THE CONTRIBUTION OF WORLD JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RIGHTS FOR JEWS IN MOROCCO (1956–1961)

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The history of the Jewish community during the early years of Moroccan independence is a story of continuous and constant worries regarding an unclear future—as well as fears of possible impending disaster. During this period, the Jewish community was forced to deal with several critical questions, the answers to which would ultimately determine the future of Moroccan Jewry, as well as the future of individual Jews in the community. While the struggle for independence had been waged without much involvement on the part of the Jewish community, the removal of the yoke of colonialism presented each Moroccan Jew with various options, and the choice to be made between them was a fateful one—whether to seek personal and communal success within a democratic progressive country or to escape from the country out of fear of a possible disaster.
Publié le : lundi 24 octobre 2011
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The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material. KWWSG[GRLRUJ 85/   KWWSZZZLQIRUPDZRUOGFRPVPSSWLWOHaFRQWHQW W 5RXWOHGJH 3XEOLVKHU 2Q Yigal Bin-Nun THE CONTRIBUTION OF WORLD JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RIGHTS FOR JEWS IN MOROCCO (1956–1961) 1472-5886 (print)/1472-5894 (online)10.1080/14725886.2010.486528YigalBin-Nunyigalbinnun@yahoo.frModern Jewish Studies9Original Article000000July 201022010Taylor & FrancisTaylor and FrancisCMJS_A_486528.sgm The history of the Jewish community during the early years of Moroccan independence is a story of continuous and constant worries regarding an unclear future—as well as fears of possible impending disaster. During this period, the Jewish community was forced to deal with several critical questions, the answers to which would ultimately determine the future of Moroccan Jewry, as well as the future of individual Jews in the community. While the struggle for independence had been waged without much involvement on the part of the Jewish community, the removal of the yoke of colonialism presented each Moroccan Jew with various options, and the choice to be made between them was a fateful one—whether to seek personal and communal success within a democratic progressive country or to escape from the country out of fear of a possible disaster. The history of the three-way relationship between Israel, the Moroccan government and Moroccan Jewry could be entitled the “catastrophe that didn’t happen”. Carlos de Nesry put it well: The Jews of this country bring to mind the person who was saved from an explosion and is afterwards surprised to discover that he is healthy and whole. During the days of the protectorate, it seemed to them that independence would be a dramatic revo- lution with unpredictable results. In the end, they saw it as a sort of apocalypse in which the peace and quiet, which they knew under the French government, could be destroyed forever. The severity of the omens justified this fatalistic fear. When 1independence was achieved, they learned that it was not all that terrible. The subject of Jewish emigration from Morocco—or, as it has been coined by both parties, the right to freedom of movement—troubled the leaders of the Jewish commu- nity with regard to the difficulties the authorities were creating for Jews seeking to obtain passports. This issue was no less troubling for the leaders of the World Jewish Congress, the government of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency, and the agents of the Misgeret, the Israeli Secret Service’s illegal immigration programme, who worked 2secretly on behalf of the Mossad in Morocco. Liberal circles within the Moroccan leadership rejected the idea of Jewish emigration because with the advent of independence, they wished to create the appearance of a progressive country in which Journal of Modern Jewish Studies Vol 9, No. 2 July 2010, pp. 251–274 ISSN 1472-5886 print/ISSN 1472-5894 online © 2010 Taylor & Francis http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/14725886.2010.486528 Downloaded By: [Bin-Nun, Yigal] At: 08:24 30 July 2010 252 JOURNAL OF MODERN JEWISH STUDIES all its citizens—regardless of their religion—enjoyed equal rights, so that none would have any desire to leave. Liberals also opposed emigration because of the concern that if Jews left the country, the economy would suffer. Pan-Arabists in the conservative 3wing of the Istiqlal, for their part, were unhappy that wealthy Jews from Morocco would immigrate to Israel, thus strengthening the Zionist forces there against Arab nations. The history of the Jewish community during the early years of Moroccan indepen- dence is one of a continuous concern about an unclear future and the possibility of impending disaster. During this period, the Jewish community was forced to address several critical questions that would ultimately determine the future of Moroccan Jewry, as well as the future of individual Jews in the community. While the struggle for independence had been waged without much involvement on the part of the Jewish community, the withdrawal from colonialism presented each Moroccan Jew with fate- ful options: whether to seek personal and communal success within a democratic progressive country, or to escape from the country out of fear of a possible disaster. The Moroccan monarchy also had to choose between continuing its connection to France, the democratic West and its culture and language, or aligning Morocco with the countries of the Middle East, which had pan-Arabist policies and, as a result, negative relations with their own Jews. At the time, the future of the country’s government and the fate of the Jews’ legal status in Morocco were not at all clear. The Jewish community as a whole had a decision to make. It could, on the one hand, demand the rights of an ethnic minority and accept the isolation that accompanied such a status. This would mean experiencing life as a state within a state, while preserving their separate ethnic identity. Alternatively, it could permit itself to be absorbed by the new society, its culture and its language, to the point of total assimilation, as was the case of the Jewish communities of Western Europe. The first option was not very popular, because its potential backers simply preferred to go to Israel. The second option was preferable for only a relatively short period of time for the educated Jewish class. This group was soon forced to deal with an unpleasant truth, as it quickly became clear that what was true for the Jews of France after the French Revolution and, subsequently, for all Western Europe’s Jews, did not apply in the reality of a new Arab Muslim state in the twentieth century, even one that had just emerged from a period of French colonial control that had lasted for little over 40 years. Most of Moroccan Jewry chose a path midway between a search for complete communal autonomy and an attempt at cultural assimi- lation. This “golden mean” was most strongly supported by the community’s official leader of that period, David Amar. Despite many public declarations that they were being fully integrated into Moroccan politics, society and, to a certain degree, its culture (which was itself being formulated), most of the community’s leaders chose to preserve the clearly ethnic public institutions that went beyond any religious function and were more connected to the social, educational and cultural spheres. These were the kind of institutions that give a community an ethnic identity different from that of the general population. The Jews of Morocco thus had a triple set of loyalties—their first being formal loyalty to the Moroccan homeland, the country in which their fathers had lived even before the advent of Islam, along with fidelity to its language, society and royal palace. At the same time, the Jews preserved their Jewish identity—not only in religious terms, but also with regard to ethnicity and culture—and this brought along with it a hidden emotional Downloaded By: [Bin-Nun, Yigal] At: 08:24 30 July 2010 WORLD JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS IN MOROCCO 253 connection to the State of Israel and a certain pride in its successes. Along with these two national and ethnic loyalties, the Jews of Morocco continued to develop their connection to French cultural, educational and linguistic values, all of which were a guarantee of social advancement. Three principles guided the leadership of the State of Israel in their relations with the Jewish community in Morocco, and they determined the basic guidelines of the Zionist understanding of the situation: first, that antisemitism is timeless and universal; next, that the ingathering of all of diaspora Jewry in Israel must eventually be accom- plished in order to defeat this eternal antisemitism; and, finally, that Israel must take the pre-emptive responsibility for having the Jews brought to Israel. After the Holocaust in Europe, the Jews of North Africa (and especially the community in Morocco) became the most important Jewish bloc in the world for American Jewry, which wished to mark the tradition of maintaining Jewish existence in the face of the danger of assimilation. They were also an important group for the Jews in Israel, who were interested in this area as a source of emigration and as a potential supplier of human resources for the strengthening of the economy in Israel, and for its industry, agriculture and defence. The Jewish population of Morocco and emigration after 1948 In the two years following Israel’s Declaration of Independence, a total of 22,900 Jews left Morocco for Israel. Between 1948 to the independence of Morocco, 108,243 Jews immigrated to the young state at an average rate of 3,000 per month. During all the 4years in which the Jewish Agency’s Qadima organization functioned in Morocco, approximately 110,000 Jews left the country and about another 120,000 had left by 1961. Altogether, almost 237,813 Jews went to Israel from Morocco in 1948–1967. A census held in November 1957 showed that the Moroccan Jewish community as a whole numbered 164,216 people, constituting 1.8% of the general population, and that 75% of them lived in 12 cities or villages. The remaining Jews (a group that numbered at times approximately 80,000 people in total) lived in smaller groupings in over 150 communities. In 1956, most of the Moroccan Jewish community lived in cities, with only 40,000 Jews living in 145 small villages. Families were large, and the population was relatively young—the average Jewish family had six family members and children under the age of 16 made up 50.7% of the Jewish population. Only 10.6% of the community was elderly. The Jews were mostly in the cities of Casablanca, Fès, Marrakech, Meknès, Rabat, Tangier, Sefrou, Qenitra, Oujda, Tétouan, Midelt and Erfoud. The situation three years later was not much different, although the Jewish commu- nity had already begun to shrink. In July 1960, the official Moroccan Ministry of the Inte- rior’s first census was completed, and the Jewish population was given at 160,032, constituting only 1.4% of the general population. A total of 71,175 Jews lived in Casablanca alone, where the general population numbered 965,000. Half of the Jews were under the age of 20 and most of the Jewish population was urban. The Jews consti- tuted only 2% of the actual population, but nevertheless represented 8% of the country’s industrial workers and artisans, 10% of all merchants, and 5% of the members of the free professions and of those employed in managerial positions. Altogether, 30% of the general Moroccan population worked in modern industries, while 99% of Jews were Downloaded By: [Bin-Nun, Yigal] At: 08:24 30 July 2010 254 JOURNAL OF MODERN JEWISH STUDIES employed in such fields. By 30 June 1963, 60,017 Jews had gone to Israel from Morocco, which is why it is assumed that 110,000 Jews remained in Morocco as of that date. Between 1957 and November 1961, when the government began to permit Jews to leave under collective passports, 29,472 Jews left legally or through various paths of illegal emigration organized by the Israeli security services. If those leaving in 1957 (a year in which most Jews left the country with legal passports) are discounted, it appears that the number who left in the context of Misgeret came to fewer than 10,200 Jews. From November 1961 until the end of 1963, more than 72,500 Jews left Morocco legally. By 1964, when the Yakhin campaign ended, a total of 83,707 Jews had left. In 1965, 55,000 Jews remained in Morocco; but by 1972, no more than 30,000 were living there. By 2003, the community numbered under 5,000. Because of the limitations created by Israel’s policy—adopted in 1953—of only allowing “selected” Moroccan Jews to emigrate, there was a negative balance in terms of immigration to Israel during the year of the policy’s adoption: the number of Jews who returned from Israel to Morocco was greater than the number who immigrated to Israel. * One anti-Jewish incident which, more than any other, left its mark on the Jewish community took place on 7 June 1948, three weeks after the establishment of Israel and the beginning of its war with the neighbouring Arab states. A few days after the decla- ration of Israel’s establishment, on 23 May, Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef understood what the results of a Jewish–Arab war in the Middle East might be for his country, and appealed to the country with a reminder of his undertaking to protect his Jewish subjects. He also addressed the Jewish community, with a plea that they not engage in displays of Zionist solidarity with the new Jewish state. Despite the messages to the Moroccan people from the Sultan, anti-Jewish riots broke out the eastern city of Oujda and in a neighbouring town (located 46 kilometers away), Jerrada. These riots remained strongly etched in the general memory of the population for many years; they were especially significant because in those days, Oujda served as a transit station for Jews who left Morocco on their way to Israel through nearby Algeria. Since these events took place in 1948, while the Moroccan revolt against the French occupation was already happening, the Muslims had attacked the French authority’s Jewish “partners” as revenge for Israel’s war against the Arabs. Four Jews were killed in Oujda, and a Muslim who attempted to protect them was also killed. In Jerrada, 36 Jews were murdered, among them the community’s rabbi—Moshe Cohen. Already in May, the head of Oujda’s Jewish community—Obadia—had notified the French authorities of agitation against the Jews in the city, but the regional colonial governor of the city had left the place one day previously. This fact suggests that the French authorities were involved in planning the attacks on the Jews in order to create friction between different groups within the population. In this regard as well, the motivation for the attack was 5connected to Israel and the general Middle East situation rather than to local factors. Another anti-Jewish incident took place on 3 August 1954, in the town of Sidi Qassem (Petit Jean), in which six Jewish merchants from Meknès were killed. This incident had no connection to the Arab–Israeli conflict. Only approximately 50 Jews lived in this town, and Jews from nearby Meknès came there to trade. The reason for the massacre was connected to the demand by the Nationalist Moroccan Movement to close stores on Downloaded By: [Bin-Nun, Yigal] At: 08:24 30 July 2010 WORLD JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS IN MOROCCO 255 Fridays, and the opposing pressure from the French authorities, who wished to have the stores open, despite threats of arrest. Moroccan demonstrators affixed pictures of the exiled king to the front windows of stores, including those of Jewish businesses. A French policeman who tried to remove the pictures was saved from being hurt, but the mob vented its rage on Jewish merchants who were nearby and who were accused of breaking the strike. The bodies of the six Jews who were killed (after having been cruelly tortured) during the riots were burned by the mob. Afterward, Prosper Cohen, the Secretary General of the Zionist Federation, was called in by the representatives of the professional 6unions in Morocco to intervene on behalf of those who had been arrested. This tragic event was not mentioned in contemporary Israeli newspapers, even 7though the Foreign Ministry had received pictures and a report from the field. However, the political instability and uncertainty about the future and the Moroccan administration’s declarations of Arabization reminded many Jews of the two events and encouraged them to leave the country that could offer them no guarantees of security. The conviction that a disaster would follow the departure of the French from Morocco and independence was obtained fed the policies adopted by Israeli leaders and the activities of its emissaries. Many Jews in Morocco also feared an apocalypse that would damage their status and their future in the country. Although the disaster did not happen, this fear of it took its toll. Those who foresaw only the negative and were convinced that the disaster had only been delayed for a limited time were forced to acknowledge that independence had not hurt the Jews, but had opened a new era for them that reminded some of the “golden age” of Jewish–Muslim relations. Among the 8educated classes, euphoria predominated. The mistakes made by the Israeli govern- ment and its emissaries burst this bubble, ending the social, political and economic development from which all the Jews were beginning to benefit. The Jewish community of Morocco was comforted by the fact that even though Israel had unintentionally upset their social advancement in the short term, it gave them a sense of security for the long term and a clearer sense of their future. The World Jewish Congress and the Moroccan Nationalist Movement The relationship between the leadership of the Moroccan Nationalist Movement and the representatives of the international Jewish organizations had begun long before the coun- try achieved independence. In June, 1952, the leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) had already held their organization’s first North African conference, the intention being to prepare the local Jewish leadership for the changes expected in light of the probability that the region’s countries would soon be achieving independence. The goal was to enable the North African communities to avoid the experience of their sister communities in Middle Eastern countries, where there had been considerable anti-Jewish oppression and even violence. According to the leaders of the WJC, they were surprised to discover that the region’s community leaders had a complacent sense of security, being unable to imagine the political changes that would, sooner or later, 9change their way of life. At this time, in 1952, Nahum Goldmann invited a group of young members of the Zionist youth movements in Morocco to a meeting in order to persuade them to support the nationalist movement in their country. Meyer Toledano, Downloaded By: [Bin-Nun, Yigal] At: 08:24 30 July 2010
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