Following an incident in which Tunisian MP Ammar Amroussia ripped up an Israeli flag in a parliamentary session, in a push for legislation criminalizing ties with Israel, a Tunisian TV channel held a debate on the issue of normalization of ties between the two countries. Mounir Baator, head of the Liberal Tunisian Party, defended his party against MP Amroussia's accusations that they were a "fifth column" within Tunisia, "mercenaries fighting alongside the enemies." Baator rejected TV host Walid Zribi's suggestion that normalization of ties with Israel constituted treason, and said that normalization was in Tunisia's best interests in terms of economy and international relations and that the country's real problems were social and economic and did not pertain to the Palestinian issue. The debate aired on Tunisna TV on April 19.
Narrator: "The issue of normalization with the Zionist entity has recently caused controversy in the corridors of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People."
Ammar Amroussia: "This is the flag of the Zionist entity. In front of you, in this shameful session..."
Ammar Amroussia tears up the Israeli flag.
"Long live Palestine! Long live the revolution in Palestine! Honor and glory to Tunisia, to the Arab nation, and to the free people of the world!"
Mounir Baator: "How come you do not cut ties with Iran, which has been occupying three UAE islands since 1971? I'm talking about the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa. Why don't you boycott Turkey, which occupies the Sanjak of Alexandretta? The Sanjak of Alexandretta is larger than Palestine."
Ammar Amroussia: "Do you even know my position on Turkey and Iran?"
Mounir Baator: "Why don't you boycott Egypt, which occupies Hala'ib of Sudan? Why don't you boycott Spain..."
Ammar Amroussia: "If he is going to go on like that... No, no..."
Mounir Baator: "Why don't you boycott Spain, which occupies Ceuta and Melilla, along with 21 Moroccan islands?
"Muslim Tunisians living in France have the right to be represented in the [Tunisian] parliament, but Tunisians living in Israel lack this right, just because they are Jews."
Ammar Amroussia: "Brother, a so-called 'Tunisian' living in the Zionist entity... Why don't you say 'the Zionist entity'?"
Mounir Baator: "It's called 'Israel.'"
Ammar Amroussia: "Is this antisemitism?"
Mounir Baator: "Exactly. It is antisemitism."
Walid Zribi: "MP Amroussia tore up the flag of the Zionist entity in Parliament. What's your response?"
Mounir Baator: "How was Israel affected by the tearing up of its flag? It was a meaningless gesture with no impact. He took an A4 sheet of paper and tore it up. It was nothing but a show. Why didn't you tear up the American flag?
"Today, we are incapable of beating Israel militarily."
Walid Zribi: "What about the resistance? The resistance won."
Mounir Baator: "The resistance is besieged in Gaza."
Walid Zribi: "Isn't there resistance in South Lebanon?"
Mounir Baator: "Who? Where is this resistance? Since 2006 and to this day, they haven't shot a single bullet."
Walid Zribi: "They won the last war in 2006."
Mounir Baator: "Where exactly was that victory?"
Ammar Amroussia: "The resistance vanquished the nuclear capabilities of the Zionist entity."
Mounir Baator: "Aren't the Shebaa Farms still occupied?"
Walid Zribi: Didn't Hizbullah win militarily in South Lebanon?"
Mounir Baator: "The Shebaa Farms are still occupied, so why is Hizbullah keeping quiet? Because there are understandings between Hizbullah and Israel.
"'Fifth column' is a term invented during World War II. It refers to people who fight as part of the enemy's army. We do not bear arms, and do not fight..."
Walid Zribi: "You are fighting as part of the enemy armies."
Mounir Baator: "We are calling for peace..."
Ammar Amroussia: "You are calling for surrender."
Mounir Baator: "We are calling for normal economic relations with all countries. We believe that enmity toward Israel and love of the Palestinian cause are not Tunisia's real problems today. Tunisia's problems are social and economic."
Walid Zribi: "When MP Amroussia tore up the Zionist flag, you accused him of antisemitism."
Mounir Baator: "No, I consider this to be a pointless gesture. Whether or not you tear up the flag of the Zionist entity... By the way, it is called the State of Israel, not the Zionist entity. The State of Israel exists, it is a member in the United Nations and in all the international organizations, and its flag flies everywhere. So whether or not you tear it up is immaterial to Israel."
Walid Zribi: "Would you fly that flag in Tunisia?"
Mounir Baator: "Why would I? I fly the Tunisian flag. I'm a Tunisian. Why would I fly the flag of Israel?"
Walid Zribi: "So why do you defend Israel?"
Mounir Baator: "I am not defending Israel. I defend peace."
Ammar Amroussia: "You are mercenaries fighting alongside the enemies – unarmed mercenaries. In South Lebanon, Lahad was an armed mercenary, fighting the Palestinian resistance. You are ideological and cultural mercenaries in the ranks of the enemies."
Walid Zribi: "Is support of normalization a [legitimate] position? Support of treason?"
Mounir Baator: "I told you that normalization is not treason. Normalization is in Tunisia's best interests in terms of economy and international relations."