The United Nations (UN) envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, recognized the right of Libyan Jews to take part in future meetings about the country's peace process during a meeting with the President of the Union of Jews of Libya Raphael Luzon, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Minorities in Libya, including Jews, Amazighs, Tuaregs and Toubous, have sought to obtain constitutional and social rights since the overthrow of former ruler Moammar al-Gaddafi. The groups have also demanded that their languages and holidays be officially recognized.
The UN envoy has yet to comment on Luzon's claims, but Libyan officials are already questioning the decision.
Member of Parliament Jaballah al-Shibani said that the decision by the UN mission to recognize the Union of Jews of Libya as a party that should be represented in discussions is a violation of its tasks. The mission has moved from working on Libya’s stability to imposing a form of hegemony on the country, said Shibani, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
"While recognizing them as Libyans, they are not parties in the conflict. Dialogue is usually restricted to the warring parties, not onlookers," said Shibani. "We are not being racist, but we are questioning the timing of the move. Why now? And for whose interest? Why don’t we leave the Jewish issue until after the state is restored? Isn’t this a provocation against all Libyans? Couldn’t this lead to a boycott of the dialogue?”
An elder of the Toubou tribes told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was disappointed that the demands of the Toubou have been ignored, adding that they are being constantly "punished" because they're non-Arabs.
The elder cited poverty and youth unemployment among the Toubou as examples of how the government neglects their regions.
"Every political faction wants the Toubou to join them and fight for their cause. If we don’t, then we are discriminated against as non-Arabs," said the elder, urging the UN mission to address their demands.
Ambassador Ibrahim Moussa Kerrada, a former senior aide at the UN, told Asharq Al-Awsat that most Amazighs are based in Tripoli, Zuwara and Gadamis. Amazighs in the desert are commonly known as Tuaregs and are mainly located in southwestern Libya.
The Amazighs have been politically marginalized since 2014, although they did form the largest opposition bloc inside Libya and abroad, according to Kerrada. The minority has boycotted parliamentary and constitutional panel elections, leaving them without representation at the legislature and the panel tasked with drafting a constitution.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, no Jews remain in Libya. Luzon told Wasat TV, a Libyan television channel, that "not a single Libyan Jew today wants to return to Libya" in December, according to MEMRI.
Luzon escaped Libya with his family in 1967 after the Six Day War broke out and mobs swept through the streets of Libya, leading to the Jews being asked to leave the country, Luzon told Zenith last year.
The President of the Union of Jews of Libya visited Libya twice in 2010, along with his mother and sister. During one of the visits, he met with Gaddafi and recalled that he spoke well with Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, who organized the trip. Luzon told Zenith that Gaddafi invited him because he felt that he needed the Jewish lobby in order to mend his ties with the United States.
Luzon has been asked to help draft the new constitution for the country and has insisted that they include the rights of all minorities, including the Toubous, Tuareg and Amazigh. During a visit in Benghazi, Luzon was kidnapped by Islamist militants. Demonstrations began soon after demanding his release and the kidnappers then began protecting him from Al-Qaida terrorists and after eight days he was released. Some of the kidnappers still send him greetings on Jewish holidays.