A WikiLeaks cable revealed that Libyan authorities adopted “repugnant anti-Semitic tactics” against the Marks & Spencer store in Tripoli, in an effort to have the store closed and drive the British company out of the country.
The leaked memos, sent from the US Embassy in Tripoli, show that the anti-Semitic campaign became so violent that American officials were warned by Libyan government insiders that at least one high-ranking businessman, the Marks & Spencer franchiser, could be involved in a “fatal car accident”.
A source from the General Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry told an American contact that M&S was:
“well-known among Libyans and other Arab and Muslim peoples for its strong support of Israeli occupation of Palestine and the huge funds it provides for killing of Palestinians and constructing of illegal settlements in occupied Palestineâ€¦The very mentioning of Marks and Spencer is considered by Libyans as an insult to their national feelings and an attack on their national feelings the source clarified.”
The US Embassy warned Washington back in 2008 that attacks on the British retailer by Libyan officials “at the highest levels” risked causing irretrievable damage to bilateral ties with the UK.
The British Guardian quoted the memos, describing:
“The ongoing drama surrounding efforts by the UK government and investors to keep open the Marks & Spencer retail store in Tripoli, and a campaign by some Libyan government officials to close it.”
Not long after the store was launched, it was subjected to what the cable described as “persistent anti-Semitic rhetoric” by the Libyan government.
The store was closed temporarily by Libyan authorities at least twice, and employees were repeatedly taken in for questioning and put under “close scrutiny” by security officials who, the ambassador warned, were used as a “strongarm adjunct in this political play”.