Has Tunisian Islamist Party Ennahdha Lost Control of its Troops?

Author: 
W.T.
Language: 
French
Has Tunisian Islamist Party Ennahdha Lost Control of its Troops? (Photo: LeTemps.com.tn)

Summary: Dozens of Tunisian youth brandished anti-Jewish slogans at the Tunis International airport while welcoming Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the government of the Palestinian "Islamist movement" Hamas.

According to this Le Temps article, "Keffiyahs around their necks and Palestinian flags in hand, these young Tunisians let their hate of Jews explode as they chanted with fervor the slogans, 'killing Jews is a duty' and 'expelling the Jews is a duty.'" Some of these youth were also holding Ennahdha flags; Ennahdha is the Tunisian Islamist party who won a little less than fifty percent of votes in the recent elections.

Officials of Ennahdha, the Tunisian Islamist party, were present at the welcoming celebration, including Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Ennadha's president Rached Ghannouchi.

The Le Temps article asserts that the calls for the murder of "Jews" was all the more "stupefying" as the "amalgam between Jews and extremist Israelis was obvious [manifeste]."

Gilles-Jacob Lellouche, a former Jewish candidate for the Constituent Assembly and the founder of Jewish-Tunisian Cultural Association "Dar Edhekira," said that he was "sickened" [écoeuré] by the conflation of Jews and extremist Israelis. He added that he was most hurt by the "deafening silence of the public class regarding this racist undercurrent [dérive]."

Lellouche, along with University Law professor and jurist Hamadi Redissi, called for Ennahdha to, in Redissi's words, "denounce its own troops." Redissi noted, "The banners bearing the emblem of the Ennadha party, [seen] waving at the Tunis Carthage airport, leave no doubt as to the identity of the authors of these anti-semite slogans."

Mathieu Guidère, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toulouse and specialist of radical movements, added that "the elite of Ennahdha, [those] more enlightened, have difficulty controlling their popular base and the more radical wings that demand more rigorism." Guidère compared Ennahdha's current situation to that of the 1980s and 1990s, when more radical parts of its movement espoused violence in an attempt to instate Islamic law.

The Ennahdha party responded to the incident with a statement from Ajmi Lourimi, which is included at the end of the Le Temps article. Lourimi asserts that the "anti-Jewish slogans chanted" at the airport "constitute an isolated incident" that do not represent "the positions of the Ennahdha party or of the Tunisian government." The statement also emphasizes that "the people who welcomed Islamil Haniyeh were not exclusively Ennahdha militants. And, for such an event, we cannot forbid people with other ideas or ideologies from attending side by side with our militants." Lourimi then continues, "Ennahdha, which believes in cohabitation between different religions and respects the freedom of religion, denounces these anti-Jewish slogans, emanating from a minority that represents nothing within Tunisian society." Lourimi also denied claims that Ennahdha has lost control of its base: "Contrary to what certain intellectuals think, Ennahdha is in full control of its base, though it must be remembered that levels of political consciousness are not identical among militants and sympathizers of the same party."

The Le Temps article criticizes Lourimi's attempt to minimize the incident, citing "Tunisian secularists," in particular Néziha Rejiba of the center-left Congress for the Republic, who allegedly believe that "the anti-semitic temptation risks becoming a strong trend within Tunisian society if it is banalized."

Hamas's Haniyeh was in Tunis for a five-day visit, at the invitation of the new Tunisian authorities.

Original Language Text: 

Des  dizaines de jeunes ont scandé des slogans anti-juifs lors de l’accueil du Chef du gouvernement du mouvement islamiste palestinien Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, jeudi à l’aéroport international de Tunis Carthage.

 Keffiehs autour du cou et drapeaux palestiniens à la main, ces jeunes  ont laissé éclater leur haine des Juifs en scandant avec ferveur les slogans  «Tuer les juifs est un devoir», «virer les juifs est un devoir».  Ils faisaient partie des quelque 2000  personnes qui ont accueilli le secrétaire général du mouvement Hamas, lequel effectue une visite de cinq jours en Tunisie, à l'invitation des nouvelles autorités tunisiennes.

En présence de  plusieurs responsables islamistes tunisiens, dont le Premier ministre Hamadi Jebali et le  leader du parti Ennahdha, Rached Ghannouchi, ces jeunes, dont certains agitaient des drapeaux  portant l’emblème du parti islamiste Ennahdha, ont également promis la libération de  la Palestine en scandant «avec notre âme et notre sang nous libérerons la Palestine». La scène appelant au meurtre des juifs, qui a aussitôt été publiée et propagée sur Internet, est d’autant plus ahurissante que  les manifestants ayant  voulu  exprimer leur désaccord avec la politique du gouvernement de droite d’Israël semblent s’être trompés de cible. L’amalgame entre Juifs et Israéliens extrémistes était manifeste.

Les slogans anti-juifs proférés  par ces jeunes islamistes zélés  n’ont pas  manqué de susciter l’ire de la communauté juive et des milieux laïcs  tunisiens. «Je suis écœuré par cet amalgame entre les juifs tunisiens et les israéliens extrémistes. C’est comme si on confond notre propre maison avec la maison des voisins qui se trouve à des milliers de kilomètres», s’offusque Gilles-Jacob Lellouche, membre de la communauté juive tunisienne et fondateur de l’association  culturelle « Dar Edhekra »  (Maison de la mémoire), qui œuvre pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine judéo- tunisien. Et d’ajouter : «Ce qui me fait le plus mal, c’est le silence assourdissant de la classe publique sur cette dérive raciste ».

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[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]