Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Another piece based on Moroccan coexistence myth

The myth of peaceful coexistence is the shaky foundation on which Ron Gerlitz, writing in + 972 magazine, builds his fantasy of a Left led by Mizrahim. The comment below by Maurice Harris, whose grandfather fled Casablanca, should take him back down to earth.

I’m not a historian, nor am I na├»ve. The relations between Moroccan Muslims and the Jewish community, the largest and virtually most prominent in the Islamic world, were not always ideal. Quite a number of violent clashes took place throughout history. But as a general rule, the Jews were respected, seen as an integral part of the Moroccan nation, and safeguarded by a special decree of the royal family.

 Photo: Ron Gerlitz
Until 1964, the year the aliya from Morocco ended, there was a large, powerful, organized Jewish community in the country. Some of its members were also very wealthy.  That was the same in Europe until the destruction of its Jewry. But unlike the European civilization, which abused and humiliated its Jews throughout its history, and in the end murdered millions of them and spewed out the rest, here Jews and non-Jews lived together amicably for 2,000 years.
What can we learn from that about the possibility of having similarly cordial relations also in Israel, in our little piece of land torn by strife? It’s hard to answer that question unequivocally. We are embroiled in a violent conflict in a small piece of land that both our nations call home, while many elements on both sides don’t even recognize the other side’s claim.

But in Morocco I was able, time and again, to imagine good relations between Jews and Arabs. When I walked around mellahs in the various cities, in the well kept and safeguarded Jewish cemeteries, in the active synagogues, when I saw us shedding our fear and walking around the heart of a Muslim city even at night, I was able to imagine Morocco of the olden days and how it could be the same here in Israel. Given the dreary situation, it may seem like a pipe dream, but the first step towards a better future is wanting to get there.

Read article in full 

 Maurice Harris  

I'm a long-standing supporter of the peace movement in Israel, and I have appreciated +972 for a long time as well. I'm troubled by aspects of this article, as the son of a Jewish refugee from Morocco. My relatives were subjected to repeated episodes of intimidation and violence living as Jews during the upheavals of Morocco in the 1950s. They were expected to show public deference to Muslims in public, and while they generally speak of good historic relations between Moroccan Jews and Muslims, they also speak of how quickly all of that unravelled as soon as Jews became a suspected wedge group in the fighting between the French colonizers and the Arab independence fighters. 
My grandfather, who had worked his whole life to build a furniture factory in Casablanca, first had his business seized and assets frozen. The family was large - lots of kids - and they began to struggle with hunger and fear for their future. Eventually, my grandfather was targeted to be killed by the al-Fatah movement, and a Muslim friend of his gave him the warning. My family had to flee in the middle of the night, leaving behind their home (which now belongs to a Moroccan Arab family), traumatized and in panic, smuggling themselves aboard a boat that carried them to a refugee camp in southern France, while they waited for passage to Israel. 
Your article has a sentence that implies that the exodus of Morocco's Jews was "orchestrated by Israel," as opposed to perpetrated by the Arab majority upon the Jewish minority. This is just as problematic a claim as the inaccurate claim that some on the Israeli right make in which they claim no responsibility for the Palestinian refugees of '48 because, they argue, Arab military commanders told them all to flee so they could throw all the Jews into the sea. My Moroccan relatives who lived through those times remember a country they loved but also a country that did not see them as integral to itself, but rather treated them with a conditional tolerance that insisted they know their place as less than first class citizens, a tolerance that fractured once the political situation got ugly and complex.

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