Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed accused Jews of being behind instability in the country, in a video which was posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.
While discussing the political situation with Tunisian citizens, Saïed referred to “the Jews who are stealing.”
The edited, three-minute clip features Saïed meeting with members of the public on the street in a poor neighborhood, according to the video’s caption.
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 North African 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.
Political instability has exacerbated the problems, with tensions rooted in disputes over the division of powers between the president and Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, and a bitterly fragmented parliament unable to produce a stable government.
The Conference of European Rabbis expressed “deep concern” following Saïed’s remarks about Jews "stealing."
“We consider that the Tunisian government is the guarantor of the security of Tunisian Jews,” CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said. “Such allegations threaten the integrity of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.”
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.
The president added that Jews who don't have "dealings with Zionists" or Israeli passports may visit synagogues in Tunisia. Hundreds of Israelis of Tunisian origin visit the Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba, home to one of the world's oldest Jewish communities, on Lag Baomer each year.