Husni Bey rebutts suggestions of involvement in Libyan Muslim-Jewish initiative
By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 24 August 2016:
Leading Libyan businessman Husni Bey has said that a meeting in a Tunis hotel with Rome-based psychologist David Gerbi who is originally from Tripoli was purely about possible post-war trauma workshops in Libya and there was no discussion about any Muslim-Jewish collaboration.
On his Facebook page “Libya Jews and their return home” Gerbi, who describes himself as the “International Representative of Libyan Jews”, says that the “goal of the meeting was to unite their efforts together with a team of Muslims.”
His statement continued: “They [Gerbi and Husni Bey] plan to offer the “Seeds of Peace for Libya Project ” to Libyan civil society and municipalities with a number of workshops on conflict transformation and conflict resolution in order to achieve healing, growing and plant the Seeds of peace.”
The suggestion that Bey and Gerbi are involved in a Muslim and Jewish joint project and the association with Jewish Libyans returning has generated considerable debate on social media, with criticism being directed at both men.
In fact, Husni Bey told the Libya Herald, the meeting was purely by chance. Both happened to be in the same hotel at the same time and he was approached by Gerbi who explained his project to him.
“He wanted to talk about post-war trauma and organising workshops on the issue and said that he was supported by UNSMIL, the EU, Italy and [UN Special Envoy] Martin Kobler. He spoke about the revolution and war trauma in Benghazi.”
During the 2011 revolution Gerbi worked with the National Transitional Council in Benghazi on the issue.
“He asked if I thought such workshops would be conducive to helping heal wounds in Libya. I said that anything that would heal the wounds would be welcome and that I would support such action.”
At no point, however, was this presented as a possible Jewish-Muslim joint effort, he stressed.
“We didn’t speak about political issues nor the return of Libyan Jews although, personally, I believe all Libyans should be allowed to return to Libya regards of their religion or ethnicity, provide they are not in breech of any Libya laws,” Bey explained.
He added: “He did not represent himself as a representative of Libyan Jews but as an expert in psychology and psychiatry in post-war trauma treatment.”
The once large inidigenous Jewish community, which dated back over two thousand years and was based mainly in Tripoli and Jebel Nafusa towns such as Gharyan and Yefren, gradually disappeared over a 20-year period starting in 1948. The last remnants left in 1967 when, during the Six-Day War, a Jewish family was murdered in Tripoli. That was when the Gerbi family also left.
Immediately after the 2011 revolution when he was in Tripoli, Gerbi announced he was going to restore the synagogue in the old city. When he arrived at the site, he was prevented from doing so by armed men and told he would be killed if he did not leave immediately.