Jewish community of Libya traces its origin back some 2,500 years
to the 3rd century BCE.
the time of the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911, there were
about 21,000 Jews in the country, the majority in Tripoli.
the late 1930s, anti-Jewish laws were gradually enforced, and Jews
were subject to terrible repression. Still, by 1941, the Jews accounted
for a quarter of the population of Tripoli and maintained 44 synagogues.
In 1942, the Germans occupied the Jewish quarter of and times were
extremely difficult for Jews in Libya although conditions did not
greatly improve following the liberation. During the British occupation,
rising Arab nationalism and anti-Jewish fervour were the reasons
behind a series of pogroms, the worst of which, in November of 1945,
resulted in the massacre of more than 140 Jews in Tripoli and elsewhere
and the destruction of five synagogues (Howard Sachar, A History
establishment of the State of Israel led many Jews to leave the
country. In June 1948, protesting the founding of the Jewish state,
rioters murdered another 12 Jews and destroyed 280 Jewish homes.
Although emigration was illegal, more than 3,000 Jews succeeded
to leave to Israel. When the British legalized emigration in 1949,
and in the years immediately preceding Libyan independence in 1951,
hostile demonstrations and riots against Jews brought about the
departure of some 30,000 Jews who fled the country up to, and after
the point when Libya was granted independence and membership in
the Arab League in 1951 (Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands
in Modern Times).
Decrees and Violations of Human Rights
(Intended merely as a sampling and not an exhaustive compilation)
Article 1 of Law No.62 of March 1957, provided, inter-alia, that
persons or corporations were prohibited from entering directly or
indirectly into contracts of any nature whatsoever with organizations
or persons domiciled in Israel, with Israel citizens or their representatives.
Provision of this article also enabled the Council of Ministers
register residents in Libya who were relatives of persons resident
Law of December 31, 1958 was a decree was issued by the President
of the Executive Council of Tripolitania, which ordered the dissolution
of the Jewish Community Council and the appointment of a Moslem
commissioner nominated by the Government.
On May 24, 1961, a law was promulgated which provided that only
Libyan citizens could own and transfer real property. Conclusive
proof of the possession of Libyan citizenship was required to be
evidenced by a special permit that is reliably reported to have
been issued to only six Jews in all.
Royal Decree of August 8, 1962 provided, inter-alia, that a Libyan
national forfeited his nationality if he had had any contact with
Zionism. Forfeiture of Libyan nationality under this provision extending
to any person who had visited Israel after the proclamation of Libyan
independence, and any person deemed to have acted morally or materially
in favour of Israel interests. The retroactive effect of this provision
enabled the authorities to deprive Jews of Libyan nationality at
With the first law No. 14 of February 7, 1970, the Libyan Government
established that all property belonging to Israelis
who had left Libyan territory in order to establish themselves
definitely abroad would pass to the General Custodian. In
spite of the precise wording of the law (Israelis who had
left Libyan territory in order to establish themselves abroad definitely),
the Libyan Government started to take possession of property belonging
to Jews without bothering about the fact that these
Jews could not be considered as Israelis and had not
established themselves definitely abroad.
The Government decreed the law of July 21,1970, wherein it states
that it wanted to control the restitution of certain assets
to the State. The Law relative to the resolution of
certain assets to the State asserted that the General Custodian
would administer liquid funds of the property of Jews as well as
the companies and the company shares belonging to Jews.
Confidential memorandum to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, dated May 8, 1970.
Note to File, UNHCR Archives, dated August 24, 1970.