Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed disputed allegations that he had accused Jews of being responsible for unrest in the country, in a video posted to his Facebook page.
While discussing the political situation with Tunisian citizens, Saïed seemed to have referred to “the Jews who are stealing,” during conversations with residents of Mnihla, a suburb of the capital Tunis, over protests concerning the economic situation in the country.
Saied “did not name any religion, no sane person would have justifiably conceived otherwise,” his office wrote following reports in the Israeli media that the president had singled out Jews and posted a video of himself doing so on Facebook.
During one discussion in a video uploaded to the Facebook page of the Presidency of Tunisia, Saied is heard denouncing in Arabic the protests, which he said were the work of divisive forces. Then he added a phrase that sounded like “the Jews,” or “al yahood.”
But Falso, a fact-checking platform in Tunisia that has been critical of the government, used slow-motion and speed-up techniques to discover that Saied actually said “hal yahoon,” a rhetoric question that means “Is that acceptable?!”
Tunisia, the only Arab state that peacefully transitioned to democracy after the “Arab Spring,” recently marked 10 years since the revolution, with protests breaking out and demonstrators chanting “the people want the fall of the regime,” as they did in 2011.
The country has experienced deteriorating public services along with worsening economic and social problems in the past year. The lack of tourism due to coronavirus led the economy to drop over 20% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019.
Saïed, a political newcomer who was elected president in 2019, said in a pre-election debate that ties with Israel constitute “high treason.” He also said Tunisia is at war with Israel and that Jews without “dealings with Zionists” or Israeli passports may visit synagogues in Tunisia.