaied, of the embassy of the United Kingdom of Libya in Rome, 30 October 1967, UCII Archives (busta 122, fasc. 8, s. p. 84). [Italian]

[61]. Arbib, “Anti-Semitic Riots,” 5-6.

[62]. Ibid., 6.

[63]. Theodore D. Feder, “Chronological Events on 3 July 1967, Involving the Libyan Exodus: Notes on Telephone Conversation with Leonard Seidenman,” 4 July 1967, 1, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[64]. Daniel Lack, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries-UNHCR Mandate,” 30 June 1967, 1, AJDC Archives.

[65]. Ibid., 3.

[66]. Letter from Julian Breen, Budget and Finance Department, AJDC New York, to Samuel Haber, AJJDC New York, “Refugees from Libya,” 12 September 1967, AJDC Archives.

[67]. Letter from Loni Mayer, AJDC Rome, to Dr. E. Elfen, AJDC Geneva, “Refugees from Libya, Hardcore Cases,” 26 February 1968. AJDC Archives.

[68]. Telex from Theodore D. Feder, AJDC Rome, to Charles H. Jordan, Tel Aviv, 29 June 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[69]. Theodore D. Feder, “Libyan Situation-Staff Meeting,” 3 July 1967, report recorded by Sophie Lennox, 4 July 1967, 3, AJDC Archives.

[70]. Isaac Kleinbaum, “Report on the Position of Jews in Libya,” 4 August 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[71]. Ibid.

[72]. Ibid., 2.

[73]. Telex from Theodore D. Feder, AJDC Rome, to Charles H. Jordan, Tel Aviv, 29 June 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[74]. Telex from Herbert Katzki, AJDC Geneva, to Charles H. Jordan, Tel Aviv, 30 June 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[75]. Telex from Leonard Seidenman, AJDC Rome, to Charles H. Jordan, New York, 4 July 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[76]. Isaac Kleinbaum, “Bulletin No. 4 of JDC-Italy,” 2 August 1967, 1, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[77]. Kleinbaum, “Report on the Position of Jews in Libya.” The report includes the testimony of Sion Nemni, an activist who did much for the Jewish community including his assistance to the Jewish Agency in 1949 for Libyan Jews’ emigration to Israel.

[78]. Dr. L. Molnar to Dr. A. Gonik, AJDC, “Medical Care for Libyan Refugees,” 18 August 1967, AJDC Archives.

[79]. Isaac Kleinbaum, “Libyan Refugees Bulletin No. 8, JDC Italy,” 5 September 1967, AJJDC Archives, Jerusalem.

[80]. Abraham S. Karlikow, AJC Paris, memorandum to Foreign Affairs Department, AJC New York, “Libya,” enclosed is a document titled “Diary of a Jew in Libya,” 21 November 1969, 1-6, AJC Archives.

[81]. Ibid.

[82]. Ibid., 103; De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, 285.

[83]. Associazione Ebrei di Libia, “Conferenza dei Giuristi,” 20 November 1971, UCII Archives (busta 124, fasc.. 2, s.p. 82). [Italian]

[84]. Meredith O. Ansell and Ibrahim Massaud al-Arif, The Libyan Revolution: A Sourcebook of Legal and Historical Documents, Vol. 1, 1 September 1969-30 August 1970 (Harrow: Oleander Press, 1972), 124, 219-23.

[85]. De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land, see full text of petitions, 394-96.

[86]. A list has been transcribed by Shalom Tesciuba from the monument in memory of the “Victims of the Many Pogroms and Acts of Racial Discrimination,” 30 October 1977.

[87]. Document supplied by Shalom Tesciuba. See ‘Ada, 88, May-June 2004. [Hebrew]

[88]. Author’s interview with Shalom Tesciuba, Rome, 7 September 2006. This figure reflects the relatively high birthrate, low death rate, and high economic status of the Jewish community.

[89]. S.D.S. [Simonetta Della Seta], “L’Ultima ebrea di Tripoli,” Shalom, 36, November 2003, 18. [Italian]

* * *

PROF. MAURICE ROUMANI is professor of politics and the Middle East at Ben-Gurion University and director of the Elyachar Center for Sephardi Studies. He was educated in the United States and Britain. He was a research associate at Harvard University and later at the Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies at Oxford University. He is an expert on Muslim-Jewish relations, minorities, Jews in Arab countries, and the effects of modernization on ethnic groups in the Middle East. His publications include books and articles on these topics.

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