U.N. Political Committee Hears Assurances on Fate of Jews in Tripolitania

The British representative to the U.N. Political Committee and an Arab representative of the National Congress of Tripolitania both emphatically declared today that no persecution of Jews existed in Libya and that persecution “will never take place” there. Each, however, admitted that a large emigration movement to Israel was in progress from the area.

G.L. Clutton, of Britain, said the causes of the emigration, which he put at 3,000 monthly, were “extremely obscure.” Dr. M.F. Shukry, of the Congress, said it was caused by “Zionist agitation.” Dr. Shukry drew a glowing account of the peaceful relations between Moslems and Jews in Libya which, he said, have existed from earliest times, and maintained that the two groups would continue in an independent Libya to live in harmony, with the Jewish community enjoying the same fundamental rights as all other citizens. He said the two “regrettable incidents” referred to last week by Dr. Maurice Perlzweig–Arab attacks on the Jewish community in 1945 and 1947–were the only two in history and should not be used to assert “persecution” in Tripolitania.

Permitted a rebuttal later in the day, Dr. Perlzweig, who is authorized by the Tripolitanian Jewish community to represent it at the U.N., pointed out to the Committee that he had not used the term “persecution.” He emphasized, he recalled, that the two events he mentioned and the uncertainty regarding Libya’s future had created a situation of tension and that the Jews in Libya had “the gravest apprehension” in such a situation. He repeated his statement that almost all Jews had fled the interior to the port of Tripoli. In his return remarks, Dr. Perlzweig also welcomed the assurances of Dr. Shukry regarding the democratic rights of minorities if Libya is granted independence, including the right to emigrate. He assured Dr. Shukry in return that the Jewish community of Tripolitania strongly supported independence for Libya.

Mr. Clutton, replying to “questions of fact” put to him last week by the Egyptian representative on the Committee, asserted that the Jewish population in Tripolitania had risen from 16,000 in 1932 to over 28,000 at the end of 1948 but had now fallen to 22,000 “because there has been a very large emigration to Israel.” Since April, he said, 6,700 have emigrated. The British administration, he said, put no obstacles in the way of the emigration, except in cases pertaining to the removal of property. Each family, he declared, was permitted to take 250 pounds Sterling in belongings and was allowed to transfer up to 250 pounds Sterling of liquid assets through normal channels of transfer. The rest, he said, was placed in blocked accounts, and as usual in all cases, he added, the emigrating persons were not permitted to take any currency with them.

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