Tunisia to designate two Parliament seats for Jews

(JTA) — Two members of the new Tunisian Parliament scheduled to be elected next spring may be from the country’s small Jewish minority.

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Members of the National Constituent Assembly’s Committee on Legislative and Executive Power and the National Council on Tunisia’s Jewish Citizens favor a proposal to designate two seats in the Parliament to Jewish members, according to Tunisian news site Al Jarida.

“Tunisian Jews are Tunisian citizens like any others, and deserve a decent representation [in the Parliament],” Mehrezia Labidi, a Constituent Assembly member from the governing Ennahda Islamist Party and the vice-chair of the National Council on Tunisia’s Jewish Citizens, told the Al Jarida news site.

However, Roger Bismuth, president of the Tunisian Jewish community, did not welcome the news. “This is just one of many of their stupid ideas, those members won’t be able to do anything significant,” he told JTA.

Speaking to the Al Jarida news site, Rabbi Betto Hattab of the Le Grande Synagogue, and the director of the Pinson Jewish School, was more diplomatic than Bismuth. “After the revolution, many members of the Jewish community left Tunisia fearing the security situation. This proposal would restore a positive image of the country in the international media for both Jews and tourists,” Hattab said.

Tunisia elected an interim Constituent Assembly in October 2011 to draft a new constitution and appoint an interim government after large demonstrations in the country led to the departure of former Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abddine Ben Ali in January 2011.

The country’s Jewish community, which numbered over 100,000 before independence in 1956, now stands at less than 2,000, mostly concentrated on the southern island of Djerba.

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