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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Why did they go?

How is Tunisia's now tiny Jewish community faring in the Arab Spring? The BBC's Wyre Davies has been investigating.

It's an interesting piece, but there's no escaping the BBC weltanschauung in anything that touches on Israel. Here we are being invited to contrast an Israeli minister (hysterically Arabophobic) with Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi (moderate, reassuring).

Well, moderation is relative in Mr Ghannouchi's case, however regularly the Beeb bestows the epithet on him. Let's hope that in this instance he means what he says. And that the "general outrage" at extremists baying for Jewish blood (several thousands of them actually, and with Mr Ghannouchi in attendance, greeting the head of the Jew-killers of Hamas) will produce action to safeguard the Jewish community.

I'm particularly struck by Mr Davies' delicate tiptoeing round awkward historical facts. From 100,000 Jews in the 1930s to 2,000 now - why?
As in the rest of the Arab world, Tunisia's Jewish population crashed dramatically after the creation of Israel and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars - thousands emigrating to France or to Israel itself.

And that's your lot. Calls for a bit of explanation, doesn't it? What did Israel's wars have to do with Jews living at the other end of the Mediterranean?

It's no good asking Wikipedia, it's been Got At. When consulted today the "History of the Jews in Tunisia" was skipping seamlessly from the Holocaust to the Arab Spring. Fortunately there are other sources, one of them yielding this:-
After Tunisia gained independence in 1956, a series of anti-Jewish government decrees were promulgated. In 1958, Tunisia's Jewish Community Council was abolished by the government and ancient synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish quarters were destroyed for “urban renewal.”
The increasingly unstable situation caused more than 40,000 Tunisian Jews to immigrate to Israel. By 1967, the country's Jewish population had shrunk to 20,000.
During the Six-Day War, Jews were attacked by rioting Arab mobs, and synagogues and shops were burned. The government denounced the violence, and President Habib Bourguiba apologized to the Chief Rabbi. The government appealed to the Jewish population to stay, but did not bar them from leaving. Subsequently, 7,000 Jews immigrated to France.
In 1982, there were attacks on Jews in the towns of Zarzis and Ben Guardane. According to the State Department, the Tunisian government “acted decisively to provide protection to the Jewish community.”
In 1985, a Tunisian guard opened fire on worshipers in a synagogue in Djerba, killing five people, four of them Jewish. Since then, the government has sought to prevent further tragedy by giving Tunisian Jews heavy protection when necessary. Following Israel's October 1, 1985, bombing of the PLO headquarters near Tunis, “the government took extraordinary measures to protect the Jewish community.” After the Temple Mount tragedy in October 1990, “the government placed heavy security around the main synagogue in Tunis.”
If you feel my source is excessively biased I am open to comments providing alternative accounts.

So I leave you with this thought: Jews hounded out of their country as scapegoats for Israel's wars - for the BBC's Wyre Davies, apparently not a case of scandalous anti-Semitism but a fact of life requiring no elaboration or comment. After all, it's not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, is it?