Israel fears for Tunisian Jews

Feb. 14, 2013 at 6:12 AM
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JERUSALEM, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Israel has asked the international community to press the Tunisian government to protect members of the Jewish community, Israeli officials said.

The move comes amid growing animosity toward Israel and a increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, allegedly initiated by religious officials in Tunisia against the 2,000-person Jewish community living there, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli embassies in the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy to ask the foreign ministries in the countries to pressure the Tunisian government to safeguard the heritage and property of Jews in the country.

Israel reportedly hopes EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will personally raise the issue with the Tunisian government.

In the past month, about 80 Jewish graves were desecrated in Kef and Sousse, the report said. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali condemned the attacks and said security forces are operating to prevent vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, the newspaper said.

The report said that last November, during Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's visit to the country, there were public cries of "Kill the Jews." A number of synagogues have been set on fire and anti-Israel protests have been staged outside the central synagogue in Tunis. Israeli flags were placed outside toilets in the airport for people to wipe their feet on, the report said.

Roland Sa'adon, the cantor of a synagogue in the Tunis suburb of La Goulette, told the German publication Deutsche Welle that since the revolution in 2011, the future of the Jewish community is at risk.

"The Islamists have taken over the revolution, a revolution that was led by young people," he said.

He warned if Tunisians choose the more extremist Muslims to rule the country, "then there will be no place for us in Tunisia."

In January 2011, Tunisians overthrew their long-ruling President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring revolutions in the region.

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