MUAMMAR Gaddafi was finally laid to rest in an unmarked grave last week, bringing to an end a 42-year reign of tyranny and sparking scenes of unbridled euphoria across Libya.
But as life slowly returns to normal in the North African nation, questions about the stricken country’s future loom large, as the reality of the colossal challenge ahead comes into sharp focus.
Developments are being monitored closely by Libyan Jewish expats in Australia.
George Arbib, for one, is not hopeful. He believes the despot’s demise will almost certainly lead to a return to tribal violence and theocratic rule, with diabolical repercussions for Israel.
“Libya will be worse than what it was, because if the Muslims take over, [Israel] is going to have one extra enemy, because Gaddafi used to talk about Israel, but did nothing,” Arbib said.
He added that Gaddafi’s demise was comeuppance for a tyrannical reign that saw Libya’s small Jewish community forced into exile.
Despite the Jewish community numbering less than 150 by the time Gaddafi snatched power in 1969, the Libyan leader introduced laws marginalising Jews, leading most to flee.
“Like everybody else, [Gaddafi] meddled with the Jews and he got punished for it. He stuffed up all the Jews, he kicked them all out, he took everything they had, and look how he died – he died like a dog,” Arbib said.
But Arbib, who prior to immigrating to Australia, lived in Israel and fought in the Six-Day War, said the violent death of the man once vaunted as the “King of Kings of Africa”, was no cause for celebration.
With no end in sight to the regime-toppling exultation of the Arab Spring, Arbib said the flow-on effect for Israel is potentially disastrous.
“No good can come from the regime change, because they hate us so much. The best thing about Gaddafi was that while he wasn’t exactly anti-fundamentalist, he didn’t like the fundamentalists because they wouldn’t let him be the head of it,” he said.
According to Arbib, the Libyan Jewish Diaspora’s reaction to the news of Gaddafi’s demise was one of ambivalence.
“All the Jews that came from Libya, they feel sorry for Gaddafi, even though he took everything they had, because at least he didn’t hurt Israel.”