The establishment of rights for jews in morocco (1956-1961)

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The contribution of World Jewish Organizations
to the Establishment of Rights for Jews in Morocco (1956-1961)

Yigal Bin-Nun
Université de Paris VIII

Journal of Jewish Modern Studies 9:2, p. 251-274, Oxford 2010

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 Nesryput it well: "The Jews of this country bring to mind the person who was saved from an explosion and is after¬wards 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 revolution with unpre¬dictable results. In the end, they saw it as a sort of apoca¬lypse in which the peace and quiet, which they knew un¬derthe French government, could be destroyed forever. The severity of the omens justified this fatalistic fear. When independence 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 community regarding difficulties the authoritieswere creating for Jews seeking to obtain pass¬ports. 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 who worked secretly on behalf of the Mossad in Morocco. Liberal circles within the Moroccan leadership rejected the idea of Jewish emigration because with the advent of Moroccanindependence, they wished to create the appearance of a progressive country in which all of its citi¬zens—regardless of their religion—enjoyed equal rights so that none would have any desire to leave. Liberals also op¬posed emigration because of the concern that if Jews left the country, the economy would suffer. Pan-arabists in the conservative wing of the Istiqlal , for their part, were unhappythat wealthy Jews from Morocco would immi¬grate to Israel, thus strengthening the Zionist forces there against Arab nations.
The history of the Jewish community during the early years of Moroccan independence is one of a continuous worry regarding an unclear future and the possibility of impending disaster. During this period, the Jewish community was forced to address several critical questions,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 withdrawal from colonialism presented each Moroccan Jew with fateful options, whether to seek personal and communal success within a democratic progressivecountry 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, who had pan-arabist policies and as a result negative relations with their own Jews. At the time, the future of the country’s governmentand 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 receive the isolation that went along with such a status. This would mean experiencing life as a state within a state, while preserving their separate ethnic identity. Alternatively, it could permititself 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 among the educated Jewish class. This group was...
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