The Tunisian parliament is currently deliberating on a bill that aims to criminalize any attempt to normalize relations with Israel. The proposed legislation defines “normalization” as the recognition of the Zionist entity or establishing direct or indirect ties with Israel. This bill categorizes such actions as high treason.
If passed, the law would prohibit any form of interaction with Israelis, including events, demonstrations, meetings, exhibitions, and competitions, in any context, be it political, economic, scientific, cultural, artistic, or sporting, within territories held or occupied by Israel.
The potential implications of this bill extend beyond athletics. Tunisian athletes who have aspirations of participating in the 2024 Paris Olympics could be at risk of facing a 10-year ban imposed by the International Olympic Committee. Moreover, they may also face criminal prosecution in their home country.
The consequences for violating this proposed law are severe. Individuals found guilty of normalization could face imprisonment ranging from 6 to 10 years and a fine of up to 100,000 Tunisian dinars ($31,553). Repeat offenders could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
During the opening remarks of the parliamentary session, Speaker of the Parliament Brahim Bouderbala reiterated the unity and public support behind this bill. He stated, “There is total agreement between the president, the parliament, and public opinion.” He further stressed the belief that Palestine should be liberated from the river to the sea and emphasized the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
President Kais Saied had previously expressed his stance on the matter, declaring that Tunisia’s duty is to stand by the Palestinian people. He labeled anyone who would normalize relations with Israel as a “traitor.”
This development takes place within the context of ongoing conflict between Israeli troops and the militant group Hamas. Israeli forces have carried out ground operations, dividing Gaza, in response to an attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Israelis. As of Thursday, the Palestinian authorities estimate the death toll in Gaza to be around 9,000.
It is worth noting that Tunisia has never recognized Israel and severed ties with the country in 2000 during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising. Although both nations established “interest offices” in the late 1990s, diplomatic relations between them remain nonexistent.
In summary, Tunisia’s parliament is discussing a bill that seeks to criminalize any attempt to normalize relations with Israel. This proposition, if adopted, would have far-reaching consequences, potentially affecting athletes’ participation in international competitions and leading to imprisonment and hefty fines for those found guilty of normalization. The bill aligns with the president’s stance and reflects the belief in the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It is important to view these developments in the broader context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Additionally, Tunisia has never recognized Israel and previously severed diplomatic ties in 2000 during the Second Intifada.