Are Libya's Palestinians ready for the post-Gaddafi era?
Originally published in Al Manar
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 Key
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 plays 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. 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 not 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 Libya ranks close to 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.