The Palestinians in Libya during the current crisis
TRIPOLI — As Palestinian students and faculty prepare for fall classes at Nassar College and Al Fatah University in Tripoli, as well as Benghazi’s Garyounis University and Omar Mukhtar University near Al Bayda, a petition is being circulated on and around the campuses.
The petition organizers and initial signatories include mainly refugees and pro-Palestinian Libyans as well as resident foreigners. As part of their campaign the refugees are requesting of the Palestine Authority headquartered in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine, that the “Palestine Seat”, touring the Middle East be sent to Tripoli for a couple of days as part of the run-up to the presumed late September UN vote to admit Palestine as the 194th UN Member State.
Visiting with several Palestinian students, academics, and Palestinian business people who generally have done relatively well here, and some of whose families came here 29 years ago following the 1982 Israeli facilitated Massacre at Sabra-Shatila camp in Beirut, one thing seems fairly clear. It is that the normally out of the international spotlight Palestinian refugees in Libya are quite motivated and are determined in their bid to gain UN Membership for a State bordered on the 1967 lines. Several also expressed support for attempting to overcome the anticipated US veto in the Security Council by invoking the 1950 “Uniting for Peace” Resolution 377 and overriding the American veto with a two-thirds General Assembly vote, for which there is international legal precedent.
A few hundred Palestinian refugees have returned to Libya over the past ten days as security improves and they are resuming their livelihood, which is close to the pinnacle if compared to the 57 Palestinian refugee camps in the Levant region. As a result of an initiative by Aisha Gaddafi’s Women’s Rights NGO, Wa Attassimou, in December of 2010 the People’s Congress enacted a law that grants women and Palestinian refugees full rights to acquire and pass on nationality to a spouse and children as a result of inter-marriage. The preceding July 24 Aisha was appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador for her work that focused on women rights in Libya, poverty and HIV/AIDS. In February 2011, US Secretary of State Clinton insisted that Ban Ki Moon strip her of her post which, without bothering with the normal UN administrative procedures, he promptly did.
Of the Gaddafi children, Aisha and her brother Saif al Islam most closely share the unwavering commitment of their father to the cause of justice for Palestine and are widely admired among Palestinians in Libya.
Whatever one thinks of the “brother leader” these days, the social status and economic conditions of Palestinian refugees in Libya, as in the other Arab countries has been determined by each country’s leadership and by the degree to which the leaders play the Palestinian card domestically and internationally for their own benefit.
Moammar Gaddafi is no exception and while his rule appears to be coming to an end, his influence in Libya on the Palestinian issue may not be totally. Moammar Gaddafi has earned a respectful place in the history of the Palestinian Revolution. He stands above most other Arab leaders in his unalterable resistance stance and his unwillingness to waiver in his demands for the full Right of Return of all diaspora Palestinian refugees to their country.
Despite some mercurial behavior following Oslo and a couple of other times, Gaddafi’s granting of internationally recognized human rights to all Palestinian refugees hosted by Libya in the current period ranks Libya slightly behind Jordan and about equal with Syria is supporting, over the past 30 years, those whose land and homes were stolen by Zionist colonizers.
Yet there is demonstrable apprehension among a significant number of Palestinians in Libya that the new “NATO government” will not only recognize Israel and turn over to Israelis significant chunks of the Libyan economy, but that whatever government emerges may also curtail refugee rights in this country pending their return to Palestine.
Some have told this observer that if Gaddafi is not to return, at least his children ardently support the Palestinian cause and can hopefully influence the future actions of the new government.
But now that also is perhaps unlikely.
According to Aisha, she and her older brother Saif often talked politics with their father and once had a contest several years ago to see who could recite for their doting father, during his birthday dinner, the list of all the failed “peace plans” dealing with Palestine. Aisha, who was, grades wise, the best of the Gaddafi bunch in school, won the sibling contest. Aisha’s recitation of failed “peace plans”, was:
“Peace proposals of Count Folke Bernadotte (1947-1948), UN Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967), Land for peace (1967), Jarring Mission (1967-1971), Allon Plan 26 July 1967, Rogers Plan (1969), UN Security Council Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973), Reagan Plan (Sept. 1, 1982), Oslo Accords (1993), Wye River Memorandum (October 23, 1998), Camp David 2000 Summit (2000), The Clinton Parameters (December 23, 2000), Taba summit (January, 2001), Elon Peace Plan (2002), Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement (2002), Arab Peace Initiative (March 28, 2002), The People’s Voice (July 27, 2002), and The Road Map for Peace (April 30, 2003)”
And she claims she still can do it plus the more recent failures!
Saif is an equally strong advocate of Palestinian rights and as is the case with his father and siblings, he advocates for a single state solution as he did in several lectures in England, including at Chatham House and elsewhere.
According to Saif, “My father told us that before we were born he liked to read Mao’s Little Red Book of Quotations and more than once he wrote Chairman Mao to discuss some details. Then Father wrote the Green Book and finally both of us worked on the White Book. The White Book project was something we both enjoyed and we believe it is the only workable solution. I think most Palestinians in Libya agree but you can ask them.”
It appears to this observer that the Palestinian refugees in Libya, no doubt having been influenced by the countless speeches by Moammar Gaddafi on the subject over the past four decades, are among the most ardent supporters, within the Palestinian community, of a one-state solution to the Question of Palestine.
The White Book analyzes the history of Palestine, notes the many defects with a two-state solution and proposes a single state, called, “Isratine.” Saif and Aisha explained that the name may seem a little silly and some have ridiculed it, but that the first Parliament could choose the name it preferred for the new country.
Whether Saif will be able to continue his family’s work on the Question of Palestine is currently problematical. A team of six international lawyers, organized by two Americans, at the request of long time Gaddafi allies, has asked Aisha, herself an experienced lawyer, to join the legal team that is preparing to defend Saif against any charges brought by the International Court of Justice (ICC) or inside Libya. Aisha has worked on a number of legal projects, including defending Muntadhar al-Zaidi when he faced charges stemming from the George Bush shoe-hurling incident in Baghdad.
The American-led team has learned that the NTC has received instructions from NATO to kill Saif on sight rather than have to put on a trial either inside or outside Libya. NATO is fully aware that an international trial of Saif will quickly become a trial of NATO. This venue would doubtless quickly burst the propaganda bubble that has so broadly misled much of world public opinion these past six months about NATO’s regional goals and deeds in Libya.
Such a trial may take years to complete given the damming evidence against NATO that has been compiled by various research projects in Libya that have now spanned nearly four months, as demonstrative evidence continues to be catalogued.
A lawsuit against NATO is also being prepared for filing in the US Federal Court for the District of Columbia and will employ the relatively liberal Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to introduce voluminous documentation exposing NATO crimes against Libyan civilians.
In the coming uncertain period for Libya’s Palestinian refugees, this fall’s events at the United Nations and the make-up of Libya’s next government will weigh heavily.