El Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba
El Ghriba Synagogue in DjerbaHezki Baruch

Tunisian President Kais Saied has claimed that last week’s attack near a synagogue in Djerba, in which two Jews and three police officers were killed, was not antisemitic, JPost reports.

Saeid made the comments on Saturday, according to the report. The Tunisian newspaper La Presse, which quoted Saeid, said the President spoke during his visit to the Ariana district near the capital. A video of the visit and the president's statements was published by Saied's office as well.

According to La Presse, Saied said that "here, in this place where I stand now, Tunisian Jews fleeing the Nazi forces who had pitched their tents here found refuge in this house, that of my grandfather."

Saied responded to Western accusations of antisemitism and said that "these parties do not hesitate to make the false accusations of antisemitism while they turn a deaf ear when it comes to dealing with the plight of the Palestinians who are dying every day. The Palestinian people will succeed against all odds to triumph and recover their despoiled land."

The Tunisian Prime Minister referred to those calling the attack antisemitic as "the forgers of history bent on distorting history, falsifying facts and spreading untruths" and accused them of plotting “conspiracies against the state and endangering social peace,” according to JPost.

Saied added that foreign parties leveling accusations of antisemitism were displaying “a garish duplicity of attitude and a short memory in grasping history, real history.”

The shooting attack took place near the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, while Lag Ba’Omer celebrations were going on inside. The two Jewish cousins who were murdered are Aviel Hadad, who was also an Israeli citizen, and Ben Hadad.

On the day after the attack, Saied sought to assure that Tunisia will remain safe.

"I want to reassure the Tunisian people and the whole world that Tunisia will remain safe despite this type of attempt intended to disturb its stability," Saied said.

Djerba is home to one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world, and the synagogue is believed to date to the sixth century BCE.

In the past, thousands would flock to the synagogue for the annual Lag Ba’Omer pilgrimage. In 2013, only 1,000 pilgrims visited the synagogue amid security concerns.

Saied has in the past made strong statements against Israel, considering any ties with the Jewish state to be "high treason".

In early 2020, he described then-US President Donald Trump’s proposed peace deal for Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the "injustice of the century".