On Oct. 18, unknown assailants targeted a Berlin synagogue with Molotov cocktails, while rioters in Tunisia burned down the historic El Hamma synagogue. Berlin police reported that two unidentified persons threw the Molotov cocktails at the Kahal Adass Jisroel synagogue in the center of the city. No casualties or significant property damage were reported. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned the attack and promised to protect the country's Jewish communities, saying, "Anti-Semitism has no place in Germany." He also noted in later comments that the legacy of the Holocaust means Germany must be extra vigilant. The Kahal Adass Jisroel community was resolute, with the synagogue's chairperson saying, "We will live on, we will be strong, we will stay."
Amnesty International condemned a new migration agreement between the European Union and Tunisia on July 17, saying it makes the EU "complicit in the suffering that will inevitably result" from what represents a "dangerous expansion" of failed policies. The deal, signed the previous day, commits the EU to providing financial support to Tunisia to deter Europe-bound migration. The EU is to provide €105 million (around $120 million) in aid to combat irregular immigration, contingent on approval by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Hundreds of Black African migrants were rounded up from the Tunisian port city of Sfax, expelled across the country's border with Libya and left stranded in the desert last week, sparking street protests by the large community of migrants waiting in the city. According to reports, some managed to escape back to the Tunisian side after being confronted by Libyan militiamen, but the fate of all those expelled has still not been accounted for. The expulsions came after mobs attacked Black Africans in Sfax following the funeral of a Tunisian man who was stabbed to death in an altercation with migrants. Tensions have been rising for months in Tunisia, which has seen a sharp increase in people attempting to cross the Mediterranean from its shores this year. (TNH, AfricaNews, Jurist)
The number of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy has surged this year, according to EU officials. More than 56,000 people have made the journey–almost double the total over the same period last year. The increase prompted Italy's government to declare a six-month state of emergency in April, in part to address overcrowding at a center for those who arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The UN migration agency reported June 13 that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year.
Libyan politicians have wrapped up nearly three weeks of talks in Morocco meant to set a framework for the country's long-delayed elections. Back at home, the country's rival sides were cracking down hard on migrants and refugees. The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity has been using armed drones to target what it says are migrant traffickers bringing people in from Tunisia. In eastern Libya, authorities have reportedly rounded up between 4,000 and 6,000 Egyptian migrants, deporting some to Egypt and holding others in a customs hangar near the border. Some suspect that this has been driven by domestic and international political calculations by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army that controls much of eastern Libya.
Amid deadly Israeli air-raids on Gaza, a terror attack targets the ancient Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. The attack came as Jews from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered at Ghriba in the annual pilgrimage for the Lag B'Omer festival. In Episode 173 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg recalls how the Jews of Djerba have been repeatedly targeted over the past generation, with this latest attack coming in the context of a reconsolidating dictatorship in Tunisia and a harsh crackdown on the opposition. Yet the Tunisian Jews continue to resist Zionist pressure to emigrate to Israel, instead embracing their North African indigeneity. This embrace is overwhelmingly returned by the country's Arab and Muslim majority, in repudiation of extremists who would target Tunisian Jews to avenge Israeli crimes. Prominent Tunisians were among the Muslims who sheltered Jews during the World War II Axis occupation of North Africa. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Amnesty International on March 10 called on Tunisia to put an immediate end to racist and xenophobic attacks targeting Black African migrants. The violence began in early February and was exacerbated by a racially-charged speech by President Kais Saied at a National Security Council meeting on Feb. 21. President Saied said that "hordes of irregular migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa" had come to Tunisia, "with all the violence, crime, and unacceptable practices that entails." He said this was an "unnatural" situation and part of a criminal plan designed to "change the demographic make-up" and turn Tunisia into "just another African country that doesn't belong to the Arab and Islamic nations any more."