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August 26, 2011 1:39 pm

‘Women and Jews’ Invited to Participate In New Libyan Politics

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Raphael Luzon.

The head of the Libyan National Transitional Council Mahmud Jibril told reporters Tuesday that “the country’s transitions begin immediately. Al Jazeera has quoted Jibril saying that “This is the new Libya where every Libyan works as a beloved brother, hand in hand, to serve the interests of the nation to ensure equality and justice for everyone.

Still, into the weekend, violent fighting continues. Moammar Gaddafi’s main military compound in Tripoli has been captured by rebel forces. However, the besieged dictator and his son still remain at large. Seif al-Islam energized regime loyalists by his independent appearance following reports that he had been captured by the rebels. Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, according to local news reports.

NATO still considers the situation in Tripoli “very dangerous” and anticipates continuation of military actions against Gaddafi as needed. “Snipers, shelling, missiles could do much damage, but they can’t change the course of history or the outcome of this campaign,” spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie told reporters at a news conference in Naples, Italy.

Will Libya take another unexpected turn, and form a government that will include women and Jews? Raphael Luzon, a leader of a United Kingdom based Libyan-Jewish Diaspora Organization told The Jerusalem Post that “opposition leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil recently invited him to return to his country of birth and participate in the political discourse.”

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“A week ago I received an [invitation] from the chief of the rebels,” he said referring to Abdul Jalil, a former justice minister and current chairman of the rebel council in Benghazi. “If it will be democratic there will be no reason not to visit, like in Tunisia and Morocco,” he said.

Luzon, whose family is from Benghazi fled Libya in 1967. More than 40 years later, Jalil “proposed for me (Luzon) to take part in one of the parties because they would like it to be open to all people including women and Jews.” He continued, “I said I would accept it once I see it is real democracy and the proposal is offered,” he said. “If I do it I do it for one matter: the historical matter. Libya will be the first Arab country that proposed that a Jew run in a free election.”

Despite a history of almost two millennia, there are currently no Jews in Libya. (The last left a decade ago). Once a community of 25,000, persecution during World War II and “state-sponsored pogroms” following Libya’s declaration of independence in 1951 resulted in the community’s immigration, largely to Israel, Italy and the UK. Luzon has represented the interests of Jewish Libyans, and had actually met with Gaddafi twice during his four decade regime.

Were he to return to Libya, Luzon said the reconstruction of the war-torn country and the restitution of Jewish assets confiscated by the Libyan regime to their rightful owners would top his political agenda. “We left there 82 synagogues, land and property and I would like to take care of this because it belongs to the Jewish community of Libya,” he said.

“No country in northern Africa has a tradition of Islamic extremism,” he said. “They’re never Islamist. Perhaps there will be a small party in Libya but different than the ones in Egypt.”

The 57-year-old Luzon emphasized that future developments depend on the outcome of fighting in the capital, which is still raging between the rebels and forces loyal to the Libyan dictator, who has so far evaded capture. “First they have to get rid of Gaddafi, rebuild the country and decide which direction to take,” he said.

Perhaps the most surprising development in the progress of the Libyan revolt against Gaddafi is a report that a member of the new Libya’s emerging leadership has called on Israel for support. “We are asking Israel to use its influence in the international community to end the tyrannical regime of [Moammar] Gadhafi and his family,” said Ahmad Shabani, as reported in Haaretz.

Shabani is the founder of Libya’s Democratic Party.  His father served as a cabinet minister under Libya’s King Idris. “Libya needs any help it can get from the international community, including from Israel,” he is quoted. Like the Luzon family, the Shabani family also fled to London, they in 1969, following the defeat of the king.

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