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Democracy or Jew-Hatred? The Libyan Edition

In Libya now, just as in Egypt one month ago, protesters are using the Star of David as a symbol of hatred and contempt.

by
John Rosenthal

Bio

February 28, 2011 - 10:01 am
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Nonetheless, when the Los Angeles Times’ “Babylon and Beyond” blog published a photo essay titled “Libya: Kadafi caricatures, parodies abound,” no Stars of David were to be seen. It is perhaps not coincidental that the post in fact contains only three photos and only two that are actually from Libya.

So, what does it all mean? The few commentators that have taken note of the Stars of David have as a rule seen them as an occasion to engage in blanket denunciations of Arab and/or Muslim anti-Semitism as such. My earlier collections of photographic materials from the Egypt protests (see here and here) provoked some similar responses. Note that for Israelis, supporters of Israel and/or Jews, such a “pox on all their houses” response is in its own strange way also reassuring. After all, it suggests — quite independently of any concrete evidence — that what is to come after the deposed Arab dictators will at least be no worse in this respect, even if it is no better.

It should be noted, however, that at least one key advisor to Gaddafi — namely, his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi — has in fact been known to speak quite positively about Israel. In a 2009 interview with Germany’s ZDF public television, Saif al-Islam praised Israel as a “progressive” country whose economic success should serve as a model for Libya’s own economic development. When German interviewer Claus Kleber suggested that Israel’s economic success might merely be a function of American aide, he responded, “Okay, they have dollars. We have oil and gas. There is no excuse.” (The interview forms part of the ZDF documentary Die Bombe.)

In a 2009 op-ed in the New York Times of all places (hat-tip: Martin Kramer), Saif’s father pleaded for a “one-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Such a “one-state solution” would certainly seem to imply the end of Israel as a Jewish state. But the tenor of the editorial can hardly be described as anti-Semitic. Indeed, it is not even unambiguously anti-Zionist. Gaddafi not only recognizes but indeed underscores the history of the persecution of Jews. He even states, “The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.” Perhaps Gaddafi has expressed himself differently in Arab media. The editorial is, however, consistent with similar remarks that he has made in the European press.

It is also worth noting that Gaddafi’s 2003 decision to abandon Libya’s nuclear arms program will undoubtedly have been seen as a craven act of capitulation by those Arab nationalists and/or Islamists eager to obtain an “Arab bomb” to counter the “Jewish” one.

In any case, one thing is sure: simply averting one’s gaze from the evidence does nothing to clarify its significance.

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John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work at www.trans-int.com or on Facebook here.
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