The top leader of Tunisia’s governing Islamist party on Tuesday condemned anti-Semitic slogans heard in a crowd that welcomed Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, last week.
Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda party that won the most seats in Tunisia’s landmark post-revolution polls in October, issued a statement a day after Haniya’s visit ended.
“Ennahda condemns these slogans which contradict the spirit of Islam and considers that they were uttered by a fringe group aiming to undermine Ennahda’s activities and tarnish its image,” the statement said.
Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip but maintains a crippling blockade and Haniya, whose Islamist Hamas has a similar ideological background to Ennahda’s, was given a warm welcome when he arrived in Tunis on January 5.
Among the crowd of around 2,000 gathered at the airport, some were chanting slogans like: “Kill the Jews, it is our duty”.
Haniya fired up the crowd with anti-Israeli rhetoric but then told AFP he was not against Jews in general, only “those who occupy the land of Palestine”.
Jewish leaders in Tunisia expressed shock at the slogans and urged the government to ensure such incidents are not repeated.
Tunisia is home to a Jewish minority of about 1,500 and Ennahda, whose rise to power following the downfall a year ago of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali unnerved Western powers, has been keen to reassure the community.
“For centuries, Jewish citizens have lived in peace in their country Tunisia, with the same rights and duties as their fellow countrymen,” Ghannouchi said in the statement.
The Islamist leader accused “lobbies in Europe of trying to sully Tunisia’s image and the revolution’s achievements”.