Friday, July 15, 2011

Tunisian Jews told to keep mum over Djerba attack

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.

Read article in full (French)


Anonymous said...

The youths again?

Latma News -A Concise History of the Youth:

Anonymous said...

Reveal the truth. Jews need to be armed against the "youths." THE MUSLIM SCUM

bataween said...

The problem is not Islam, Anonymous, it's Islamo-facism or Islamism. Please watch your language.

Ahoovah said...

The wall between "islamism" and "islam" is very porous, Bataween.
Especially nowadays .......
There is no future for us in these countries .

bataween said...

I agree with you Ahoovah, but we ourselves are making the wall more porous by confusing the jihadist Saudi- backed fundamentalists with those who practise a more moderate Islam, or those who are not religious at all.

Anonymous said...

What about Jewish fundamentalist backed by IDF and officially by the state of israel killing and doing "price tag" operations in occupied east Jurasaelem and west bank. Or Israeli air force bombing GAZA on daily basis from aircraft. I can't understand the Hypocracy

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

this is for Anon of the 6th comment:

The Israeli air force is not commanded by fundamentalists. When it bombs Gaza, it does so in response to rockets fired from Gaza at civilians in southern Israel. As to "east Jerusalem," it only existed between 1948 and 1967, hardly a blip in Jerusalem's long history. It was the Jews who made Jerusalem important to the world, to the progress of civilization and to the Christian & Muslim religions [although the strict Muslim theologian, Ibn Taymiyyah, ca. 12th century, wrote that Muslims should not consider Jerusalem to have any holiness at all and to ascribe any holiness to Jerusalem was to Judaize!]. The Crusaders massacred Jews in Medieval Jerusalem, but Jews returned when that was possible, and Jews have lived in the city since the withdrawal of the Mongols 1260. Jerusalem has had an absolute majority of Jews in its population since 1853, if not earlier. That is, Jews were a majority in what became "east Jerusalem" in 1948. There is no real international law banning Jews from living anywhere in Jerusalem that they want, in a city that the Jews made important for the world and where the Jews have long been a majority. To impose a ban on Jews living in what Arab propaganda calls "east Jerusalem" [as if it were a separate city] is racist and apartheid.

Jesterhead45 said...

Bataween (comment 5)

I very much disagree with that view, as turkey's pm said in the past "islam is islam" and one does not need to be saudi, pakistani or even iranian backed to believe in bringing about the islamic vision for the world, since it is an idea that even Minos share to a certain extent (who even if they do not hold such a belief have no theological leg to stand on in countering them) unless one becomes a Mutad / apostate.

Being a Jew whose family comes from that part of the world, I admit to being somewhat attached to that culture (food, music, etc) though that is only because Jews were there before islam and not because of any affection towards the oppressive system that thought up the pact of umar, dhimmitude and other humiliations.

Anyway going back on topic, why are Tunisian Jews (along with the remaining Jews in Islamic lands) so emotionally invested in staying a country that will never accept them and continue to mistreat them or be used as token potemkin props to enhance the new regimes anti-racist credentials?

If it’s about how they would be perceived by the Arabs should they decide to quietly pack up and leave, than they needn’t worry because it’s a given that most Arabs probably already hold such opinions of local Jews anyway.

bataween said...

Let me rephrase that. The problem is NOT SO MUCH Islam as Islamism.
The Tukish PM is to my mind an Islamic fundamentalist who would like to see sharia law imposed, given half a chance. He is also an imperialist, wishing to recreate the Ottoman empire to some extent.
Clearly not all Muslims are the same and it is dangerous to generalise about them. There are Muslim sects that other Muslims consider heretical - the Turkish Alevi and the Indian Ismailis and Ahmadis, for instance. Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia are oppressed by the ruling Sunnis. Not all Arabs are practising Muslims, our language often does not allow for secular Arabs to exist.

To my mind, the clear and present danger in Tunisia comes from the rise of Islamism.

As for your question - why do Tunisian Jews stay in Tunisia? - it seems incomprehensible to us looking in from outside. But the Jews felt secure under Ben Ali and made a lot of money from tourism. Security and prosperity kept them there. But if both these factors deteriorate or become absent the Jews will have no choice but to pack up and leave.

Jesterhead45 said...


I am aware of the different islamic sects (one can even include truly peaceful religions like Baha’ism and Sikhism to an extent) that are divisions based on ethnic, religious, ideological lines or cults of personality, so even if one were to convert that there would be no guarantee that it’s the right brand of islam.

While I agree that one should not generalise and everyone is an individual, it would also be dishonest to say that particular Islamic memes / goals are not islam and just as there are individuals, so there are also many ways towards a goal like skinning a cat or bringing about a Global Caliphate.

In that respect, that there are many divisions within islam that does not dismiss the fact that the basic ideas for an islamic utopia are more or the less the same regardless of whether it’s a Sunni or Shia dominated hegemony or an Arab, Ottoman, Malay, Pakistani or Persian dominated caliphate, it matters little if the ideas are the same and thus still offensive to any decent human being.

A few years ago, people used hold up countries like Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia as examples of Islamic tolerance; today those sacred cows have already long since been turned into leather sofas and burgers, before that, Jewish leaders would talk about how wonderful the so-called “golden-age” of islam was for the Jews and other non-muslims (with some Self-Denying types longing to relive that mythical “golden age”), trotting out Maimonides as an example, but not mentioning that Maimonides was also forcibly converted to islam and that in Iggeret Teman he pretty much condemned islam, not Islamism.

Let’s just agree to disagree here, I am not condemning individuals who are muslims but I am condemning the meme of islam, that as shown in past posts here about Jews and other non-muslims in Islamic lands, has inspired otherwise good / civil muslims to violently turn against non-muslim minorities on a mere whim.

If I was living with a large population that could turn on me at any moment, I would not have anything positive to say about the system the population believe in, the only reason I do not also bring up the Christian west is because that its history is something that is already well-known compared to the Islamic world which until recently was only a historical footnote filled with myths like the fictional golden-age.

bataween said...

I like your sacred cows turned into sofas and burgers!
I agree that there is a problem with Islam as long as it wants to break out of the private sphere. Turkey was once hailed as a model because it seemed to have achieved the separation between mosque and state. No longer under Erdogan - the old memes are creeping back again.
Of course there is a strong case to be made for an Islamic reformation. This would marginalise extremism and get rid of the more barbaric aspects. In the absence of such reform fundamentalism takes over. Maimonides suffered under the Almohades the very worst of Islamic fundamentalism. No wonder he had a dim view of Islam in Iggeret Teiman.

Jesterhead45 said...

Strange, my comment disappeared.


Thanks, I felt that such sacred cows should serve a more useful purpose.

Regarding the reformation of islam, if one were to define reformation as a return to the original teachings (using Protestantism as an example) than one can easily argue that islamic Fundamentalism IS the Reformation, I personally think that the term reformation should be replaced with Secularisation if when defining reformation one immediately envisions the Islamic equivalent of Reform Judaism or Jinos, that despite being culturally Jewish have essentially replaced Judaism with Liberalism / Secularism and imagine Torah being summed up as simply Social Justice.

If it’s the latter, than the uncomfortable question is how does one go about bringing the Secularisation of islam? As I said before, Minos have no theological leg to stand on unlike the Protestants and Ataturk’s methods (even going as far as to have Turkish written in Latin script) in separating mosque and state have proven to be temporary to the point that it required the occasional military coup or two and did not stop certain Islamic-inspired Turkish Supremacist memes (Greek / Armenian / Assyrian Genocide and the invasion of Cyprus).

Until people are prepared / unafraid to broach / realistically answer such uncomfortable questions (given the western / global economy and political will), any hope for the Secularisation of islam and avoiding more bloodshed will remain wishful thinking.

bataween said...

Reformation can't mean reverting to the original teachings since Islam never departed from them.
It would mean revising or abandoning certain practices - like stoning adulterous women or killing apostates, just as Judaism has abandoned stoning and animal sacrifice.
'Secularisation' in the sense that Islamic sharia law must defer to secular state law guaranteeing equal rights for women and minorities.

Jesterhead45 said...


Since such koranic practices are considered the immutable word of god, using history as a guide the only way such practices could be revised / discarded is if islam suffered a calamitous event similar to how militant Shintoism was defeated, which would effectively make the hypothetical reformed / secularised “exilic post-Islam” or “Hanifism” little different to similar heretical post-islamic belief systems (Baha’ism, etc).

Fwiw, even though in a hadith it apparently says that islam will fade away from the earth. The closest that islam came to being defeated was during the Mongol invasions (Spain, Sicily and Greece are considered setbacks rather than defeats), who were a Crusader-Mongol alliance short of defeating islam (apparently the Mongols initially believed in Nestorian Christianity along with Tengrism due to Sassanid Persian exiles).

The problem with using Judaism as example, is that the changes came about in the aftermath of the destruction of the 2nd Temple along with the exile of Jews from Israel (except for a few) and while practices like stoning have long since been abandoned, from what I understand practises such as animal sacrifice are merely suspended for practical reasons rather than abandoned altogether.

Also the only form of government that ever forced islam to defer to secular state law was effectively a military dictatorship (turkey) that forced muslims to adopt secularism at the barrel of a gun and look what happened there, while it did keep islam in check for a period of time it was not able to totally westernise / secularise turkish culture.

However, I cannot see how one can bring about an exilic post-Islam, since much of the governments in the west (whether due to financial woes or ideological kinship) are pretty much in bed with the muslim brotherhood and see Islamic fundamentalism as an unstoppable force worth allying with, so even the most extreme proposals in fashioning an exilic post-Islam are unlikely to come about.

Sylvia said...

I don't think one can speak of "an" Islam true for all times all Islamic countries and all political systems.
First, there are four sunni schools of jurisprudence some already containing seeds for reform - or adaptation -such as the one practiced in Tunisia for example, which is the Maliki, as well as in Morocco and Mauritania (and also the UAE and Algeria). These countries have a potential for the most tolerant and the least tolerant forms of Islam, and they have used both versions when it served their interests. Which they are going to adopt depends on the stability and the legitimacy of the government - whether it has the capacity to control the mosque or not.
For Tunisia, it is a guess.
A military or secular or lay government necessarily leaves a vacuum where the religious forces are going to fight each other - and the government, for dominance. In turn, that government is left no choice but impose harsh laws to keep its regime secure (Ben Ali, Mubarak are good examples).
On the other hand, countries where the leaders are also heads of the mosques as in Morocco - or allies of the heads of the mosque like in Saudi Arabia have a chance to survive.
So far, I think Morocco has a good chance of implementing reforms and curbing harsh fundamentalism first because its school permits it if it is in the country's interest, second because there is no religious vacuum the King being the Amir of the religion in that country, and three because he has legitimacy as such.
In Tunisia, it will be tougher. The Islamists exiled by Ben Ali are already back and kicking. There is not only a political but also a religious vacuum. Only a tough military rule can save the country.
This is a small example how things are nuanced, and this is by no means all of it. Sweeping statements do not serve our comprehension of the issues.