British-based Libyan Jew to help draft war-torn country’s new constitution
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British-based Libyan Jew to help draft war-torn country’s new constitution

Raphael Luzon was invited to take part in the process by the president of the High Council of Reconciliation

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

A Libyan Jew based in the UK is set to contribute to the drafting of the war-torn country’s new constitution, he has said.

Raphael Luzon, who came to the UK in 2001, said he had been invited to take part in the process by Muhammed al-Hosh, president of the High Council of Reconciliation.

Luzon said it was “historic” that he had been appointed an “observer and representative of Libyan Jews” in the country’s newly-established Council of Sheikhs, which is the equivalent of Libya’s upper chamber or Senate.

Speaking to Jewish News, he said: “The current constitution, which dates from the days of the King in 1951, talks about equal rights for all citizens, but I am trying to introduce a line that says this should be irrespective of religion.”

He added: “While there is some reluctance from the Salafists [fundamentalists] most Libyans agree that something like this is needed.”

The activist, who chairs the Union of Libyan Jews, was born in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi but was forced to flee during a pogrom as a result of the 1967 Six Day War fought between Israel and Arab states.

Raphael Luzon in Libyan traditional dress

He has since been back several times, including in 2012, when he was briefly abducted. As a result of this, he said he would participate in the drafting via Skype “despite a lot of pressure on me to travel back”.

Luzon said he hoped to rebuild ties between Libya and Libyan Jews, of whom many live in Israel, and between Israel and Libya, adding that his country of birth “needs Israel’s technology”.

There are around 200 Libyan Jews living in the UK currently, and hundreds more with links, including former Conservative minister Robert Halfon MP, whose Italian Jewish grandfather Renato was forced to leave Libya in 1968.

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