President Kais Saied mocked those “who talk about antisemitism when we are in the 21st century,” following a cabinet meeting last Friday. He then reportedly proceeded to accuse those concerned about antisemitism of seeking “to sow division to benefit from this discourse.”
Then, over the weekend, Mr Saied recounted how “Tunisian Jews fleeing the Nazi forces…found refuge,” adding: “They speak of antisemitism, while the Jews were protected here.” Tunisian Jews were persecuted and enslaved by the Nazis during their brief occupation, but were liberated upon capture of the territory by the Allies. Previously, in 1941, Tunisian Arabs murdered several Jews during the pogrom known as the Gabès riots, in what was the worst outbreak of violence against Jews in North Africa during World War II.
Mr Saied continued his speech by asserting that the West raises concerns over antisemitism in Tunisia while ignoring Israeli policy toward Arabs. In what a local outlet described as a “defiant tone”, he alleged: “These parties do not hesitate to make false accusations of antisemitism, while they turn a deaf ear when it comes to dealing with the fate of Palestinians who die every day.” He added: “The Palestinian people will manage against all odds to triumph and recover their stolen land.”
The concerns over antisemitism in Tunisia are surfacing after a fatal shooting at the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba as hundreds of worshipers celebrated the Jewish holiday of Lag B’ Omer left two Jews and three police officers dead.
Members of the Jewish community are disappointed and outraged that the President has refused to address the shooter’s motivations and the impact on the country’s small Jewish community and the many Jewish pilgrims who visit the synagogue every year. It is understood that no member of the Government has visited the community since the attack.
In 2021, President Saied is alleged to have accused Jews of being responsible “for the instability in the country,” a claim he later denied having made.
Campaign Against Antisemitism reports on news and incidents relating to antisemitism worldwide.