Tunisia lawmakers mull law to criminalise Israel normalisation
November 2, 2023 06:22 PM
Tunisia's parliament on Thursday began debating a bill that would criminalise any normalisation of ties with Israel as fighting rages between Israeli forces and Gaza's Hamas rulers.
The draft bill defines "normalisation" as "recognition of the Zionist entity or the establishment of direct or indirect ties" with it, a crime which would be classed as "high treason".
Anyone found guilty of "the crime of normalisation" would face a penalty of between six to 10 years of prison and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 Tunisian dinars (3,000 to 30,000 euros), the text says. Any repeat offenders would be jailed for life.
"There is total agreement between the president, the parliament and public opinion" on this matter, parliamentary speaker Brahim Bouderbala told lawmakers at the start of the session.
"We strongly believe Palestine must be liberated from the river to the sea.. and that a Palestinian state must be established with Holy Jerusalem as its capital," he said.
The legislation was drawn up and approved in late October by a group of lawmakers who back President Kais Saied, who altered the constitution to bring in an ultra-presidential regime following a 2021 coup.
It would also proscribe any interaction between Tunisians and Israelis, including "events, demonstrations, meetings, exhibitions and competitions" in any context, be it "political, economic, scientific, cultural, artistic or sporting" in territory held or occupied by Israel.
Over the past month, thousands of Tunisians have hit the streets in support of Palestinians in Gaza which Israel has been pounding since the October 7 Hamas attack when militants killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, Israeli officials say.
Since then, more than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says, two-thirds of them women and children.
Tunisia's current parliament, which was elected at the end of 2022, counts 160 deputies.
The country has a Jewish community numbering about a thousand people, most of whom live on the southern island of Djerba.
Thousands attend an annual pilgrimage to the El Ghriba synagogue on the island every May.