Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday 28 February 2011

A Kiwi Witness to a Libyan Pogrom in 1967

There's been publicity recently of the fact that sometime during his ignominious regime, which began in 1969, Muammar Gadaffi ordered the destruction of Jewish graves in Libya, dumping the contents into the sea.  As in Cairo and Tunis, antisemitism has featured during the current unrest in Libya - although you're unlikely to hear about it from media outlets like the BBC.

The grandparents and parents of today's rioters were certainly not immune from "the longest hatred," as a New Zealander's account of a pogrom in Tripoli that took place in revenge for Israel's stunning victory over Arab armies in the Six Day War shows. [Update: Many thanks to a survivor of the pogrom, Lucky Nahum, who has corrected my assertion that the pogrom took place in revenge for the victory: see his comments below.] Joanne Holland worked as a secretary in Tripoli from 1966-68; some time after returning to London, she shared her reminiscences with a reporter from the Jewish Chronicle.

The pogrom she witnessed entailed a score of murders and the burning to the ground of Jewish homes and businesses.  Miss Holland had known only one Jew, a refugee doctor from Germany, before she went to work in Libya, and there she befriended a number of Jews.

She recalled that one Jew, who having hidden in his house for about a week, ventured outside to discover the fate of the shop he owned.  Arabs recognised him and gave chase, so he ran towards a police car, expecting assistance.  Instead of rescuing him, the police ran him over.

One evening, a jeep-load of armed police led by a colonel led two families from their home on the pretext of taking them to the airport so that they might reach safety.  The families were, in fact, driven out into the desert, where he and his men murdered them all - thirteen persons including two young children.  The colonel later explained that he had "wanted to avenge my Arab brothers" (i.e. for Israel's victory in the Six Day War).

Armed police stood idly by while Jewish-owned shops were broken into, looted, and set alight.  Such premises included a restaurant-cum-liquor store; Arab rioters ran up and down the street swigging the drink from the stolen bottles, and going back for more, while four armed soldiers with grins on their faces looked on.

A Jewish family who barricaded themselves in their apartment for over a week were shocked when their Arab neighbours, whom they'd lived alongside for 30 years, attempted to gain entry and set the place ablaze.
Children as young as eight were among the mob, and Miss Holland was "horrified to see women, under normal circumstances never seen, except occasionally peeping out from behind their veils, standing by and watching the destruction and murder with apparent glee."

What particularly struck Miss Holland when the pogrom occurred was the unwillingness of westerners stationed in Tripoli to intervene and try to help the Jews being hunted down.  What also shocked her was the apathy of contacts in London, to whom she recounted what she'd witnessed.  "[T]hey seemed bored and showed no interest," she said.  "Many Britons still had some romantic concept of the Arabs.  How wrong they were."

She had the distinct impression that in Libya westerners "were madly competing with each other in appeasing the Arabs and expressing their deep sympathies with them in their hatred for Israel and the local Jewish community," to use the phraseology of the Jewish Chronicle reporter (JC, 21 February 1969).

"Then, for the first time," she told him, "I could understand how the Nazis got away with murdering millions of Jews, for people were just not interested in helping them."

The Libyan authorities had finally permitted Jews to leave Libya on temporary travel documents, which prohibited them from taking their belongings or more than £20 with them and would not permit them to return after being away for four months. Those that departed were herded together at dawn by armed soldiers in the forecourt of a hotel, and were surrounded by hostile Arabs shouting and swearing.

Miss Holland herself was several times surrounded by Libyan crowds, and spat at, and once, when visiting a Jewish family, she was almost killed by Arabs wielding iron bars and knives.

Update: See also for an eyewitness account of the Tripoli pogrom of November 1945.


  1. In '67, I was only fourteen but I knew that we were watching momentous and significant events. Like many of my contemporaries, I admired the military victory of Israel (We were public school with a cadet force). WW2 was still fresh in our parents' memories and nobody dreamed of denying the Holocaust. I do not recall hearing anything about the Arab reaction to their defeat being visited upon their indigenous Jews. The narrative, even then, was white-washing what had and hadn't happened during and after the war. What is remarkable, is that, away from the liberal elites, a great many people still believe in Israel's right to exist. Sadly, they are often those without the power to influence events.

  2. you are needed, therefore come back full blast as soon as you can.
    sincerely and thanks

  3. Thanks for posting this moving story to which I will link soon. Thanks also for drawing my attention to your Moroccan post - I apologise but have been snowed under with relevant posts!
    Keep up the good work

  4. Many thanks for these comments!
    Have just got my computer back from the shop - they told me 14 other people brought in their computer today with the exact same new virus.

  5. Daphne, I am a little confused by dates. You refer to a Jewish Chronicle report of February 1967. Does that report refer to the 6 Day War which occurred in June? VEry interesting article. I am sure that similar cruel events can be found in other Arab lands. It seems to me that Obama wants to maintain that kind of thinking and that kind of cruelty among Arabs when he endorses Muslim Brotherhood participation in the Egyptian govt.

  6. Oops, Eliyahu - my mistake! I shall fix that date immediately. It should read 1969. Joanne Holland left Libya for London in December 1968 and spokke to the JC not long afterwards.
    Apologies for the confusion.
    I usually spot mistakes when I double-check my posts, but was lax this time.

  7. Hi Daphne, great job :)
    As promised, here's a link to my translation of this post for a Romanian site:


  8. Many thanks, Anon.
    Yesterday evening I discovered another account of a pogrom in Tripoli, so I shall copy it out when I can and post it.

  9. Hi Daphne, my name is Lucky Nahum and I am one of the 6,000 Jews in Libya that suffered through the pogrom of 1967 and ultimately exiled. I would like to suggest a correction if I may; the pogrom was not in reaction to Israel's victory in the Six Day War, if so, it would have started at the war's end. The pogrom began on the very first day of the war, a typically sunny day in Tripoli that turned out to be the beginning of the last pogrom in Libya.

  10. I'm sorry Daphne, my intention was also to add that since this was not a reaction to the humiliating defeat of the Arab nations by Israel, it needs to be be re-evaluated. I have heard many "excuses" for the pogrom of 1967 (and those before), none that are worthy of consideration. Nasser and his Pan-Arab dreams had fed the beast that desired to not only see Israel destroyed but clearly all Jews.

  11. Thank you very much or your input, Lucky. I think the best thing to do is for me to go to the text and draw readers' attention to the fact that you have offered these corrections in the comments. I will do so asap.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.