TUNIS, Tunisia — The head of Tunisia’s moderate Islamic party condemned anti-Semitic slogans chanted Monday by a handful of ultraconservative Muslims during the arrival of a top Hamas official that have alarmed the local Jewish community.
It was the latest action by a small group of ultraconservative Muslims over the past few months to have embarrassed the government in what was once one of the more secular countries in the Arab world.
Rachid Ghannouchi reiterated the policy of his Ennahda party, which heads the country’s new government, that Tunisia’s Jews are “full citizens with equal rights and duties.”
“Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam’s spirit or teachings, and considers those who raised them as a marginal group,” Ghannouchi said in a statement.
Videos circulated online showed crowd members greeting Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Gaza government, at the airport in Tunis on Thursday chanting “Kill the Jews” and “Crush the Jews.” The chants came from Salafists, ultraconservative Muslims who have been making their presence felt in Tunisia recently.
We praise the President of Tunisia, the Prime Minister and the Ennahda party leader for coming to the defense of Tunisia's Jewish citizens, and for understanding that Jews are not synonymous with Zionism and the Israeli government.
Aside from the 100,000 Jews who once lived in Tunisia, about one million Jews once lived in all the Arabic-speaking countries: Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine Yemen, Iraq and others. For centuries they lived side by side in peace with their Muslim neighbors. That long history of coexistence is proof that Islam does not preach intolerance or hatred of the Jews. Only the rise of Zionism unfortunately caused anti-Semitism to sprout in the Middle East. Had the distinction between Jews and Zionism been made more clear in the early years after the declaration of the State of Israel, perhaps those million Jews and their descendants would still be living in their ancestral homes, living proof that the Zionists' claim that Arabs pose a threat to Jews is a lie.
To the extremist militant Muslims who chant anti-Semitic slogans, we say: You are only giving credence to the Zionist ideology. Anti-Semitism is the lifeblood and the oxygen of the Zionist ideology. Furthermore, you are strengthening the Zionist position among Jews and in the world. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, stated a hundred years ago that anti-Semites would be the Zionists' best friends:
The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies." (The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl. Vol. 1, edited by Raphael Patai, translated by Harry Zohn, page 83-84)
Herzl was saying that anti-Semites further the cause of Zionism by allowing the Zionists to say to the Jewish people, "Look, you are in danger among the gentiles. Come and live only in the State of Israel!" Thus provocative anti-Semitic slogans are exactly what Herzl, and his ideological heirs today, always hoped for.
We applaud the call of President Marzouki for all Jews who fled Tunisia in the past to return. This will certainly take the air out of Zionist claims that Jews have nowhere to live but their state.