The following story will most likely fall through the cracks of the mainstream media, but will be picked up by Right Wing Jews and their supporters. In fact, the press reports that I have seen thus far have been quoting the following posting from Arutz Sheva.

As our friend Yehouda Shenhav has pointed out so accurately, the issue of financial compensation for Arab Jews is a matter that cuts a number of different ways and often follows the path of unintended consequences.

On the one hand, the Right Wingers have embraced the issue with great gusto because it fits neatly into their anti-Arab agenda. These stories get to replay the horrors of the last years of Jewish life in the Arab-Muslim world; days that were ugly and nightmarish.

Absent from this agenda is a balanced understanding of how things came to be and who was responsible for what. The final days of Jewish life in the Arab world was complicated by a heady and carcinogenic stew of Arab nationalism, Western colonial failures, Zionist overreaching and intervention, and the weakness of the local Jewish communities in the wake of over a century of Colonialism.

But we will never hear of this complexity from the Right Wing sources.

In another rich vein for the Rightists, the matter sets up a counterweight to Palestinian claims for their own property restitution. In this sense, it is noteworthy that the Palestinians have tried to make their demands without denying the rights of Arab Jews to receive their own compensation. In spite of the attempt to use the Arab Jewish claims as a means to deflect Palestinian claims, there is no rational reason to reject one by accepting the other.

More to the point, as Shenhav points out in his discussion of WOJAC in his book The Arab Jews, the re-establishment of Arab Jewish memory can lead to some uncomfortable and confusing historical and cultural issues for those who seek to use the matter as a wedge issue.

As we see in this article, Arab Jews – in this case the Libyans – seek their compensation without acrimony. In fact, it seems possible that such compensation might lead to an improved relationship between Arab Jews and their Muslim hosts – particularly as it comes to the current conflict with the Palestinians.

I would not think that an increased liberalism and tolerance towards Arabs filtered through the lens of Arab Jewish history – a variant on my “Levantine Option” idea – is what the Arutz Sheva people and the Right Wingers had in mind when they thought of how this might work itself out.

Thus, there is an ideological chasm between those who have tried to co-opt the issue of compensation for Arab Jews (and, of course, Arab Jews are not called by that name – they are called “Jews of Arab Lands”) and the actual Arab Jews themselves.

Going back to Shenhav’s argument, we see that once the genie is let out of the bottle, anything can happen. WOJAC was eventually dissolved because the “natives” saw it as an opportunity to articulate their own historical experiences – and their grievances against Israel – in ways that were never intended when Israeli bureaucrats created the organization.

This time around, the group that has been created to oversee the process, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), is not a quasi-governmental organization and is not at all accountable to the Arab Jews in the way that the Israeli government found itself embarrassed by the evolution of WOJAC. JJAC is in control of the process, even as the Libyan issue develops in ways that may not necessarily reflect the same viewpoint.

In the end, there is the JJAC orthodoxy, based on an Ultra-Zionist view of Arabs and there are the actual members of the Arab Jewish world. That the Arab Jews are weak and disorganized is a fact, but there is always the wild card of unintended consequences. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Italy: Compensate Libyan Jews
By: IsraelNN TV

Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi has succeeded in reaching a deal with the Italian government according to which Italy will compensate Libya for damages caused during the colonial period during the World War II era. Italy will pay Libya approximately 5 billion dollars over a period of 20 years.
Following this agreement the World Organization of Libyan Jews decided that if Libyan Arabs deserve compensation, so do Libyan Jews. The organization sent a letter to the Italian president asking him to take the large Jewish community that lived in Libya during the time of Italian rule into account as well.
Meir Kachlon, Chairman of the World Organization of Libyan Jews told INNTV’s Teneh Samuel, “In the colonial period, the Italians cooperated with the Germans and so Libyan Jews suffered even more than the Arabs in every aspect, including pogroms and The Italians cooperated with the Germans, and so, the Libyan Jews suffered even more then the Arabs restrictions. In that time many Jewish girls were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, and all this happened especially in the time the Italians ruled there.”
Yosef Maimon, a signatory on the letter to the Italian President, explained, “More than 620 Libyan Jews were killed in the various camps in those days. Many were taken to Italy and died on the way to Bergen Belsen.”
“We think that the Italian government and Qaddafi owe us for the suffering and loss of property and lives,” stated Kachlon. “We strongly demand, this whether by ourselves or with the help of international authorities.”

The organization also called on Qaddafi to establish ties with the State of Israel. “Due to the fact that we are expatriates, speak the language and are even still connected with people in Libya, we offer Qaddafi the establishment of a group that will try to bring Libya closer to Israel. Libya presents itself as peace-seeking. They claim that they left terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. We say to Qaddafi: ‘If that’s true, let’s see you work on connections with Israel, we will help you normalize relations.'”

From Arutz Sheva, September 17, 2008