Jews in Tunisia were told to say nothing about an incident on the island of Djerba last week where 1,500 Jews still live. A gang of youths disrupted a wedding celebration and attacked guests. For Jews in Arab lands, it's the same old story: the police failed to intervene, or even encouraged the youths, writes M Cohen in the JForum newsletter. He calls for France to ease Jewish immigration from Tunisia:
While the Jewish community in Tunisia is trying to survive as best it might, the collapse of institutions and the establishment of a new regime has led to improvisation and amateurism. The new leaders are lax and inexperienced, leaving the field open to gangs of thugs who commit assaults with impunity without fear of the law being enforced.
In this context on Monday evening, July 4, 2011, while the Jewish community of Djerba was celebrating a wedding, as is the custom, for seven days under an open-air gazebo, a group of youths asked to drink and eat. It is usual to take them to a corner away from the guests and offer them some food, in order to show hospitality.
This time, matters escalated into violence and the gang of thugs went on a rampage and physically assaulted the guests. Arab neighbors responded well by lending a hand to members of the community.
But the next day, while the party continued, the same gang returned in even larger numbers to disrupt the evening. At no time did the local police intervene. The local governor failed at every level in his lack of experience and inability to handle the situation. Devoid of any authority over his troops, he was unable or unwilling to restore order, leaving the Jewish community at the mercy of the thugs. Not only did the local police fail to intervene against the aggressors but they showed understanding towards them and even some sympathy and encouragement.
Alerted to the incident, the Chief Rabbi Rabbi of Tunisia Haim Bittan called for an emergency audience with the new President of the Republic of Tunisia Fouad Mebazaa on Wednesday 6 July, asking him to intervene at once. The President sent troops to restore order in the Jewish quarter.
The incident passed unnoticed as people busied themselves with the Gaza-bound flotilla, but they show how unstable things are in Tunisia. (...) The fundamentalist and progressive anti-Zionist alliance may disturb what remains of Jewish life in Tunisia. The leaders of the Jewish community were asked not to reveal the incident so that the new government is not accused of antisemitism.
A number of mosques are now run by fundamentalist imams and the synagogue in Tunis, undisturbed before the revolution, is now surrounded by barbed wire.