Friday, March 23, 2012
With thanks: Michelle-Malca
With the Arab and Muslim world convulsed by antisemitism, two Moroccan Muslim students must be congratulated for bucking the trend: they have set up the Mimouna Club at Ifrane university.
The purpose of the Mimouna Club, named after the Moroccan-Jewish celebration that concludes Passover during which Jews traditionally invited Muslims into their homes for a feast, is to promote the idea of Jewish-Muslim coexistence and to recall Morocco's Jewish heritage.
It is the nostalgia of his grandmother's generation for the Jews - she was one of very few Muslims living in the Casablanca Jewish ghetto and attending the Jewish (Alliance) school - that motivated El-Mehdi Boudra to set up his club, with the encouragement of Andre Azoulay, the Moroccan king's Jewish adviser. In the case of Laaziza Dalil, it was the fact she had grown up with many Jewish friends. Both were interviewed on the John Batchelor radio show in New York by Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein on 22 March. (Segment starts 11 minutes into the programme).
It is interesting that two Moroccans with no Jewish blood or connections have themselves experienced antisemitism: When the Mimouna Club was first set up, it was denigrated as the 'Mellah' (Jewish ghetto). Someone daubed a swastika. Laaziza Dalil was shocked and deeply upset by an antisemitic encounter in Paris with an old lady who mistook her for a Sephardi Jew. 'Things were better when Paris was cleansed (of Jews) by the Germans', the old lady sneered. Although their parents are largely supportive, El-Mehdi's father fears that his son's involvement with the Mimouna Club will later put at risk his chances of finding a job. The two students are aware that the affection of their grandparents' generation towards Jews has been replaced with fierce anti-Jewish hatred among the youth.
The Mimouna Club has plans to organise a trip by Moroccan students to Israel. It has also worked with US interfaith organisations to hold the first conference ever on the Holocaust in the Arab world, and made a film about it. ' We don't need to deny the Holocaust,' El-Mehdi declares triumphantly,' because of the actions of King Mohammed V.'
While Malcolm Hoenlein gushes his approval of this initiative, I beg to differ. The wartime king Mohammed V (pictured) was said to have saved Jews from deportation to the death camps. But the Vichy government did not attempt to deport them. The king did not prevent Moroccan Jews from being shunted back into their ghettos. He did not prevent Jews being sacked from their jobs and subject to quotas and restrictions under the Vichy 'statut des juifs'. He had nothing to say about the hundreds of European Jews who died in forced labour camps on Moroccan territory. And if he was powerless to prevent these things, why exaggerate his role and elevate him to sainthood?
Laudable efforts to educate Arabs about the Holocaust run the risk of whitewashing the record if they only tell one side of the story. Attempts to show only stories of rescue and sympathy among Arabs for Jews, when plenty of others were ready to betray them and sympathise with the Nazis, become distortions of history.
Moroccan Holocaust conference has its dangers