JERUSALEM (JTA) — The uprising in Libya has come at a time when Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi seemed willing to address some of the former Libyan Jewish community’s grievances.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Raphael Luzon, chairman of the Jewish Libyan Diaspora in Britain, said he had met twice with Gadhafi, who said he was willing to give a proper burial to Jews buried in common graves and to come to a settlement over Jewish money left in the country. Gadhafi also approved a meeting between Jews and Muslims in Tripoli, Luzon told the newspaper.
There were about 25,000 Jews in Libya in the 1930s. Today there are no Jews left in Libya, the last moving to Italy in 2003.
Protesters in Libya are calling for an end to Gadhafi’s 41-year reign; Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup. Anti-government protests began Monday for the first time in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Media reported that pro-Gadhafi supporters were firing into crowds of demonstrators and government buildings were set on fire.
Luzon told the Post that he is in touch with people in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the scene of deadly violence during four days of protests, and that the situation was worse than it appeared in the press and on television. News reports Monday night said that city residents with the help of a defecting army unit had taken over the city.
Unconfirmed rumors Monday night said that Gadhafi had fled to Venezuela, which Libyan officials denied.
Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam went on state television late Sunday saying that his father remained in power and that the government would fight until "the last man, the last woman, and the last bullet" to stay in power.
Gadhafi last week called on Palestinians to mass on Israel’s borders until their demands are met. "Fleets of boats should take Palestinians … and wait by the Palestinian shores until the problem is resolved. This is a time of popular revolutions," Gaddafi said in a speech Feb 14 on state television.