Sunday, December 22, 2013

A market without Jews like bread without salt

Aomar Boum (right) is the son of illiterate parents of mixed Berber and Arab parentage

 This is a disappointingly bland interview with a Moroccan-born anthropologist, assistant professor at Arizona university Aomar Boum, by the Tablet magazine. Boum, who derives his research funding from Jewish organisations including the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC,  has written a book, 'Memories of absence', comparing the different responses to Jews by four generations of Muslims in the Anti-Atlas mountains. The Jews, peddlars and merchants, helped the Muslims to survive in a inhospitable environment.  It comes as no surprise to learn that the youngest generation has been brainwashed by the most virulent antisemitism (of 'Christian' origin, he claims). But while he makes out that the oldest generation had friendly relations with Jews, there was also 'anxiety, strife and enmity'. Tantalisingly, he never elaborates. (With thanks: Jonah)

In the early 20th century, nearly a quarter of a million Jews lived among Muslims in Morocco’s towns and villages, making common cause in commerce and culture. Over the course of the past century, nearly all of them have left. Now there are an estimated 4,000 Jews in Morocco. So few that most younger Moroccans have never met one.

Aomar Boum
, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, did meet Jews growing up in Morocco—that is, once he moved from his small village in the Anti-Atlas mountains to the city of Marrakesh for school. He went back to his birth country to find out what Moroccans—four generations of them—think of their former neighbors and acquaintances, particularly in light of current tensions between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. The result of his investigation is Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco.

Read article in full

My comment: One commenter objects to the term 'left', as opposed to 'fled', to describe the departure of Jews in response to antisemitism, but backs down when Boum himself intervenes in the discussion. The Jews 'left' because Israel had reached an agreement with Morocco, he says. The reasons why Jews 'left' are 'complicated'. But Boum never makes clear that Jews were forbidden from emigrating for six years. This ban in itself was a violation of their human rights. I find his tendency to blame antisemitism on Christian sources simplistic and politically-correct. What about home-grown bigotry?

The Jewish kingdom of Oufrane in the Anti-Atlas

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