Tunisia singer Saleem Bakkoush cancels Carthage concert

By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC World Service Middle East editor


The popular Tunisian singer Saleem Bakkoush has been forced to cancel a concert at the annual Carthage festival, after a video surfaced showing him performing at a synagogue.

Mr Bakkoush accused his rivals of publishing the tape to tarnish his reputation.

Tunisia is one of only two Arab states with a sizeable Jewish community.

But pro-Palestinian sentiments remain strong and the country has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Internet campaign

This was supposed to be Mr Bakkoush's first appearance on the prestigious Carthage festival.

But the sudden emergence of the tape showing him performing at the country's oldest synagogue in Djerba has scuppered this unique opportunity.

Image caption,
The Carthage festival is a prominent event attracting a range of artists

Mr Bakkoush said the recording was a few years old and suggested that his enemies had published it now to prevent the concert.

Anti-Israeli sentiment in Tunisia - especially in cultural and artistic circles - was already running high following the emergence of another remarkable tape.

It showed another popular singer, Mohsen El Sharif, performing at the wedding of a Jewish couple of Tunisian origin in Israel.

What angered people most in Tunisia was Mr El Sharif's readiness to please the Israeli public by shouting "Long Live Netanyahu", referring to the Israeli prime minister.

He later tried to defend his action by saying that he thought that was the bridegroom's name.

Few believed him, and his critics have launched an internet-based campaign to have him put on trial and stripped of his nationality.

Despite the strong support for Palestinians in Tunisia, a sizeable Jewish community has stayed in the country, while the bulk of Jews of Arab origin left the region some 50 years ago.

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