By Lahav Harkov
Since he is based in the UK, Raphael Luzon said he plans to participate in the council’s meetings via Skype.
Raphael Luzon, a longtime activist for Libyan Jewry, will be an official Jewish representative in the Libyan Senate, able to make suggestions in the process of writing a new constitution in Libya, he told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Muhammed al-Hosh, president of the High Council of Reconciliation (HCR), invited Luzon earlier this month to be an “observer and representative of Libyan Jews” in the country’s Council of Sheikhs.
The Council of Sheikhs, which is akin to an upper legislative house or a senate, was established on April 25, 2018 by the High Council for Reconciliation. The two councils are the functioning national government bodies in Libya, where there has been civil war for the last five years.
The letter from al-Hosh, which Luzon translated, states that “as part of the effort to solve the crisis in the state and to ease the suffering of the citizens, and based on the relationship with Mr. Raphael Luzon, chairman of the Union of Libyan Jews, and based on his efforts and activities for the good of the nation, we find it important to give him the job of an observer and representative of Libyan Jewry in the Libyan Senate.”
Luzon said this is the first time he knows of that a Jewish person is playing such a role in Libya, calling his appointment “historic,” and pointing out that Jews in government are rare in Muslim countries in general.
According to Luzon, the council will write Libya’s new constitution.
“The constitution will include sentences I recommended that the country not discriminate by religion,” he stated. “This is the only body all sides [in the conflict] recognize. It includes elders, who are like senators, as well as women’s organizations, youth organizations and others.”
Since he is based in the UK, Luzon said he plans to participate in the council’s meetings via Skype.
Luzon was born in Benghazi, Libya and forced to leave after a pogrom during the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
He then lived in Rome for 27 years, and in Israel for six years before moving to the UK.
Luzon is a freelance journalist and has worked for various Israeli and Italian outlets, and has written books in Italian and Arabic.
He has been an activist for Libyan Jews for over 30 years, including efforts to get reparations for Jewish refugees across the Arab and Muslim world.
As part of that work, Luzon met with former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2010. When he returned to the country of his birth in 2012, he was abducted for several days.
In recent years, Luzon said he “unofficially mediated between the sides in the conflict,” and in that capacity, has frequently appeared in the Libyan media.
Luzon said he was sought after by several political parties, but that he does not want to be part of the government.
Luzon hopes to strengthen ties between Libya and Libyan Jews in Israel and around the world, as well as ties between Libya and Israel.
“They need Israel’s technology and know-how,” he said. “If there’s peace with Egypt and Jordan and [unofficial] ties with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, why shouldn’t Libya have connections with Israel?”
Luzon said that while Israel doesn’t have any official ties to Libya, all sides in the current civil war have pursued “some level of connection.”
Lahav Harkov is the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post.
The Jerusalem Post