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Ismail Haniya Photo: Reuters
Ismail Haniya Photo: Reuters
 
 

Hamas PM: Israel to face 'difficult days'

Ismail Haniya arrives in Tunis; urges Arab world to assist Palestinian cause as crowd at welcome rally chants 'Death to Israel.' Tunis government said to be embarrassed, denounces anti-Semitic slogans

News agencies
Published: 01.09.12, 16:33 / Israel News

The prime minister in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip promised "difficult days" for Israel on Monday, and at a rally in Tunis urged Arab Spring revolutionaries to fight for an independent Palestine.

 

Ismail Haniya received an ovation from the crowd of some 5,000 people gathered in a stadium waving Palestinian, Tunisian and Hamas flags.

 

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"Israel no longer has allies in Egypt and in Tunisia, we are saying to the Zionist enemies that times have changed and that the time of the Arab Spring, the time of the revolution, of dignity and of pride has arrived," he said to loud cheers.

 

"We promise you that we will not cede a single part of Palestine, we will not cede Jerusalem, we will continue to fight and we will not lay down our arms," he said. He urged "the people of the revolution to fight the army of al-Quds" as Jerusalem is known in Arabic.

 

"To Tunisia we say: 'It is us today who are going to build the new Middle East'." Haniya insisted "We will not recognize Israel," as the crowd chanted: "Death to Israel", "The Tunisian revolution supports Palestine", and "The army of Mohammed is back". Some wiped their feet on the Star of David.

 


Ismail Haniya (Photo: Reuters)

 

Haniya arrived in Tunis on Thursday for a five-day visit at the invitation of the new Islamist-led Tunisian authorities. He has also visited Egypt, Sudan and Turkey and will next travel to Qatar and Bahrain.

 

Haniya's visit does not sit well with representatives of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmud Abbas. "The Palestinians are furious," a Palestinian source said.

 

Jews in Tunisia asked the government to take steps to avoid a repeat of anti-Semitic slogans chanted during the Hamas leader's visit.

 

"No Tunisian should be insulted, and the government must take measures to ensure this incident is never repeated," Peres Trabelsi, a representative of Tunisia's small Jewish population, told AFP after the incident.

 

And the chief rabbi of Tunis, Haim Bittan, said: "Certain members of the community were frightened after this incident, but you have to make a distinction between the situation in the Middle East and here."

 

Islamist activists welcoming Haniya were heard chanting slogans like: "Kill the Jews, it is our duty", along with anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian messages.

 

"There are no Zionists in Tunisia and we don't want to be mixed into the problems of the Middle East," said Trabelsi. "Tunisia is our country."  

 

Tunis Government embarrassed

The head of Tunisia's moderate Islamic party condemned Monday anti-Semitic slogans chanted by a handful of ultraconservative Muslims at the arrival of a top Hamas official.

 

Rachid Ghannouchi also reiterated the policy of his party, which heads the country's new government, that Tunisia's Jews are "full citizens with equal rights and duties."

 

"Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam's spirit or teachings, and considers those who raised them as a marginal group," Ghannouchi said in a statement.

 

Videos circulated online showing members of the crowd greeting Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh at the airport on Thursday chanting "kill the Jews" and "crush the Jews." The chants came from Salafists, ultraconservative Muslims that have been making their presence felt in Tunisia recently.

 

After decades of being oppressed by Tunisia's secular dictators, Ennahda won elections and has been at pains to demonstrate its moderate credentials and belief in universal rights and freedoms.

 

They have been repeatedly embarrassed by ultraconservative Islamic groups that have emerged since Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power last year.

 

Tunisia's new government has been at pains to ease any fears the country's small Jewish community has over the new Islamist-tinged government.

 

The new president, veteran human rights activists, Moncef Marzouki, went so far as to call on Dec. 19 for any Tunisian Jews who had fled the country in the past to return.

 

Tunisia has one of the Arab world's largest Jewish minorities, numbering about 1,500 individuals in a population of more than 10 million.

 

AP and AFP contributed to this report 

 

 

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