Gaddafi invites Jewish leaders on Shabbat

Meeting opportunity for Libyan Jews to make claim for land they lost when they relocated to Italy after 1967 massacres and expulsion.

Gaddafi Berlusconi 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaddafi Berlusconi 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi's current visit to Rome includes plans for a meeting with representative's of Italy's Libyan Jewish community. However, the meeting presents a problem - it is scheduled for June 13, which is Shabbat. Gaddafi invited representatives of the community, which relocated to Italy after the 1967 massacres and expulsion from Libya, to meet with him during his visit. The meeting is an opportunity for the Libyan Jews to make a claim for land they lost when they fled Libya. Shlomo Teshuba, president of the Libyan Jewish community in Italy and vice-president of the Rome Jewish community, stated that "friendly contacts" with Libyan diplomats were under way to change the meeting date. The organization has already publicly stated its opposition to a meeting on Shabbat. The Italian Jewish community is divided on the issue. Some feel that accepting the invitation would be humiliating and would confirm Gaddafi's classification of Jews as "dhimmis" (protected but second-class minorities). This is the view held by David Meghnagi, former vice president of the Italian Jewish community. He also feels that requests for Libyan recognition of Israel and a reexamination of Arab-Jewish history should become part of future negotiations for material restitutions. No official Jewish delegation will attend the meeting, but one representative of the community said that even if it were not rescheduled for Thursday or Friday, a few people might walk to the meeting on Saturday. Previous attempts to talk to Gaddafi were made by pioneers such as the late Raffaele Fellah, former president of the World Union of Libyan Jewry, who visited the leader in the early 1990s, and by a small delegation two years ago led by Teshuba. The representatives said they had been received cordially, but returned without tangible results. Rames Cahlun, who recently resigned as pres,ident of the World Organization of Libyan Jewry, revealed to The Jerusalem Post a series of negotiations kept secret until now. "Two years ago, when I was serving as colonel for the IDF in the [Palestinian] territories, I was approached by an Arab Israeli MK who proposed meetings with an official of the Libyan Embassy in Amman," Cahlun said. "After informing the Foreign Ministry, I met four times with the Libyan official, Otman Ben-Balka. We worked on a minutely detailed plan for compensation and the conservation of what is left of the immense Libyan Jewish patrimony."