Debating the “Jewish Question” in Tunisia

War, Colonialism, and Zionism at a Mediterranean Crossroads, 1914–1920

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Author: Chris Rominger1
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  • 1 University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
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In Tunisia, the end of World War I and the return of Muslims and European settlers from the front brought attacks against local Jews who had been exempt from conscription under French colonial rule. French commentators spoke of a “Jewish question” fueled by Muslim fanaticism and Jewish profiteering, obscuring their own divisive attitudes and policies. Colonial archives and the popular press, however, reveal that this was far from a monolithic sectarian concern. Jews responded to violence with a variety of transnational political visions. I explore how some Jews reaffirmed their loyalty to France, while others highlighted colonial hypocrisies. Others turned to solutions such as US protection or the Zionist movement. This Tunisian story, with its unique colonial arrangement and legal ambiguities, foregrounds an oft-overlooked North African perspective on the global questions of identity, nationalisms, and minority politics at the end of World War I.

Contributor Notes

Chris Rominger is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. He is preparing his book manuscript, The Mediterranean Overturned: North African Identities at the Intersection of Empire, for publication. Email:


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