Monday, August 01, 2005

From Tunis to top job

The new president of the European Jewish Congress is Pierre Besnainou, 50, a Tunisian-born French businessman.(With thanks:Lily)

According to Haaretz, Besnainou 'says that the two main objectives that the European Jewish Congress will focus on during his presidency will be the fight against anti-Semitism and a public-relations and information effort for Israel. "We have to act now, before the negotiations are renewed, to try to explain Israel in Europe and try to change the way that Europeans view the conflict in the Middle East," he says. (...)

"Pierre Besnainou is one of the most interesting Jewish leaders in Europe today, at least in terms of his personal background and his original views. Born and raised in North Africa, he describes himself as a Zionist and believes that the future of European Jews is in Israel. He does not perceive any threat from the Muslims in Europe, and does not flinch at clashing with powerful American-Jewish organizations when they invade what he considers European Jewish territory. (...)

"Besnainou has brought to the pallid and drab world of European Jewish public activity not only young blood and a tanned face, but also some unexpected beliefs. Besnainou has some original, if not irregular, positions on some of the major items on the agenda, and in particular the relations between Jews and Muslims in Europe, and immigration to Israel. Unlike his colleagues, he does not consider Muslim immigrants in Europe to be a threat; rather, they are a potential ally in the fight against the Jews' true enemy, the extreme right.

"As a Jew I feel much less comfortable in Poland than in Tunis," he says. "Jews and Muslims were able to live in peace and coexistence for hundreds of years in North Africa and the East, and I believe that in the end they will also learn how to live that way in Europe, too. I am much more troubled by the old virus of Christian anti-Semitism." Read article in full.

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