Tunisia’s President Saied claims ‘Zionist influence’ evident in naming of Storm Daniel

Decision by Hellenic National Meteorological Service to give storm a Hebrew-origin name was not arbitrary, he says

Tunisia's President Kais Saied was criticised for his comments. Reuters
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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has sparked controversy for criticising the naming choice of Storm Daniel that hit eastern Libya and killed thousands of people, and called it as a showcase of "growing Zionism influence" in the region.

"Did they not wonder about the naming? Daniel is a Hebrew prophet," Mr Saied said in a cabinet meeting on Monday.

"The Zionist movement has penetrated to attack the mind and thinking, from Daniel to Abraham."

Mr Saied explained that he does not think that the choice of a Hebrew prophet name for a storm is arbitrary, also making a reference to the Abraham Accords, which established relations between Israel and some Arab countries.

While the name Daniel has a Hebrew origin, it is a popular name for non-Jews in many countries where they are a minority, including Russia, Ireland and the US, where Jewish people make up almost three per cent of the population.

Storm Daniel was named by Greece’s Hellenic National Meteorological Service following a list of alphabetically arranged names, which is part of an efficient naming system that meteorologists have been using to identify storms for decades.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, "tropical cyclones are named according to the rules at regional level. In the Atlantic and in the Southern hemisphere [Indian Ocean and South Pacific], tropical cyclones receive names in alphabetical order, and women and men's names are alternated."

Meanwhile, Tunisia has expressed on several occasions its opposition to any potential establishment of ties with Israel and said that the option would never be discussed.

Since his electoral campaign in 2019, Mr Saied has been an avid opponent of the continuing attempts to push towards further normalisation between Israel and other Arab states.

“Normalisation does not exist as a concept for me, it is an act of grand treason,” Mr Saied said during the cabinet meeting.

“The issue is not with Jews, the issue is with the international Zionist movement."

Updated: September 19, 2023, 2:49 PM