Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Will it be 1952 all over again for Tunisian Jews?

Tunisian rebels arrested by the French in the early 1950s

The so-called Jasmine revolution in Tunisia recalls earlier upheavals in the country's history. The year 1952 saw a fierce power struggle between the French colonial government and the nationalists, led by Habib Bourguiba of the Neo-Destour party, who four years later became independent Tunisia's first president and 'father of the nation'.

JSS Blog
has an interesting post, based on half an article in Noar, a Jewish newspaper of the time. It demonstrates clearly how the Jews found themselves squeezed between competing interests.

The Tunisians called a general strike against the French after they had arrested Bourguiba and other leaders of his faction. They put pressure on the Jews to close their shops in solidarity. However, the French authorities, unleashing the full brutality of the Foreign Legion on the Tunisians, wanted the Jewish shops to remain open. The police gave the Jews assurances they would protect them. On the other hand, the Tunisians threatened reprisals and violence if the Jews kept their shops open. The Jews were caught between a rock and a hard place.

An excited and angry crowd leaving a mosque was all it needed to disrupt the fragile peace. In Constantine, Algeria, in 1934 a similar situation developed: a crowd incited against innocent Jews by a fabricated pretext turned on them - and several were murdered.

The unnamed interviewee in the press article explains that (unarmed) Jewish vigilantes were instrumental in evacuating Jews from the Arab quarters and Mellahs (where the general strike was enforced) of Tunisian towns to the European quarters, where shops remained open.

However, these measures did not prevent Jewish shops being looted in Kairouan on 25 January; two Jews gravely wounded in disturbances in Sousse on 26 January; a Jew murdered in Mednine in the South on 28 January; and Jewish shops attacked and looted in Tunis on 25 January 1952.

The interviewee criticises the Jewish community leadership for being unprepared, selfish and divided. He thought that grassroots groups and organisations were much better equipped to deal with the situation.

(So what's new?)

Read post in full

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is foreign penetration and meddling into the affairs of countries like Tunisia. In the West's war on Arabism, it always tried to put at an advantage non-Arab groups in the region like Berbers in Algeria. Jews are also to be blamed for not quite blending in where they go. They always maintain a distance and usually do not participate in the struggle of the countries they exist in because they view themselves as a seperate nation. In Greece, they went as far as allying with the Ottomans in times when Greeks were fighting against them. Nobody's innocent I think.

Anonymous said...

Saying Jews were systematically opppressed in the Arab world is pure Zionist propaganda. Jews were actually much better treated among Arabs than they were among Christians and Spain proved that. Nobody asked them to leave Tunisia for example. They left not because they were oppressed cos if they were why did others choose to stay there? They left because they were seduced by the Jewish agency which did not hesitate to set bombs in their neighborhoods to scare them and convince them to go what happened in Bagdad. Some of them do not identify with the Arab cause and are more loyal to Israel then they are to Tunisia or Morocco and that's the case of many of them around the world. Israel was a realization of their sovereignty but at what price? the dispossession of Palestinians, the cutting down of olive trees, the systematic humiliation and walking over dead bodies. This is why Israel will never be fully happy.

bataween said...

Anonymous
I'm afraid you have been reading too much propaganda yourself. Look how pluralistic a society Tunisia is today - not only are they hardly any Jews left ( one percent) but all the Italians have fled. A Catholic priest has just had his throat cut. Yes Tunisia is a very hospitable place!

bataween said...

Where is your evidence that the West has tried 'to put at an advantage' non-Arab groups like the Berbers?
As for your statement that Jews do not blend wherever they go may I remind you that the Jews were in North Africa well before the Arab/Muslims.
The Jews were politically marginalised by Islam and were only briefly allowed to take full part in national life under colonial rule. When Arab states gained their independence Jews were once again marginalised by Arabisation and Islamisation.