Kim Robin Stoller (International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism) — download PDF
After World War II, there were more than 250 000 Jews living in Morocco. Most of them immigrated to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s, making the population from Morocco or with Moroccan descent the second largest in Israel. Today, a newly proposed law submitted by the majority of Moroccan parliamentarian groups asks for the punishment of contacts with Israel and Israelis with two to five years of imprisonment. Human rights activists from Morocco are condemning the proposal as “inhumane,” “unconstitutional” and “influenced by Nazi-tendencies” and are asking for help from the international community.
The Kingdom of Morocco is often seen as a relatively tolerant Muslim country, also towards its Jewish citizens. It has also been seen as a good example for modern Muslim-Jewish coexistence. Until the end of the 1940s, before its independence, Morocco had the largest Jewish population in an Islamic country worldwide, and King Mohammed V is said to have protected “Morocco’s Jews” during the protectorate against further anti-Jewish laws of Vichy-France. Later, King Hassan II was involved in facilitating the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel. An Israeli liaison office existed in Rabat until its closure in 2000, after one million demonstrators protested in the streets against Israel.
Today, only a few thousand Jews remain in Morocco, most having left Morocco shortly before or after independence, many of them to Israel. Even if Israel and Morocco have no official diplomatic relations anymore, many thousands of Jews and/or Israelis visit Morocco every year as tourists or on pilgrimages to holy Jewish sites. Israelis also have participated in several conferences in Morocco in recent years, ranging from business and academia to cultural events. Even Israeli politicians have taken part in Mediterranean and other international conferences, most often under protest from pan-Arabist and Islamist groups promoting the destruction of the Jewish State.
But Morocco’s world standing as a relatively tolerant country might change for the worse, if the law proposed by the majority of Moroccan parliamentarian groups passes. The proposed legislation suggests punishing all contacts and activities of Moroccan citizens in Israel and Israeli participation at events in Morocco with two to five years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from approximately 10,000 euro to 100,000 euro.
In many aspects of Moroccan politics, “the Palace” still remains in power, especially when it comes to questions of foreign policy. So there is a chance that the proposal might not be discussed or voted upon in the parliament – especially if there is enough internal and international opposition to it, as Moroccan human rights activists have pointed out.
² The statement of the Moroccan human-rights-organization Dialogus can be accessed under http://dialogus-ong.org/.