On May 1st a report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the heading “At Ease” and with the by-line “Tunisia’s tiny Jewish community unruffled by troubled past”.
The link leads to a piece entitled “Tunisia’s last Jews at ease despite troubled past” by BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Maher who appears to have recently visited Djerba at the time of the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage.
The article’s overall tone suggests that today, in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, everything is sweetness and light for the few remaining Jews in Tunisia and that media reports of tension are exaggerated. Maher writes:
“Several media reports spoke about YouTube videos that showed radical Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews. Despite searching extensively, I did not find any of them.
The only one I came across was of Tunisian Islamists vowing support to the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. Security has been a big issue at the Ghriba synagogue since a militants linked to al-Qaeda attacked it with a truck bomb, killing 21 people.”
So let’s help Mr Maher out a bit.
Here is the welcome for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Tunis airport in January 2012. The sentiments are pretty clear:
“Killing the Jews is a duty.
Sweeping the Jews away is a duty.
Driving out the Jews is a duty.
Crushing the Jews is a duty.”
Here is footage of a demonstration outside the Grand Synagogue in Tunis on February 11th 2011 with chants of “Wait, wait Jews. The army of Mohammed is returning.”
This footage, filmed on the Avenue Habib Bourgiba in Tunis, is also from 2012:
This is footage of a rally held in February 2012 on the occasion of a visit to Tunisia by the Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghoneim. Cries of “Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud” can clearly be heard.
Here is a report about some Tunisian Jews – apparently not very much “at ease” – protesting some of the above incidents.
Once again, the BBC’s refusal to report accurately on issues relating to Jews in Arab countries past and present both compromises its impartiality and prevents BBC audiences from forming realistic, fact-based opinions. Maher’s whitewashing of Islamist extremism in Tunisia is all the more egregious given that his colleague Magdi Abdelhadi produced a refreshingly candid report on the subject only last October.
Finally, perhaps someone at the BBC Online Middle East desk could correct the rather obvious mistake in this passage from Maher’s report:
“Tunisian Jews consider the synagogue the most sacred Jewish place of worship in Africa. According to tradition, the first synagogue on the site was built with a stone or gate brought from King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed in 586.”
That should, of course, be 586 BCE.
Related articles: Bataween at the ‘Point Of No Return’ blog writes about the same report by Ahmed Maher.