The world is wringing its hands over the fate of Libya. Being a helpful sort of guy, and what with Purim fast approaching, I know just the proper solution.
Control of Libya should be returned at once to the natural and rightful owners of Libya, the people who controlled it before it was invaded and occupied by Arab military hordes.
Libya should be returned to the Jews.
Why the Jews? Well, because according to at least a few scholars, Jews controlled Libya not only before the Khaddafi era but long before the country was seized and occupied by the Arabs. And, according to at least a few theories, Libya was governed by a Jewish Berber queen known to history as Kahina.
In the spirit of Adar and Purim, let’s accept those theories as indisputable fact and proceed:
Before the birth of Muhammad, back when there were no Arabs at all in North Africa, Libya and its surroundings were home to Byzantine occupiers and indigenous tribes. The latter were the true natives of the area.
The Romans called the tribes Berbers, from which they derived the derogatory adjective “barbarian,” but the Berbers called themselves Imazighen, possibly meaning “free people” or “free and noble men.”
Libya was Berber long before the Egyptians and their slaves built any pyraminds. Cathaginians conquered the area and were evicted by other conquerers, as were the Vandal tribes and the Byzantines.
But the natives consisted of Berbers. And Jews. The Jews probably entered the area during the period of the Second Temple, and Berber-Jewish ties were strengthened during the revolt against the Romans in the Land of Israel that ended with the destruction of the Temple.
North African Jews mixed with and influenced local Berber tribes. The French historian Marcel Simon claims that Tripoli, the same Tripoli in which Muammar Khaddafi suppressed his own people, was under the rule of Jewish Berbers as early as the first century of the common era.
By the time the Arab imperialist armies entered Libya after the death of Muhammad, Berbers in Libya and North Africa belonged to Christian tribes (usually heretical heterodox Christians), pagan tribes, and at least one large Jewish tribe. And the Jewish tribe was led by a woman. No glass ceilings for her. She didn’t need any Reform rabbis lecturing her about egalitarianism in Judaism.
While known in most histories as the Kahina (from the root word kohen for priestess), her actual name is given variously as Dahiyah, Dahia, or Dhabba. Her tribe, known as the Jerawa, was based in the Aures Mountains in eastern Algeria and Tunisia, and its control extended into Libya. And she was a warrior queen.
The historian Charles-Andre Julien, in his History of North Africa, calls her the Berber Deborah. Her most dramatic victories were over the Arab imperialist invaders. She decided to resist the illegal occupation of her homeland by Arab colonialists and kick them out with force. She drove the first wave of Arab invaders out of Libya altogether, though they later returned.
After the Arab general Hassan ibn al Numan took Carthage from the Byzantines, the Kahina’s forces defeated him on the battlefield. Alas, he later turned the tables and defeated her. Most Berber tribes were eventually Islamized, though they retained their penchant for embracing theological heterodoxy even as Muslims.
The medieval Arab historian Ibn Khaldun writes at length about her military campaigns. The great historian Edward Gibbon, author of the classic history of Rome, mentions her. She was a figure of fascination for the American writer Washington Irving, better known for his tales of Rip van Winkle and Ichabod Crane.
As we see, when Muammar Khaddafi’s ancestors were chasing camels around what is now Saudi Arabia, Jewish roots were well entrenched in Libya. So would not the most logical resolution of the current political crisis in Libya be to restore it to its proper Jewish rulers?
If the Arabs are thought to be entitled to 22 different states, why should the Jews not have at least two – one in the Land of Israel and one in Libya? Jewish high-tech know-how in agriculture would turn Libya into a rain forest within a decade.
In fact, since Purim is coming and I’m in a good mood, I’ll even suggest that the Palestinians be moved to the southern part of Libya near the Chad border and be allowed to set up their own state there. Maybe even two states, one for Hamas and one for the PLO. They can have a cut of Libyan oil revenue if they behave themselves there.
If a brief period of Arab rule over the Land of Israel is thought to convey some sort of legitimate claim to parts of Israel for Arabs, why should Jewish rule in Libya, older than the Arab conquest of Palestine, not similarly confer natural rights of sovereignty?
The peace plan is simple. The illegal Arab colonial occupation of Libya must end. All illegal settlements must be removed. The legitimate Jewish rulers of Libya must be restored to power!
Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.