A Jewish leader in Tunisia said on Sunday that the government’s condemnation of
a protest last week where participants called for the murder of Jews was
reassuring, but added he expected it to take action.
Roger Bismuth, head
of the Jewish community, said he was forced to speak out after some 7,000
Salafis gathered in the main square of Tunis and shouted chants against
“The man who was preaching said ‘slaughter the Jews, kill the
Jews,’” he said. “This time I had to react very strongly and I
Bismuth said he gave over 70 interviews to different media in the
wake of the demonstration.
Rashid Ghannushi, the leader of Ennahda, the
Islamist party that won the recent elections, responded sharply by saying the
new government will protect the country’s 1,500 Jewish
“Tunisia defends the rights of all citizens,” he was quoted as
saying by local media. “We will fight for the rights of all our minorities,
including the Jewish minority.”
Bismuth welcomed Ghannushi’s statement
but added that time will tell if the commitment is upheld.
“Now I have
good words but I’m waiting to see the actions,” Bismuth said. “I did my best and
now I have to see the results.”
But while Ghannushi’s tone toward the
nation’s Jews has been conciliatory, he has maintained a hostile attitude toward
On Sunday, he accused former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of
“collaborating” with the “Zionists” and “betraying the Palestinians,” the
country’s official news agency TAP reported.
“The problem for Tunisians
is Zionism and not Judaism,” he was quoted as saying.
toppled the regime of longtime dictator Ben Ali last year, inspiring a wave of
uprisings across the Arab world. The upheaval, known collectively as the Arab
Spring, removed several secularist rulers from power but some worry of a rise of
Islamism in their stead. Many observers see Tunisia, where the previously
outlawed Ennahda won the elections earlier this year, as a bellwether for the
rest of the region.