Friday, January 14, 2011

President of Tunisia Leaves in Unprecedented Move

Prime Minister Fills Gap
Nadene Goldfoot

Tunisia is the 23rd largest Muslim country in the world with a population of 10,383,577 of which 98% of the people are Sunni Muslims. It is on the Mediterranean Sea right across from Italy but sitting between the much larger states of Libya and Algeria. Islam is the state religion of this Presidential Republic. The president, 74 year old Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has just issued a state of emergency and dismissed his government. He has taken off for a Gulf country after ruling for 23 years. His people were left angry about the high unemployment and corruption. They had been demonstrating in the capital demanding that he leave.

The Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, 69 or 70 years old, has stepped into the seat of power. The schools have been shut down. The military has closed the Tunisian airspace. As a precaution, 3,800 British, Irish and German vacationers have been evacuated by a tour operator. This country's main income has been from tourism.

WikiLeaks call Tunisia a "police state" with corruption and say that the president had lost touch with his people. Washington's Mike Hammer said the USA is an ally of Tunisia in the war against terror but condemns the violence against the civilians which has been going on.

Evidently President Ben Ali made a speech mentioning the need for respect for basic human rights and much-needed political reform by promising new elections within 6 months. Thursday night he was on TV promising not to run in 2014 and slashed prices on sugar, bread and milk. Even so, the people rose up in protest. This powerful leader has been brought down by massive public outrage.

This was the only Muslim nation that was occupied by the Germans in the 2nd World War. Tunisia gained their independence in 1956 and became very anti-semitic. The state destroyed much Jewish property in their "Urban Renewal Projects." By 1967 20,000 Jews were left there. There has been many anti-semitic attacks throughout the years. The cities of Zarzirs and Ben Guardane saw much of it.

There are 1,300 Jews left there today when in 1948 there was a Jewish population of 105,000.

Al Qaeda's terrorists blew up the oldest synagogue in Africa which was in Tunisia and killed 11 German tourists and 6 Jews that were there.

40,000 Jews had immigrated to Israel in 1967.

There was the possibility that Tunisia's president would take on the role as a bridge for dialogue between Israel and its neighbors, but he broke all diplomatic ties in 2000 during the first intifada. He was going along with his Muslim brothers. Israel never had any diplomatic relations with Tunisia.

1/18/2011: 2:15pm: Sharansky reports that there are 1,500 Jews in Tunisia. They are to be locked inside the Jewish Quarter for their own protection. Some are now interested in making aliyah and leaving Tunisia for Israel.


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