Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Moroccan Jews deny political causes of their flight

This two-part article by Mahitab Abdel Raouf in Le Petit Journal, a newspaper for French expatriates and French-speakers, gives an interesting insight into the Jews still left in Morocco. They are but a remnant - fewer than 5,000 out of 280,000 - and more Jews leave each day. Rabat, the capital, has only 200 Jews. The journalist interviews the rabbi of the synagogue (only two Jewish families still live in the Jewish quarter or Mellah), the secretary and an old lady who has moved in because her roof had collapsed. Otherwise, Jews have stayed on because they run lucrative businesses, or are misfits who never managed to settle down in Israel or elsewhere.

Although the article does say that the Jews felt insecure after 1956, when the French left, the Jews in the 'public eye' play down any political reasons for their continuing exodus. "It is neither discrimination nor insecurity," says Shimon Cohen, director of the Casablanca Jewish Museum. No Jew tried to leave after the al-Qaeda attacks in 2002 says Mme Azuelos, who runs a profitable jewellery business.

Moroccans are proud to have been the only Arabs to have lived together peacefully with the Jews, but the latter are considered strictly a religion - Ahl-el-khateb, and not a race. " Every time we lose a Jew Morocco gains an ambassador," gushes Andre Azoulay, a Jewish adviser to King Mohamed VI. "A Moroccan Jew can return at any time - but can a Jew from Iraq, Syria or Egypt? "

The Rabat synagogue rabbi is more forthright, grumbling that anti-Jewish incidents are never covered, while the media broadcasts images of Palestinian suffering all day long. A Jewish student says, " I am Arab before I am Jewish, Morocco is my beloved country, but I feel unsafe and do not want to stay." Another Jew admits there is prejudice, but will not call it racism.

Ironically it takes two non-Jews to call a spade a spade. Mohamed ben-Allaoui, a trader in the Rabat Mellah, thinks that the conflation of Judaism with Zionism in Morocco has caused a feeling of insecurity and encouraged the Jews to leave. Latifa Bouchoua, a human rights worker, says that anti-Jewish slogans shouted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators are clear proof of discrimination.

Read Part l and Part II (French)

No comments: