Holds Italians in Tripoli Not Motivated by Anti-semitism
Menu JTA Search

Holds Italians in Tripoli Not Motivated by Anti-semitism

Download PDF for this date

New light on the Jewish situation in Tripoli, tending to place the Italian provincial authorities in a more favorable aspect than recent reports indicated, is shed in two communications by a Tripoli Jewish resident to the Paris headquarters of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. The communications follow in full:

“I have been in Tripoli for a great number of years, and I can state that the Italians have never shown themselves to be anti-Semitic. Apart from this, our co-religionists are for the most part poor, and are therefore very far from arousing the jealousy or hate of others. They are mostly artisans, seamen, pedlars, wholesale and retail traders, and agents. About a score of Jews, born or naturalized Italians, are officials. Their lot, therefore, with the exception of the big merchants who are perhaps 400 in all, is not such as to create envy.

“The Italians not only are not anti-Semitic, but they have done and are still doing all that is humanly possible to alleviate the sufferings of the destitute in our town without distinction of race or creed. They do not stint expense for sanitation and teaching, and above all for helping to make the town more and more important.

“Our co-religionists profit, and to a considerable extent, from those benefactions; their children attend the elementary schools that are set up exclusively for them; the diseases of the eyes, which were prevalent among them, are considerably overcome; free clinics are opened everywhere (one is at Hara) which care for the sick and the poor.

“I could enumerate at still greater length all the benefits that our co-religionists owe and will owe to the Italians. In my opinion, I would not tax the Italians with anti-Semitism-unless it were clearly proved to the contrary-because of isolated instances which manifest themselves from time to time, such as the school attendance on Saturdays, recall of the Chief Rabbi from Tripoli, and compulsion to open on Saturdays.

“I have already said that the Italians are doing everything to beautify Tripoli and to give it the importance of a big town. To achieve this they have already issued various regulations for traffic, commerce, cafes, etc.

“They have ascertained that the shops in the principal streets, owned for the most part by Jews, remain closed on Saturday, and on this day the town appears to be asleep and takes on the aspect of a village, which naturally produces an unfortunate impression on the tourists of whom there are so many here. The proprietors or their tenants are, therefore, being obliged to open six days during the week and to close on Sunday, without taking into consideration the sentiments or religious traditions of the Jews. For the moment I see no other tendency to hostility against our co-religionists, and I have explained to you the motive which had induced the authorities to issue this decree without approval or mitigation.

“Yesterday, (Saturday, 5th December) the date on which this decree came into force, the Jews, after unavailing representations, for the most part, had to open their shops.

“Some remained in their shops, others left Moslems or Catholics in their stead, and others apparently did not open them. A large number of them in order apparently to remain outside the ambit of the decree are said to have taken their merchandise to the old quarters of Tripoli.”

“About 100 Jews, wholesalers and retailers, were arrested yesterday and imprisoned. They were released this afternoon, after having passed a night in prison. Two of them, a wholesale merchant and a shopkeeper, were flogged in public, and a third sentenced to three months imprisonment for not having opened their shops last Saturday. A large crowd watched the infliction of the punishment on our two-co-religionists.

“A local journal, following the example of some of the organs of the metropolis, has for some time past conducted an unscrupulous campaign against the Jews of Libya.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund