Libyan Jews Union’s President: Libyan mediator should take the lead to end the conflict

Raphael Luzon in Tripoli, July 2010. [Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images]
The President of the Union of Jews of Libya, Raphael Luzon, says Libya needs peace that comes about by the hands of Libyans regardless of their backgrounds.

Libyan Express spoke to Luzon this week about his own and Libyan Jews’ vision for Libya’s future.

Tell us about what happened to you when you returned to Libya’s Benghazi?

I was recognised on the street. They pulled Molotov’s on our group which included a television crew. Then they stopped us from filming, and later, at the hotel, a militia arrived and took me to the military camp where I was interrogated and then imprisoned.

What led to your imprisonment in Libya?

I have no idea. Probably the fact that they recognised me on the street and issued a kind of alarm that “there is a Jew around.” Or maybe they thought I was a spy. What I know is that for seven nights, different people came to interrogate me from various groups. Eventually, they released me saying I was a “clean Libyan of every accusation.”

What do you know about Libyan Jewish community’s stance regarding the current conflict in Libya? Do they wish to return and be part of what is happening in Libya?

Most Libyan Jews have the desire to come and visit their native country, to see the places where they and their fathers were born and raised. The country where they lived for almost 2000 years.
No Libyan Jew intends to come to live as more than 50 years have passed since the last expulsion in 1967 and all Libyan Jews have settled where they live: in Italy, Great Britain, Israel, and USA. It is difficult to uproot the roots again after 50 years. Certainly, many Libyan Jews are ready to visit, invest money, come to vacation as happens with the Jews of Tunisia and Marrocco.

Are you, as Libyan Jews, thinking of forming a political party to take part of the current political process in Libya?

I have received proposals from different sides to participate in elections in a political party. I have no intention of forming any party. If the situation clears up and things settle down, I may wander the possibility of having a role in the government for the good of Libya and to help my native country. At the moment there are still many Libyans who reject the idea and are still very hostile to the Jews, despite the fact that I receive many manifestations of solidarity. In Tunisia there is an example: the Minister of Tourism is one of Jewish religion, and in Israel there are Arab and Muslim ministers and deputies.

As a Libyan national, what is your stance regarding the ongoing fighting in Tripoli?

I have always maintained that problems in Libya must be resolved among Libyans. External interventions will not work.

Speaking with weapons is negative and causes nothing but blood from Libyan children to be spilled on both sides, to no avail. And it’s a pity!

Do you side with one party over the other in Libya? Meaning, do your visions for Libya make the cut with any party on the ground now in Libya?

In all my articles and interviews, I have always maintained that I was contacted by all parties in the conflict, but I have always refused to take a stand in favor of a party. I am always ready to give my contribution, if required, for a united Libya, in peace and agreement between all the parties. I refuse to take a position and, I think, most Libyans, “the silent majority”, agree with me.

If not military escalation and fighting, what solution would be vital for Libya from your point of view?

After 42 years of military dictatorship, I think the Libyan people no longer want to see soldiers in power. A mediator, who is Libyan, should be appointed as he would understand the Libyan language and dialect, and understand the Libyan culture and mentality, besides he/she would not be involved in the ongoing civil conflict in Libya. This mediator should be accompanied by a council formed by a representative of the major groups and minorities, “wise elders” and professional diplomats. For contenders, they must take the lead in making everyone step back and renounce personal interests in favor of the Libyan nation and people. They should discuss peacefully having in front of THEIR eyes ONLY THE INTERSECTION OF LIBYA!

A new Libyan drama series is being aired on TV called Zanget Arreeh. It talks about Al-Hara in Tripoli where Jews and Muslims were living together. Are you watching it? If yes, do you agree with the depiction of Jews on that series?

I’m following the TV series “Zanget Al Reeh”. It is positive that it shows that there was a life in common among Libyans of different religions. There are several historical errors that I indicated in a short video I posted on Facebook. Above all, the aggressiveness of the Jews is not historical, it is exactly the opposite. In 1945 and 1948, the Jews were assaulted by the crowd, over 300 people were killed, and their shops were burned, so those who advised the writer and screenwriter about certain issues did so in order distort history and with the specific intention of showing a negative face of the Jews. In reality, apart from the disorders I said added to those of 1967, Arabs and Jews in general have lived together for 2000 years in Peace and tranquility and respect. Unfortunately, with the advent of nationalism, relationships began to be ruined, especially among the youth of that time.

The President of the Union of Jews of Libya concluded his answers saying that the various Libyan factions are currently in a fratricidal war and they are only pawns in hand and guided by other powers. The interests of those powers are not defensive to the Libyans, but they take interest in the riches of the country: oil, minerals, gold and more.

Luzon indicated that if the leaders of the various Libyan factions realize this in time, there could be time left to save the country.

“Otherwise, we could end up like Syria, a divided and fragmented country. It would be a real pity!” He remarked.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
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