The comments made by Tunisian President Kais Saied, in which he claimed that a “Zionist movement” was behind the naming of a storm that battered the Libyan coast in February, have sparked outrage among many in the country. The storm was named “Lea”, which is a biblical name attributed to the Israelite prophetess and prophet-judge. Saied’s claim, which was made during a speech on Tunisian TV on Monday, has been criticized as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
The Tunisian government sought to distance itself from the remarks and affirmed its commitment to protect the Jewish community in the country. The Tunisian Jewish community, which numbers around 1,500, condemned the comments and called for an apology.
Israel likewise expressed its anger, with its foreign ministry accusing Saied of “not only trying to spread lies, but also trying to spread dangerous hatred and violence against the Jews.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saied’s remarks were “shocking and completely unacceptable,” adding that “Israel will work to ensure that the truth is exposed throughout the world.”
The incident has raised concerns about rising anti-Semitism in the region, with some accusing Saied of exploiting tensions between Israel and its neighbors for political gain. It also follows a wave of anti-Israeli sentiment in the wake of recent normalization deals between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The comments have also prompted heated debates among Tunisian social media users who are divided over the accusations.