Exiles support the revolution

The head of Libyan Jews in Britain, Raphael Luzon, visits Benghazi

A LIBYAN Jew who fled his country in terror nearly 45 years ago said he — and other Libyan Jews — have been fully behind the fight to the regime of Muamar Gaddafi crashing down.

Raphael Luzon, 57, told the Jewish Telegraph: “We could not accept and support the Gaddafi dictatorship.

“We are totally in favour of what the rebels are doing and are all united in this overthrow.”

And Mr Luzon, the leader of Jews of Libya UK, revealed that opposition leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil had invited him to return to Libya to take part in any future political discourse.

“I have close contact with the rebels and, as a Libyan, feel close to them” he explained. They want to bring democracy and I really hope that happens soon.

“If democracy does come about and the proposal for me is still there, I would have to think about it.”

London-based Mr Luzon also said that Jews had sent medicines and aid to the rebels currently smashing the Gaddafi regime.

Born in Benghazi, Mr Luzon and his family fled Libya after the Six-Day War when the government launched a state-sponsored pogrom against its Jews.

His aunt, uncle and six cousins were taken by a Libyan army officer – and killed.

Mr Luzon, parents Rachel and Amos and his two sisters left for Italy where they settled in Rome.

He became a journalist and later moved to Israel before arriving in Britain 10 years ago.

Here, he continued to lobby the Libyan regime for compensation for everything Libya’s Jews were forced to leave behind.

Last year, however, he received an unexpected request from Gaddafi — he was invited to be the dictator’s guest of honour at an independence day celebration in Tripoli.

Mr Luzon recalled: “He told me that he had nothing against Jews.

“You do have to remember that Gaddafi never threw the Jews out – that was two years before he took over under King Idris I.

“He told me Jews were free to come back and live in Libya and that Israel should be dissolved into one state with the Palestinians to be called Isratine.”

It was a particularly poignant trip for Mr Luzon as he took his elderly mother Rachel with him and visited many of his childhood haunts in Benghazi, including the shul he used to pray in.

Mr Luzon, who is recovering from a kidney transplant, estimates that there are around 300 Libyan Jews in London and a family in Bournemouth.

He added that there are 6,000 in Italy and 95,000 – including Jews of Libyan descent – living in Israel.

There have been murmurings of Islamists infiltrating the rebel groups, but Mr Luzon told said he did not believe they would be victorious.

He explained: “North African Muslims are different to those in the Middle East. They are not like those Arabs — North Africans like to eat and have a good time far too much for that to happen.”

Mr Luzon also said he could envisage a future where Israelis could visit Libya as tourists too, much like they have done in Morocco and Tunisia.

“Maybe I will go back and live in Libya,” he added.

© 2011 Jewish Telegraph