The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1

180 · Rachel Simon

activities of the Arab nationalists and forbade overt Zionist activity in
Jewish clubs.
Serious riots erupted again on June 12 and 13, 1948, in Tripoli, four
weeks after the establishment of the state of Israel.^22 The atmosphere in
Tripoli was charged due to an economic crisis and political agitation as
part of the national struggle over the political future of Libya. To this
was added a strong anti-Israeli incitement, which acquired anti-Semitic
overtones, diffused by numerous Tunisian and Algerian volunteers who
passed through Libya on their way to join the Arab front in the war
on Palestine. The hostile anti-Jewish atmosphere in Tripoli was further
strengthened by radio broadcasts that reported on developments in Pal-
estine and were heard in the streets. This was on top of an economic
crisis and drought, which filled Tripoli with poor, unemployed villagers.
The outcome of these riots, however, was not as severe as those of 1945
because the Jews put into practice their secret training in self-defense
and used the weapons they had procured illegally and had been trained
in using. Moreover, the British army got into action much faster than in
1945 and restored law and order. As a result, 13 Jews were killed, several
dozens were injured, and 1,600 Jews from the mixed neighborhoods re-
mained homeless with many seeking refuge in the old city. In addition,
much Jewish property was lost. This time, too, the old Jewish neighbor-
hoods were better protected than the new mixed ones.
In Benghazi, Arab masses rioted for six hours on June 16, 1948, but
were stopped by the police: one Jew was killed, several were injured, a
synagogue was burned and property looted.^23 The main reason for the
different condition of the Jews in both parts of Libya was the control
Idris al-Sanusi had over developments in Cyrenaica, which was much
stronger than that of the traditional Muslim leadership of Tripolitania,
resulting in better security.
During the last three years of the BMA, Jews did not suffer from wide-
scale attacks. Still, prior to the mass emigration there were frequent at-
tacks on itinerant Jewish peddlers on deserted roads,^24 as were kidnap
attempts, some of which were successful, of young Jewish women by
Muslim men.^25 Similar incidents had happened in the past, but they be-
came much more frequent on the eve of Jewish emigration to Israel. The
audacity of the Muslims increased, the readiness of the British authorities
to intervene in small disturbances decreased, and as a result the feeling
of insecurity among the Jews grew. The atrocities of November 1945 and

Free download pdf