Thursday, November 03, 2005

Israel invites king of Morocco

In a momentous development, President Katsav has issued a public invitation to the King of Morocco, Muhammed VI, to visit Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. In a speech during a visit to Israel by leaders of the Moroccan Jewish community, Andre Azoulay, the Jewish adviser to the king, did not attempt to whitewash Jewish life in Morocco - "it was not exactly the Garden of Eden", he said. However, mindful of his official responsibilities, he was careful to express sympathy for the Palestinians: "We are, after all, partially Arab."

"In 1948, when the State of Israel was proclaimed, the Moroccan Jewish community numbered between 250,000-300,000 souls. Large-scale emigration to Israel, Canada, Venezuela and other parts of the world left a shrunken Jewish population that was an acute minority in a Moslem country.

"It was not always easy, acknowledged Azoulay, "but we never compromised on our identity, our values and our memories." Whatever suffering Moroccan Jews had endured, he said, could not compare to what was inflicted on the Jews of Europe. "It wasn't exactly the Garden of Eden, but we were a protected minority," he said.

"While maintaining their Jewish heritage, Moroccan Jews are also strongly nationalistic, said Azoulay, and are torn when they hear news reports of Palestinians killing Israeli Jews, and Israelis killing Palestinians. "We are after all partially Arab" he said, reflecting on centuries of Jewish existence in Morocco which is the last bastion of flourishing Jewish life in the Arab world.

"Though determined to remain on Moroccan soil to preserve its glorious Jewish heritage, Moroccan Jews are also eager for peace for Israel, he said, adding: "If you are a proud Jew, you cannot be indifferent to peace."

"Moroccan Jews live in a country which supports Palestinian aspirations but which is also committed to peace, said Azoulay. "We want peace to be equally shared by Jews and Moslems, Jews and Arabs and we work in the service of peace," he said."

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