The Spectacle Blog

Will Libyan Jews Be Allowed to Return?

By on 10.21.11 | 4:34PM

John Guardiano sings the praises of the Libyan rebels as is his wont:

And we should be celebrating, too -- and working diligently as a country to ensure that Libya's transition to a more representative, pluralistic, and democratic society succeeds. The Libya rebels, or revolutionaries, need our help, and in part to fend off their own illiberal and Islamist elements.

Well, if the Libyan rebels or revolutionaries need our help to fend off their own illiberal and Islamist elements, then perhaps they could start by welcoming David Gerbi back into Libya and let him restore a synagogue in Tripoli.

Gerbi is a Libyan Jew whose family was forced into exile in Italy following anti-Jewish riots during the Six Day War in 1967. Another Jewish exodus followed the rise of Qaddafi two years later. Gerbi reached out to the National Transitional Council (NTC) in the hope of persuading them to allow exiled Jews to return to their homeland. For its part, the NTC invited Gerbi to Libya and earlier this month he returned to the country of his birth for the first time in over 44 years.

However, when Gerbi attempted to start cleaning the long abandoned synagogue in Tripoli, he was warned that rebel gunmen were coming to kill him. After the incident, Gerdi said that the NTC "needs to be clear if it's a racist country or a free country."

Well, after an angry mob descended upon Gerbi's hotel with signs such as "There is No Place For a Jew in Libya", the NTC asked him to return to Italy. So the NTC chose racism over freedom. Quel surprise.

Then again what else could one expect from the Libyans? It is worth remembering that the Libyan rebels gathered momentum after stories in the Arab press emerged which asserted that Qaddafi was a Jew.

Needless to say I have no illusions that the Libyans are going to start buying Israel bonds anytime soon. But so long as Libyans are prepared to lynch a middle aged Jew for for returning to the land of his birth and wanting to restore a house of worship then I fail to see how Libya has any chance of becoming a more representative, pluralistic and democratic society.

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