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Articles of the Day – New Libya and the Jews

September 5, 2011

A National Transitional Council now controls the majority of Libya, formerly the realm of an always-controversial dictator, Muammar al-Qaddafi. How the transitional government handles relations with Libyan minorities will answer many of the burning questions regarding the nature of future Libyan politics.

Libyan Jews represent a particularly difficult minority for the new Libyan government because Qaddafi expelled the country’s Jews after the Six-Day War and took over their property. Wrecked heritage sites remain sore spots for Libyan Jews, and if the new government seeks to establish good human rights credentials, it may have to reimburse them for destroyed synagogues and desecrated cemeteries in some fashion.

Another potential challenge surrounding the Libyan Jews is their relations with adherents of the Amazigh, or Berber, tribal societies, who challenge the Arab- and urban-based hierarchy in North Africa. An Amazigh political movement, strengthened by relations with the international Jewish community, would be a source for social discord in a country where racist sentiments against both are deeply ingrained. Amazigh political activists share many political interests with Jews and with Israel. By way of comparison, both groups date their heritages to before the advent of Islam and feel threatened by Islamist as well as Arab nationalist politics. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman published an insightful article on Moroccan Amazigh relations with Israel this past Winter.

Lesson of the Day: A Multiplicity of Styles

James Kirchirk’s article on Tablet Magazine, Right of Return, provides an excellent point and counter-point discussion of the potential for reconciliation between the new Libyan government and the country’s Jewish refugees and expatriates. The point and counter-point style is rather difficult to manage, but the author does an excellent job of it, expressing skepticism of his sources without undercutting the force of their statements.

Lisa Palmieri-Billig’s article on Jerusalem Post, Amazigh Rebels Embrace Representative of Libyan Jews, presents a completely different writing style: spotlighting a single character’s activities in Libya. The article is a heartfelt and optimistic depictions of minority interests under the new government.

Lastly, Alex Joffe’s Libya and the Jews, gives an elegant historical lens to the situation, describing in detail Jews’ heritage in Libya and their relations with past Libyan governments.

As an author, selecting the style of your paper is crucial. You must take into account your audience’s likes and preconceptions. Combining these styles in a short paper is extremely difficult. My recommendation is that once you’ve completed some background research, choose a style that speaks to you and your readers, and then stick to it completely.

For example, Palmieri-Billig’s article poignantly opens every paragraph in the body of her article with a descriptive account of Amazigh-Jewish relations and leaves the standard journalism (political contexts, external sources, etc.) for the body of the paragraphs. Joffe’s paragraphs are similar, in that each opens with a wide historical tone. He restricts the details to the supporting ideas within the paragraphs. On the other hand, Kirchirk’s style forces him to use a variety of paragraph types, so that readers can easily sense the difference in tone between both characters’ statements, as well as his own commentary.

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