Muslim Memories of Jews – Page 2

Moroccan Jews, Israel and the Palestinians

In his book, “Memories of Absence,” Aomar Boum highlights the difficulties that many young Moroccans have in separating their views of Moroccan Jews from their views of the Israeli Government’s treatment of Palestinians. “Since the first Intifada, there has been an emerging feeling against Israel in some sectors of the general Moroccan public. This attitude conflates Israel with Jews, and consequently Moroccan Jews are occasionally targeted as supporters of Israel and its policies toward Palestine.” (128)

Not-so-rosy Relations between Muslims and Jews

Muslims remember that relations between Jews and them were not always rosy. Amazigh, Arabs and Jews insulted each other in jest using similar words. Those who welcomed Jews in person may have criticized them outside their presence. Although Muslims believe that Jews and Muslims share a common Moroccan culture, most of them also believe that Islam is superior to Judaism.

Islamism and Moroccan Jews

Islamism has become a political force in Morocco in recent decades. Among some Moroccans, it has altered the perception of Jews. Since the 1970s, an Islamic movement that seeks political power has been growing. One Islamist party, the moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Democracy (PJD), controlled the parliament and government from 2012-2021. Boum notes, “Some young Islamists believe Jews are by nature traitors, starting from the reception of one Jewish community to the prophet Mohammed. They believe they are hostile once they gain power.” (153)

Amazigh Solidarity with Moroccan Jews

Beginning in 2002, King Mohammed VI began the process of reducing the centuries-long repression of Moroccan Amazigh identity by sultans, colonizers and independent Moroccan kings. Some Amazigh activists believe that their struggle against discrimination parallels the struggle of Moroccan Jews. One Amazigh group that supported this approach was the Parti Démocratique Amazigh (Amazigh Democratic Party), which existed from 2005-2008. Boum tells us, “The Parti Démocratique Amazigh expressed solidarity with Amazigh Jews in Israel, linking Moroccan antisemitism and anti-Amazigh attitudes. It also has deemphasized the Palestinian struggle, calling it an Arab issue.” (147)

Mimouna Association’s Efforts to Preserve Jewish Heritage

In 2007, young Muslim students at English-speaking Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane established the Mimouna Association to promote and preserve Jewish-Moroccan heritage, particularly for Moroccan youth. The Association, which broke an unofficial taboo for Muslims to engage with the Israeli government, has flourished. Its work, supported by Moroccan Jewish diaspora and other Jewish organizations, played an important role in catalyzing King Mohammed VI’s 2010-2015 campaign to rehabilitate Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and saints’ tombs. It also contributed to the 2020 decision by the Ministry of National Education to include Moroccan Jewish history and culture in public school curricula. It is collaborating with the governments of US and Israel to fight antisemitism.

Interview with Mimouna Association Founders Laziza Dalil & El Mehdi Boudra by Peter Geffen, President of Kivunim

Efforts outside Morocco to Remember Moroccan Jews

Religious and conflict prevention groups outside Morocco have encouraged the Moroccan Muslim diaspora to share their memories and experiences with Moroccan Jews. One of them, the Salaam-Shalom Initiative, an intercultural activist initiative established in December 2013 by Jews and Muslims in Berlin, has included Moroccan Muslims and Jews in its campaign for peaceful co-existence and solidarity.

Interview with Abdul and Fatimah from Larache by Flora Hastings, Salam Shalom Barcelona