Jewish leader Perez Trabelsi outside the entrance to the Al-Ghriba synagogue, focus of the Lag-Ba' Omer pilgrimage on 16 - 18 May
Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa is trying to defuse the 'false debate' over whether tourists carrying Israeli passports should be admitted to the country for the annual Djerba pilgrimage, which takes place on 16 - 18 May, AFP reports. (But only 100 - 300 Israeli pilgrims are expected, according to Djerba community leader, Perez Trabelsi.)
Two of his ministers are being targeted by motions of censure, to be discussed by the Constituent Assembly (ANC ) before 9 May.
"Tunisia has principles. We do not want relations with a racist state (...) ," said one of the signatories , Issam Chebbi , a member of Al
Joumhouri centrist party.Petitions
against the Minister of Tourism Amel Karboul and Minister for Security
at the Ministry of the Interior, Ridha Sfar , accusing the latter of
allowing Israeli tourists to enter Tunisia and Mrs. Karboul to have
welcomed them in. These statements have not been confirmed by the relevant ministries.Ms. Karboul has faced harsh criticism since her appointment some three months ago for having visited Israel for, she
says, a business trip.
In Tunisia, as in many Arab countries, the issue of relations with Israel is sensitive. In the name of solidarity with the Palestinian people and in line with
the Arab League, many people reject any action likely to establish
"normal" relations with Israel while the Palestinians have no state.
The government said its ministers would submit to questions from
elected officials, but also called for Israel to avoid controversy with
the approach of the Jewish pilgrimage to Ghriba (16-18 May) , the name
of the oldest synagogue Africa located in Djerba.
" In the opinion of tourism professionals, for the tourist season to be
successful, the pilgrimage to the Ghriba should also be successful," he has
argued, as the country faces serious economic difficulties.
" Normalisation or not, put aside the grandstanding
please," shouted Mr. Jomaa, an unusual reaction from the mouth of an Arab
The sovereignty of Tunisia, its belonging to the Arab nation and solidarity with the
Palestinians are above any other consideration", retorted MP
Iyed Dahmani ( Al Joumhouri ), castigating "people who want
normalization on behalf of the economy. "
If the political class as a whole condemns normalisation, not everyone agrees on its definition.
"The Jews who come to Tunisia for Ghriba are welcome and if they want,
we'll make the pilgrimage with them," said leftwing MP Faycel Jadlaoui on
Shems FM radio .
problem is with the citizens with an Israeli passport. Their entry into
Tunisia is a form of normalisation". Accepting their passport is tantamount
to recognising Israel, he said, noting that Israel bombed in 1985 the Tunisian town of Hammam- Chott , which was the headquarters of the
Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO), killing 68 people.
The independent MP Tahar Hmila has urged not to confuse a state with its citizens.
" We do not recognise Israel. (But) people who live in Israel are they
Zionist criminals or human ? The state is criminal, but are the people
criminal? " he asked.
Read AFP article in full (French)
Pilgrims' passport row threatens tourism