Are Tunisian Jews blinded by nostalgia?

An article by Albert Bellaiche (French) in Guysen Israel News hails the Tunisian head of state Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as a symbol of relative moderation and hope. At a recent international conference on human civilisation and cultures, Ben Ali had said that the image of Arabs and Muslims should not be judged by the behaviour of extremists. “Relations between individuals, communities and peoples must be healthy. There are no superior and no inferior civilisations, any more than there are fertile and sterile cultures.”

But the article attracted some fierce comment from Guysen readers:

Guez said that he had lived in Tunisia until the age of 15. ” We (along with the Italians and the Maltese) were made to leave, not by force of course, but by what I would call a certain Arab-Muslim pressure (antisemitic insults, false accusations, intimidation). When they tell me Tunisia is a friendly country I say that ‘s all over with. The Tunisian street has remained deeply anti-Western and anti-Jewish since 1967. Nobody asked us to stay on.” Denis seconded Guez, calling Bellaiche’s nostalgia ‘unbearable.’

Patrick Djebali said that he too had had to leave Tunisia two weeks before his Barmitzvah, but attitudes had changed and he had found a warm welcome in Tunisia, where the Tunisians are basically peaceful, and Ben Ali’s pronouncements are to be encouraged.

Guez replied that Jews visiting Tunisia are always taken for foreigners, even if they speak Arabic. Georges said that Patrick‘s nostalgia was a form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’. Andre thought Ben Ali’s speech was a cynical exercise to boost tourist numbers to Tunisia.

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