Meyer Habib blasted Tunisia for following in the footsteps of Iran.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Two highly placed Jewish politicians, one from France and one from Tunisia, faced off this week over the Arab country’s latest anti-Israel activity, which has led the French parliamentarian to call for a boycott against the North African state.
Meyer Habib, a French Israeli deputy in the National Assembly, was angered about two weeks ago after President Qais Saïd called for an investigation following the participation of a French-Israeli competitor in an international tennis match that took place in his country.
After entering the country on his French passport, 17-year-old Aaron Cohen lost in the quarterfinals at the end of January to a Portuguese opponent after beating a Tunisian and Italian in the first two draws.
Saïd demanded to know who was responsible for allowing Cohen into the country, considering “the principled position of Tunisia rejecting the establishment of relations with Israel, in any form whatsoever.” He also called Israel “an occupying and usurping entity” with whom the Arabs lived “in a state of war.”
In reaction, Habib tweeted, “While #Saudi Arabia, #UAE, #Bahrain or #Morocco choose reconciliation with # Israel, #Tunisia, once a model of living together, sinks into obsessive hatred and follows in the footsteps of # Iran. Sport has not been spared. One must boycott the boycotters!”
Habib, whose family comes from Tunisia, also said, “They don’t have anything better to deal with in a country where terrorism is on the rise, there’s a financial crisis and social protests?! Unless they’re again relating to Israel as the once-upon-a-time Jew – a sacrificial goat. Tunisia is dear to my heart, and my family roots are there. [But] one has to avoid going to a country that made hatred of Israel into political policy.”
Tunisian Minister of Tourism René Trabelsi then published an open letter in French on Tuesday asking that Habib not bow to populism by calling for a boycott, which would only “sustain the foul beast” of anti-Semitism, as he called it.
“The foul beast, which you never stop decrying, is everywhere, Mr. Habib, everywhere where hatred, revenge, collective punishment and demonization are called upon,” he wrote in part. In an effort to calm the waters, he added, “You must know better than I that political positions are only short-term…. The long-term is friendship between our [Jewish and Tunisian] peoples.”
Trabelsi is the first Jewish minister in the Tunisian government since 1957. His appointment in 2018 temporarily brought hundreds of demonstrators to the streets to protest the move because of his supposed “pro-Zionist positions.”
Habib told Israel Hayom on Wednesday that “René is being used as a fig leaf” by the government and that he would continue to call for sanctions against those who boycott Israel in any way, “whether financially, culturally or in sports.”