Tunisian president rails against ‘Jewish thieves’

Tunisian President Kais Saied caught in video posted to social media blaming the country’s financial woes on “Jewish thieves.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Tunisian president came under fire Wednesday after a video posted to social media showed him accusing “Jewish thieves” of deepening social tensions in his country, the Jewish news website Juif.org reported.

President Kais Saied recently met with residents of the impoverished Al-Tadamon neighborhood of the capital city Tunis, discussing the current economic challenges facing the country that have sparked a movement of renewed protest.

While meeting with residents out in the streets, Saied was filmed as he blamed Tunisia’s misfortunes on “Jewish thieves.”

A recording of the visit to Al-Tadamon, including the president’s comments, was uploaded to his Facebook account and the clip of his comments on the Jews was circulated on Twitter.

Saied’s comments were condemned by the Conference of European Rabbis, which warned that Tunisian Jews could be targeted as a result of Saied’s verbal attacks.

“The Conference of European Rabbis wishes to express its deep concern over the serious and public remarks made this morning by Tunisian President Kais Saied, accusing the Jews of being responsible for the instability in the country,” the organization said in a statement, urging him “to withdraw his remarks, which pose an immediate threat to the physical and moral integrity of Tunisian Jewish citizens.”

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldshmidt, president of the CER, tweeted later Wednesday that Saied had indeed taken the comments back.

“The President of Tunisia a few minutes ago called up the chief rabbi of Djerba, Rabbi Haim Bitan, and apologized for his diatribe against the Jews, faulting them for the unrest in the country,” Goldshmidt tweeted.

Earlier, Goldshmidt said the CER considers the Tunisian government “to be the guarantor of the security of Tunisian Jews. Such allegations threaten the integrity of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities.”

Jews have lived in Tunisia for at least 2,000 years, with the Jewish population hitting about 100,000 around the time of the Second World War. Rampant anti-Semitism after the war led to most of the Jews leaving to Israel and France, with only about 1,500 remaining today.

Tunisia also hosted the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main Palestinian terror group, that fled to Tunis in 1982 following the Israel invasion of Lebanon, with the PLO remaining there until it recognized Israel and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.