BERLIN (JTA) — Jews in Tunisia are embracing the recent revolution there and do not fear a turn toward Islamism, according to a German Jewish weekly.
Jewish leaders believe Tunisia’s tourism industry and the participation of women in the recent uprising will help guarantee that Islamists will not gain the upper hand there, the Juedische Allgemeine reported.
Georges Tibi, director of the Jewish community, noted that the legally sanctioned Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the uprising renounced violence and insured it would respect human rights and democracy.
Several people died in major confrontations with police on Feb. 25. Interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi later resigned.
Still, there have been reports of anti-Semitic arson attacks in recent weeks. Vandals destroyed an entry gate, guard house and Torah scroll at the grave of kabbalist Rabbi Yosef Ma’aravi, a seldom-visited site in central Tunisia, the German report said.
But the burning of a large synagogue was part of a larger case of arson, Roger Bismuth, the president of the Jewish community in Tunisia, told the Juedische Allgemeine. He said that "other buildings in the area were attacked. The attack was not aimed at the Jewish community, and we are not currently experiencing specific hostilities that would cause concern."
Tibi said that a group of Salafists did try to enter a synagogue "screaming anti-Jewish slogans" but noted that "the army arrived quickly and was on our side." He said the media and public response also was solidly supportive of the Jewish community.
A blogger, Ftouh Souhail, has criticized these reactions as typical of the "dhimmi" attitude of being protected and submissive.
Tunisia’s Jewish community, with about 1,600 members, suffered under the previous repressive regime but also was protected from threats by Islamic extremists, the German weekly said.
Tibi said that he believed Islamists would not gain the upper hand because "women of all backgrounds took part in demonstrations, fighting for their rights with strength and courage." They remain vigilant, he said.
Both Tibi and Bismuth told the Allgemeine that ultimately, "tourism is much more important than all the excitement over Islamists." They said it was important for Tunisia’s economic stability that tourists start coming back.