Libyan Jew rejects Gaddafi’s invitation to return

Jewish quarter of Tripoli: The photo was taken by Raphael Luzon when he was last invited to visit Libya

What does a beleaguered Arab dictator do to curry favour with the international community? Be nice to the Jews. But Libyan Jewish leader Raphael Luzon is not having it. “I cannot bet on a losing horse,” he says. It is notable that the offer inviting Jews to ‘return’ to Libya pointedly excludes 90 percent of Libyan Jews and their descendants – the 100,000 now living in Israel. The Jerusalem Post has the story:

In an apparent bid to improve its international image, the government of embattled dictator Muammar Gaddafi recently invited representatives of the Libyan Jewish Diaspora to visit the country and recognized them as “a component of Libyan society,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Libyan authorities faxed a letter to Raphael Luzon, the chairman of Jews of Libya UK, on May 29 asking him and other Libyan Jewish leaders to take part in dialogue regarding the future of the country torn by a civil war between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels.

“We are pleased to extend an invitation to you personally and through you to the number of personalities of Libyan Jews in Europe and North America working in various fields to visit Libya at the earliest possible opportunity and to join the tribes of which you are part of it, and you should be represented as part of the components of the Libyan society,” the letter signed by tribal leader and Gaddafi loyalist Ali Mohamed Salem al- Ahwal said. “We hope that you accept our invitation to join this institution and to be represented through all tribes and clans and dignitaries of the Libyan Jews in this conference, which has the full legitimacy in Libya.”

Before receiving the letter, Luzon spoke on the phone with Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Khaim, who said the invitation came directly from Gaddafi.

On Wednesday, Luzon said he rejected Gaddafi’s offer after consulting with other members of the World Organization of Jews of Libya.

“I represent a lot of people and I cannot bet on a losing horse,” Luzon said. “I am scared the people in Tripoli will present us to the international press and come out with a press release that we support them.”

The invitation was extended to Jews of Libyan descent in Europe and North America, but not to those in Israel, where about 100,000 Jews of Libyan descent live.

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