NEW YORK (Jun. 15)
More than 300 Jews of Libyan origin met at a two-day convention here last week to remind the world of the “forgotten refugee problem” in the Middle East–the nearly one million Jews force to flee Arab countries, including 40,000 from Libya.
It marked the 20th anniversary of the forced departure from Libya of the country’s 5,000 remaining Jews in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, ending a 2,000-year Jewish presence in that North African country.
The convention was organized by Raffaello Fellah, president of the Rome-based Association of Libyan Jews, and the American Jewish Committee’s international relations department. It was sponsored by the Association of Jews from Libya, the Cultural Center of Libyan Jews in Israel, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the AJCommittee.
Ambassador Alan Keyes, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, was keynote speaker at the convention opening. “Even though there are those who believe that they have extinguished a community of free souls in Libya, it is clear from this gathering that there is no meaning to extinction,” he declared.
Fellah told the convention, “We came to assert our roots and our rights.” Those, he said, include the Libyan government’s commitment of July 21, 1970 to compensate Libyan Jews within 15 years for properties nationalized in their absence, he said.