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Anti-Semitic Protests in Morocco a Warning Sign

Recent anti-Semitic protests in Morocco have gone on without any response from the local government.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/2/2010, 3:39 PM / Last Update: 8/3/2010, 2:17 AM

Noam Nir

Noam Nir, an Israeli businessman who lives and owns a property in Morocco, was shocked when he found out that the building he owns in the city of Mogador became the focus of an anti-Semitic demonstration. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Nir expressed a serious concern that such demonstrations, that were not commonplace in Morocco until recently and have suddenly begun to appear on its streets, would lead to imminent harm anhd endanger the lives of the Jewish community in Morocco.

Nir also described another demonstration which occurred around the eve of Pesach in Morocco to which he was a personal witness. During the demonstration, which was aimed specifically the Moroccan King’s Jewish advisor (who is described by the locals as Zionist despite his pro-Arab positions), the protestors yelled anti-Israel and anti-US slurs, such as calling Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama murderers.

Nir explained that the “common man” as he put it in Morocco does not distinguish between Judaism and Zionism, and as such equates criticism of Zionism with an attack on Judaism. This, according to Nir, "puts the Jewish community in danger." He noted that so far anti-Semitism in Morocco has been well-hidden, mostly because there is a strong police presence in the country. However, he added that the recent demonstrations, both the one that was held against the King’s advisor and the one near the building which he owns, went unanswered on the part of local police. Nir expressed his belief that the lack of police intervention is evidence that there has been a deterioration in relations between the country's Muslim and Jewish populations.

Nir explained that anti-Semitism in Morocco is deeply rooted in history and continues to the present day. He identified Islam and the process of Arabization in Morocco as two factors which contribute heavily to acts of anti-Semitism in the country.

He mentioned a fear of walking down the street in Morocco wearing a Kippah and added that Morocco's Arab citizens often express distaste for their Jewish neighbors during conversations, although at this stage they prefer to focus on neighbors that are located in more distant circles.

It is estimated that 3200 to 3500 Jews currently live in Morocco, with the majority living in Casablanca. Nir said that several hundred Jews of Moroccan origin have moved out of the country, mostly to Europe and Canada.

A recent event of concern in Morocco also occurred around Pesach, this time in Tangiers. The former Jewish hospital in Tangiers was torn down by authorities on a Friday night in the midst of the holiday, causing concerns within the community that the Jewish cemeteries in Tangiers could be next.