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?