Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jews of Tunisia are catapulted into the limelight

Mohamed Ghannem, cardiologist and aspiring Tunisian minister

The Jasmine revolution has catapulted Jews into the limelight, and will herald a better era for Tunisia's 1,500-strong community, argues Mohamed Ghannem in 'Ou en sont les juifs tunisiens?' (Information Juive July/August 2011 - article not yet online). Ghannem is an expatriate cardiologist working in France who has visited Israel. His name has been put forward as a possible minister in the new Tunisia.

Ghannem believes, somewhat controversially, that until the Six Day War broke out in 1967, Arabs and Jews lived in 'perfect harmony'. The Jews came under president Bourguiba's protection. Today there are some 1,400 Jews living peacefully in Tunisia, 1,200 of them in Djerba.

As a result of the revolution of 14 January, the Jews have acquired a higher profile, according to Ghannem. Before the revolution, the Jews almost never featured in the media, except as model loyal citizens - ('more Tunisian than the Tunisians' ). Currently there have been a dozen TV programmes about them. The cancellation of the Ghriba pilgrimage this year was announced on National TV. Even Al-Jazeera did a filmed report.

"During the January revolution - and in spite of the power vacuum and reigning sense of insecurity - not a single Jew was molested or worried. No Jewish building was touched. In truth only a small mausoleum at the heart of a Jewish cemetery in Gabes was damaged. No grave was desecrated," Ghannem writes.

"If in the past, Jews have been marginalised in Tunisian politics, they are being sought out by Tunisian political parties and some (Jews ) have become politically active.

"The Jews, like other Tunisian citizens, have thrown themselves into the rebuilding of their country. They feel freeer and more secure in their commitment to investment and enterprise.

" For Tunisian Jews this revolution is, I think, proof that it promises democracy and freedom for all without distinction and is based on universal values."

My comment: Perhaps Dr Ghannem is being over-optimistic when he says that not a single Jew has been worried by the revolution. There is evidence to the contrary. What about Islamist demonstrations outside the Great synagogue? What about the attack on a Djerba wedding? What about the moves afoot to make normalisation with Israel against the law?


Sammish said...

Arab polito-apologist rethorics towards Israel and Judaism are always flowery, positively nice and understanding yet they remain at all time like a fresh coat of beautiful "paint". And that's all what they are a "coat of paint".
Despite the nice words, their shallowness betrays their intention because words means nothing if they are no genuine actions or behavior that go with them.

I am using the "coat of paint" analogy because having lived in an Arab country, witty and intelligent Arabs know exactly what it means.

When a Moroccan wants something from another Moroccan that he does not have (like money or favor), he never ask for it directly. He rather goes on to describe him in the most elevated rethorics for almost half hour before he asks for what he wants. By then the other person feels so elevated and his self-esteem so highly jacked up that he will be obliged to give the favor. However, he always tell others that the person had "painted him with a fresh coat" only to get the favor, which means that the words of praise were not genuine but rather shallow and fake.

What's what I think Mr. Ghannem is doing when he is talking about Jews of Tunisia... a "fresh coat of paint" ... it is so easy to do,

Anonymous said...

I see that Sammish has no illusions!
so we can shake hands on that!
I have still to see how many Arabs obtain the Nobel,before they can criticise Israel!
(sorry for my long silence. Had a serious back injury).
Sultana Latifa

bataween said...

We missed you, Sultana! Hope you are feeling better.