Anti-Semitic Attacks Increasing in Tunisia

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tunisia's small Jewish community, living on the island of Djerba, faces growing persecution by the country's Muslim majority, a rights group reported recently.

"Tunisian Jews feel in danger, they are really afraid," Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association Supporting Minorities, told reporters following a visit to Djerba, AFP reported.

Like many Jewish minorities in Arab countries, the Tunisian Jewish community plummeted from a population of 100,000 in the mid-1950s to about 1,500 today.

According to the report, there have been several anti-Semitic incidents over the past few weeks, including one in which policemen stormed a holiday gathering, impounding a motorbike and firing tear gas at Jewish celebrants.

Another incident involved a man who calls himself "the new Hitler." He broke into a Jewish day school recently and assaulted an adult in front of the students. After residents filed suit against him for assaulting two young girls, authorities detained him for 24 hours, but ignored his racist underpinnings.

Thabet told reporters Jewish Tunisians are "fed up with being used during visits by politicians as evidence for the peaceful coexistence (between Muslims and Jews)," while the government ignores the rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

Late last year, the judiciary refused to prosecute an imam who called for a "divine genocide" in a televised sermon against Tunisian Jews.

In 2002, al Qaeda-linked Islamists carried out a suicide bombing on Djerba's Ghriba synagogue, the oldest in Africa, killing 21 people. Prior to the attack, an annual three-day pilgrimage to the ancient synagogue drew up to 10,000 people.

Since the 2011 revolution in Tunisia, which fostered a rise in radical Islamist groups, the pilgrimage has taken place under a heavy security presence.

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