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Thursday, July 13, 2017

From  Jeune Afrique (July 5, translated):
The participation of Michel Boujenah, Franco-Tunisian humorist, actor and director,  at the International Festival of Carthage, has aroused various reactions in the country. A fringe of civil society as well as the UGTT, the main trade union in Tunisia, have called for the cancellation of the show. They blame the comedian for his assumed position in favor of Israel.

"I am very happy because, since the revolution, I have not played. I went there very often, but not to perform," Michel Boujenah announced on the show "On n'es couchés" on June 17, 2017, on France 2 , about his gig at the International Festival of Carthage. His show is scheduled for July 19, 2017... The arrival of Michel Boujenah indeed arouses hostile reactions within Tunisian society . At issue: the pro-Zionist and pro-Israel positions held by the artist.

Interviewed by Radio Mosaïque FM on June 24, 2017 on the controversy surrounding the humorist, Carthage Festival Director Mokhtar Rassaa defended himself by reminding us that Michel Boujenah was above all a Tunisian artist who never hurt his country, which on the contrary often supported him in the international media. "He is a Jew, he has an attachment to Israel, just as we Muslims have an attachment to Mecca ... It is neither a great Zionist nor a leader of Zionism! "he explained.

However, the director of the festival did not convince part of the civil society. Following the interview, a campaign calling for the cancellation of the show was launched by the Tunisian subsidiary of the international campaign "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" (BDS), which is working to exert economic pressure on Israel to defend the Palestinian cause. An open letter was sent to the Minister of Culture Mokhtar Rassaa on 26 June 2016.

"We do not want a Zionist, whatever their nationality, on our stages and in our festivals! Michel Boujenah is known as one of the greatest Zionist Franco-Tunisian figures who has always defended Israel, its wars and its army," says the BDS.

Moreover, the campaign considers the show to be unconstitutional. The preamble of the Tunisian Constitution commits itself to defend the right of peoples to self-determination and to combat all forms of occupation and racism. "Zionism" being "the worst form of racism and colonialism of the modern era", the State must prohibit a cultural manifestation of this type, according to the signatories.

The General Labor Union (UGTT) also called on the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, in a communiqué issued on 4 July 2017, to cancel Michel Boujenah's show. Once again, the "Zionist" positions of the comedian are the motivations behind this appeal, with the communiqué mentioning the "artistic futility and lack of content in his shows". The UGTT recommends instead to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to favor the Tunisian shows "in this context of economic crisis".

The government also ended up speaking on this matter. In a statement issued on Wednesday, July 5, 2017,it recalled that "in accordance with the values ​​of the revolution of January 14", it can not intervene in the choice of programming of the Festival of Carthage. It also confirms Tunisia's "unconditional support" for the Palestinian cause.

However, the ministry said it wanted to conduct consultations "with civil society and the people involved" in order to make a decision in the direction of "national interest".

Many Tunisians disapprove of this campaign against the artist, as the president of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities (ATSM), Yamina Thabet, and the director Moncef Dhouib.

So far, the show is still on and Michel Boujenah's performance is still being advertised.

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