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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Reuters' abridged history of Jews in Tunisia leaves out a lot

Reuters has an article about the upcoming annual Lag B'Omer pilgrimage of Jews to Djerba, Tunisia. The article says as background:
Tunisia’s Jewish community once numbered 100,000 people. But fear, poverty and discrimination prompted several waves of emigration after the creation of Israel in 1948. Many left after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Most went to France or Israel.
Is that an accurate description? Here is how it is described elsewhere:
After Tunisia gained independence in 1956, a series of anti-Jewish government decrees were promulgated. In 1958, Tunisia's Jewish Community Council was abolished by the government and ancient synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish quarters were destroyed for “urban renewal.”

The increasingly unstable situation caused more than 40,000 Tunisian Jews to immigrate to Israel. By 1967, the country's Jewish population had shrunk to 20,000.

During the Six-Day War, Jews were attacked by rioting Arab mobs, and synagogues and shops were burned. The government denounced the violence, and President Habib Bourguiba apologized to the Chief Rabbi. The government appealed to the Jewish population to stay, but did not bar them from leaving. Subsequently, 7,000 Jews immigrated to France.
Since 1948, 99% of Tunisia's Jews emigrated. Such a mass emigration does not come about because of vague fears or because of poverty - it comes from very specific threats to the entire community. And characterizing mob attacks on Jews and burning of synagogues "discrimination" is absurd.

While the Tunisian government has been keen on protecting its remaining Jews over the past couple of decades, it is irresponsible for Reuters to downplay the very real reasons Jews were forced to flee.