Gaddafi State TV 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
RELATED:Gaddafi vows to fight on as NATO pounds TripoliOver 100 Libyan army members defect from Gaddafi
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
“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.”
receiving the letter, Luzon spoke on the phone with Libyan Deputy Foreign
Minister Khaled Khaim, who said the invitation came directly from
On Wednesday, Luzon said he rejected Gaddafi’s offer after
consulting with other members of the World Organization of Jews of
“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
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.
The invitation marks a significant change in the
regime’s longtime policy toward the Libyan Jewish Diaspora. After Gaddafi came
to power in 1969 all Jewish property was confiscated and most of the few Jews
still living in the country left. During his rule, Libyan Jews were prohibited
from visiting their country of birth with few exceptions and their rights were
The ancient Jewish cemetery in Tripoli, for instance, was razed
by authorities to make way for a highway. Its tombstones and human remains were
dumped into the sea.
In recent years, Gaddafi has flirted with the idea
of compensating Jews of Libyan descent. Several times negotiations with Libyan
Jews were initiated but none resulted in an agreement.
said he expects to receive a similar invitation from rebel leader Mustafa Abdul
Jalil, Gaddafi’s former justice minister, who is the head of the rebel
government in eastern Libya.
“I have a close relationship with the
leaders of the revolution [in Benghazi],” he said.
“Apparently, they are
going to do the same thing.”