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Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011) was proclaimed the leader of Libya on this date in 1970 following a bloodless coup. Gaddafi ruled as a military commander-in-chief, socialist theorist (in 1977 he declared Libya to be Jamahiriya, the “state of the masses”), dictator, pan-Arabist and pan-Africanist who deeply antagonized the United States and Great Britain, as well as Israel and Egypt. He fueled terrorism, funded the Black September murders of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972, and also allied himself with revolutionary movements around the globe, including the African National Congress in South Africa, the Black Panthers in the U.S., and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Gaddafi’s enemies in the Arab world frequently referred to him as a Jew, and in 2011 The Economist reported that Gaddafi’s grandmother may, indeed, have been born Jewish. “Gita Boaron, an Israeli of Libyan decent, claimed on Israeli television that she is related to the just-about-deposed Libyan strongman,” writes Jamie Weinstein at the Daily Caller. Boaron told Israeli television. “His grandmother is my father’s grandmother. She was Jewish, became Muslim and married the town sheik. She had children and he’s her grandson.” According to Nouri Mismari, who served as Gaddafi’s aide from 1997 to 2010, the dictator murdered his own ambassador to Italy, Ammar Dhu, for documenting Gaddafi’s Jewish roots. The Times of Israel claims that “all who knew the truth about the leader’s mother were liquidated.”
“When Gaddafi came to power . . . all Jewish property was confiscated and all debts to Jews cancelled. . . . The last Jew living in Libya, Esmeralda Meghnagi, died in February 2002. This marked the end of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities, which traced its origins to the 3rd century B.C.E.” --Jewish VIrtual Library
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.