Tunisia Denies Discrimination Against Israeli Tourists

TUNISIA, Tunisia (AP) —

The prevention of 14 Israeli tourists from disembarking from their Norwegian cruise ship in Tunisia was because they didn’t have visas and had nothing to do with politics, according to Tunisia’s new tourism minister.

Tunisian authorities stopped the Israelis from leaving a Norwegian Cruise Line ship last week, prompting the company to accuse Tunisia of discrimination and cancel future stops in Tunisia.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had praised Norwegian Cruise Line for its “courageous and responsible” decision.

“Like all countries in the world, there are procedures that have to be followed to get visas or entry permissions, which have nothing to do with certain nationalities,” Tourism Minister Amel Karboul told journalists. “We are a welcoming and tolerant country, but we are also a country of law.”

Tourism is a key industry in Tunisia and makes up 7.5 percent of its gross domestic product. In the aftermath of its 2011 revolution, however, tourists stayed away amid the unrest, strikes and terrorist attacks.

After three years, the number of arrivals is only just beginning to approach the levels of 2010. Karboul expressed her hope that 2014 would see 7 million tourists, up from the 6.2 million last year.

Arrivals in the first two months of the year have been good and she expressed high hope that there would be a flood of Jewish and Israeli visitors for the annual pilgrimage to the ancient synagogue of Djerba in mid-May.

The first woman to hold the tourism portfolio, Karboul was initially criticized upon taking the job when it was discovered she had transited through Israel once on a flight. Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, however, stood by her.

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