Libya and Palestine

A visitor to Libya now, be it to Benghazi or Tripoli, cannot help but make some comparisons between the Libyan revolution and the Palestinian Intifada.

Walk the streets of liberated Libya and you will immediately notice graffiti on the walls and the liberation flags on all locations. To be fair, the Libyan graffiti is much more colorful and creative. The image of Muammar Qaddafi — often referred to as the despot — with his distinctive hairdo, overwhelms all other images. Graffiti in Tripoli and Benghazi naturally praises the February 17 revolution and flags of the new Libya adorn every possible location.

Walking the streets of downtown Libya, I looked up to one of the minarets and saw the new flag; I was immediately reminded of the many locations I saw in Palestine during the Intifada, when Palestinians hoisted the banned Palestinian flag on top of mosques and churches. Walls were plastered with posters and announcements.

While graffiti, posters and flags were some of the visible means of communication, Libyans quickly used various other communication tools, starting with the creative streaming from the Benghazi courthouse in the first days of the Libyan revolution, passing through makeshift radio stations and ending up with external (and after the fall of Tripoli) internal satellite broadcasting. Visiting a local radio station, listening to anchors or callers reminds one of Palestinian radio and TV stations in their infancy.

The similarities are not restricted to external images and media. The eight months of Libyan revolution produced hundreds of civil society organizations to take care of the wounded, reject firing in the air by those calling on the revolution, pay attention to education. The speed of growth of these NGOs is phenomenal.

Libyans are facing difficulties similar to those of the Palestinians regarding the tensions between local fighters and the leadership in the diaspora.

The new Libyan leadership appears poised not to allow this tension to derail the train of liberation. Mechanisms are being created by the National Transitional Council to ensure that these tensions are reduced to the minimum by strictly upholding the democratic processes that were agreed upon by all parties.

A Palestinian visitor to the new Libya is also struck by the high-level, genuine support for the Palestinian cause. While Libyans are not very happy with some other Arab regimes and people, when Palestine is mentioned, a totally different response is given. Fighters and non fighters alike express total support for the Palestinian cause and the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Libyans have a unique opportunity of creating the basis for a new progressive and forward-looking country that respects human rights and applies democratic values. Palestine and Libya have much in common and will certainly work together to improve their two societies.

In the past decades the chances of Palestinians being liberated were equal to those of South Africans and the Irish. Now Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans are free yet Palestine is still not free.