Since the 25th of February, when it was announced Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had been invited to Tunisia, people across the country have taken steps to halt his visit. Israel and particularly Sharon, due to participate at the âWorld Summit on the Information Societyâ held in Tunis next November, are widely hated in Tunisia for perpetual war crimes and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
The invitation of the Israeli Prime minister came not only as a slap in the face of the Palestinian people, but also, as a show of arrogance towards the feelings of the Tunisian people.
Students were the first to mobilize in universities in Tunis, the al-Managem area, Dev and Sfax, at-Thaqif and Kairuoan. University mobilization was swiftly joined by a large range of legal and banned opposition organizations. Various trade unions, together with Human Rights NGOs, political parties (left wing and Islamic), and social movements, have joined forces to resist the moves made by the Tunisian government to normalize its relations with Israel. These have been frozen since the beginning of the second Intifada.
On Friday 4th of March, a unified demonstration was called for by the opposition, but prohibited by the government and police. Heavy clashes, between demonstrators and police ensued with scores of injuries and arrests reflecting the determination of the people not to allow Sharon in their country. NÃ©jib Chebbi, President of the Democratic Progressive Party, called on the government to cancel the invitation and noted that if it did go ahead: âSharon will be forced to walk on our bodiesâ, reflecting the deep animosity the Tunisian people had towards Israeli apartheid and one of its most prominent war criminals.
Two days after the announcement, a lawyers strike took place, pledging solidarity with Palestinians. Support has also come from the Tunisian diaspora in France, and amongst Palestinian solidarity groups in the country. They greet the activities of ordinary Tunisians as part of the global movement to cut the ties of political and economic cooperation with Israel. Tunisian activists are well aware that Israeli Apartheid can only survive with the help of the international community.
Many consider the move of the Tunisian government as an attempt to appease US pressures. Tunisia has come under heavy, and hypocritical attacks, from the EU and the US regarding the world summit because of the regimeâs restrictions of the freedom of expression. Normalization with Israel forms a typical response amongst countries as a way to avoid political or economic US pressure. Adherence to the âGreater Middle East Projectâ that will guarantee western supremacy over the Arab world and beyond, and thus âbusiness as usualâ with Apartheid Israel, is the price Arab governments have to pay to be granted support by the US. Tunisian people feel that resistance to the Zionist project of expulsion and occupation of Palestine, is solidarity as much as the defence of their own right of self-determination.
The future of this spontaneous and new born alliance to stop Sharonâs visit, and any normalization with the Israeli Apartheid state, is still being defined. It is important, however, that Israeli and international attempts to come to a new âpeace processâ based on the acceptance and normalization of the Apartheid Wall, the ongoing Israeli occupation, colonization, ethnic cleansing and destruction of land and lives in Palestine are countered by the Palestinian people and those who fight for freedom and justice, with more determination than ever.