Jewish Moroccan history is a rich history that can be appreciated in Morocco and around the world for reasons that include seeking coexistence, however, is a political stance, it must not be used to deafen, redefine other experiences that may be out of someone’s intellectual reach. Morocco’s ambassador to the United Nations made this mistake this Thursday. Moroccan was once home to over 250,000 Jews before waves of Aliyah most significantly project Yachin in 1961, which demonstrated Moroccan-Israeli cooperation, which saw Jews in a safer reality, and then they would have experienced anywhere else in the region.
New York – Rabat’s ambassador to the United Nations; Omar Hilale claimed that Moroccan Jews never faced persecution, and therefore attempted to wash away well known historical challenges for Jewish communities in Morocco and regionally. Very often, this is something I have seen personally done by many people in the Muslim community, by washing away the crimes of the past within our frontiers, we may be able to fight for a moral high ground against Israel in regards to its relations with other populations. This is a despicable thing to do, rooted in divisive politics and a tone insensitivity. Ambassador Hilale has sent a signal to too many minds in Morocco and beyond that reality was greater then it was for some historical aspects, which may very well play into Moroccan pride back home, but in the process gloss over events of persecution that happened within Morocco like the 1948 Anti-Jewish riots in Oujda Morocco. Events that happened in cities like Oujda in Morocco are what has guided me to further understand Israel, the Jewish community, and the undeniable link between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism being that they are both one of the same roots in the same hate. It took the creation of Israel to justify to local Muslim North Africans, both Moroccans, and Algerians within the bordering city of Oujda, to acknowledge the existence of Israel to inspire them to kill over 43 innocent Jews in that riot.
Ambassador Hilale said specifically that there was never persecution of Jewish people because “they were just a part of our society”. Well clearly, Mr. Hilale may have had good intentions at heart but knowing how the Moroccan community interprets that message after such a long period of deadlocked silent relations with Israel and a lack of mainstream education on that community in Morocco will no sure do its damage. When one has to find the source of pride in comparing and contrasting another’s people’s suffering, to speak over another community and to simply make such blatant misstatements is irresponsible and must change going forward.
Perhaps as Moroccan-Israeli relations warm and advance in the coming weeks and months the diplomatic relationship will drain out the awkward moments going forward through better education and mutual understanding that will take place as a result of constant communication between Moroccan and Israeli counterparts. After all, Israel and Israelis are the very people who he was referring to, the least he could do is learn from the generation and generational descendants of Jewish Moroccans who primarily reside in the Jewish homeland to then acquire a greater understanding to make a reformed statement regarding the history of Jews in Morocco.
On the bright end, there is much to celebrate when it comes to Morocco and its historical bond with the Jewish peoples and King Mohamed the 5th’s famous effort to protect his country’s Jews with the famous statement that “there are no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens”. King Mohammed the 5th believed that there shouldn’t be any distinction among his peoples which earned him the title of commander of the faithful but it also must be noted that such tactic was effective for its context regarding the Nazi backed Vichy regime that wanted Morocco’s Jews to be sent to Europe. Whereas it is known that there have always been distinctions among Jews and non-Jews in all lands over the world, visual, linguistic, geographic, and other known features have exposed this enough to allow those who seek to attack Jews, to find them in the first place. Another notion I am well aware of is that the “bar is low regionally”, the treatment of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa has lacked brightness and has been largely cleansed away, however, Morocco seems to be an exception, and for that, I am forever proud.
In early last month in November, Morocco’s government announced that they would be instituting Jewish history as part of the country’s public educational system in elementary school. I believe this is the optimal opportunity for the next generation to continue the regional momentum of humanizing the Jewish community, understanding Israel while also learning about their history further. No political agendas should sacrifice the young population’s ability to learn and to make social progress on the issues surround Morocco and its past. When a country can treat its minorities well, everyone can advance; the taste Morocco has of coexistence is unveiling itself this week and will continue to do so with all the announcements regarding the normalization breakthrough. The truth will be told, governments sign treaties, people make connections and this deal with its entire luggage will only foster a healthy relationship between peoples unlike anywhere else in the region that such irresponsible comments will no longer dictate the narratives but will be called out for what it truly is.