Factor 9: Israel’s six-day war and Muslim solidarity with Middle East Arabs

Tourbook on Morocco for Moroccan-born Israelis 

The last factor contributing to the exodus of Moroccan Jews was Israel’s Six-Day War and Muslim solidarity with Arabs in the Middle East.

Jews were less interested in leaving for Israel after 1964. They were discouraged by poor economic conditions in Israel and the treatment of Sephardi (originating from 15th century Spain and Portugal) and Mizrahi (originating from Arab-majority countries) Jews as second-class citizens.

Some of the more wealthy were interested in investing in Morocco, given the country’s relatively good economic climate. They felt that there was increased security in Morocco, given that their freedom of movement was no longer restricted. They also recognized that it would be difficult to take much of their wealth out of the country.

This environment continued until May 1967, when Israel and its Arab neighbors fought the Six-Day War. Moroccan Arabs expressed their solidarity with the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East. Some among them advocated a boycott of Moroccan Jewish businesses. Political parties criticized Zionists and their Moroccan Jewish supporters, but still tried to maintain good relations with Jews.

While the Jewish community did not feel comfortable supporting Israel openly, its leaders felt secure enough to keep open Jewish schools, which were protected by the national police. The Palace made a great effort to reassure the Jewish community of its security.

Nevertheless, the heightened tensions between the Jews and Muslims encouraged almost half the remaining Jews to emigrate within the next four years. Between 1967 and 1971, the Jewish population dropped from 60,000 to 35,000. Few went to Israel, however. By this time, most of the poorer Moroccan Jews had already left for Israel, leaving those with greater means and better education. Word had filtered back to Morocco of the difficult political and economic conditions of Moroccan Jewish immigrants to Israel.

Much of the remaining Jewish population qualified for immigration visas to France and Canada. After attending AIU schools, many Moroccan Jews identified closely with French culture and felt natural links with the Francophone world.

Other Jews from northern Morocco identified with the Spanish-speaking world and emigrated to Spain and South America. By 1974, the majority of Jewish emigrants went to France, Canada, the United States and South America. In 1978, Israel had over 400,000 Jews of Moroccan ancestry. France had received 80,000 Moroccan Jews (compared to 400,000 Jews from all of North Africa), while Canada received 20,000, Spain 5,000 and the US 4,000.

In 2020, the Moroccan Jewish community of about 2,500 consists of wealthy and upper middle class families who have business interests in Morocco but identify more with Europe, as well as poor and elderly Jews who do not have the capacity to emigrate. Over 80% of Morocco’s Jews live in Casablanca, while the remainder live in other cities. Few Jews live in the mellah, and there are no longer any exclusively Jewish areas of the cities.

King Mohammed VI, like his father Hassan II, and like his grandfather Mohammed V, strongly supports the Jewish community. However, he has not taken on Hassan II’s role as Middle East peacemaker. Jews are given special treatment by the Moroccan Government in terms of administrative procedures. Some Jewish institutions, such as schools and synagogues, receive Government subsidies. The King has called for Moroccan Jews living abroad to return to live in Morocco. Few Jews have actually returned to live there, however.