Monday, February 25, 2013

Israel expresses concern for Jews in Tunisia

As reported by Itamar Eichner of Ynet News, February 17, 2013:

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has instructed Israel's representatives abroad to ask the international community to pressure Tunisian government officials to safeguard the North African country's Jewish community, heritage and property.

The order was issued following fears for Tunisia's 2,000 Jews due to the hostile anti-Israel atmosphere in the country and anti-Semitic statements made by religious clerics.

Some 80 gravestones have been desecrated and plundered in Tunisia's Jewish cemeteries over the past month. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali condemned the desecration of the cemetery in the city of Sousse, noting that security forces were working to prevent additional attacks on Jewish tombs.

"There appears to be an increase in anti-Semitic statements among local religious clerics and cases of public incitement against Jews," says a report written by Gideon Bachar, head of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Combating Anti-Semitism.

"For example, when Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh's visited Tunisia in 2012, he was greeted by masses chanting, 'Kill the Jews.' Additional incidents included the torching of a Jewish synagogue, a demonstration outside the main synagogue in the city of Tunis, and the use of Israeli flags as a rag at the entrance to the toilet at the Tunis-Carthage Airport."

The report presents another example of incitement: A local imam called Ahmad al-Suhayli called to sterilize the wombs of Jewish women and asked God to destroy the "contemptible group of Jews."

The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israel's embassies in the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Italy to ask the countries' foreign ministries to relay Israel's demand that the Tunisian government must guarantee the Jewish community's safety.

They Israeli representatives were also instructed to ask the international community to publicly condemn the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

Israel expects the European Union and its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to personally try to convince the Tunisians to reinforce security on the Jewish community and curb the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement.

The Foreign Ministry has also distributed pictures and videos around the world of the desecration of the Jewish cemeteries.
Last year, Tunisia's Jews issued an official complaint about the chanting of anti-Semitic slogans, as reported by Agence France-Presse, April 3, 2012:

Tunisia's Jewish community said Wednesday it was making an official complaint over anti-Semitic slogans chanted at a protest demanding the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.

"This is the third time this sort of thing has happened. It's too much. I can't accept it and that's why I'm lodging a complaint," Roger Bismuth, the representative of the Jewish community told AFP.

"Justice must be done," said Bismuth, who was received on Tuesday by Speaker Mustapha Ben Jafar.

Tunisia - a Muslim majority country of more than 10 million - is home to a Jewish minority of about 1,500.

The threats, some of them filmed on video, were made at a rally in Tunis on Sunday demanding that sharia become the main source of legislation in the new constitution currently being drafted, media reports said.

Similar incidents took place in January during a visit to Tunisia by Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and in February during the visit of an Egyptian cleric.

The presidency of the National Constituent Assembly has voiced its "deep concern" and denounced the "slogans aimed at sowing discord within the Tunisian society of all races and backgrounds."

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