How Morocco’s Jews became shadows

Jews comprised three percent of Morocco’s five million inhabitants before 1948. Now there are 2, 500 or fewer, their fate tied to that of the ‘protective’ royal family; their community is a shadow of its former self. Here is a timeline showing the main stages in a period of dramatic decline.

 The Bet El synagogue in Casablanca (Photo: dlisbona/Flickr)

1912 Fez pogrom. 45 Jews killed.

1912 Establishment of French protectorate signals end of dhimmi status of 230, 000 Jews, but they are denied French citizenship, with few exceptions

1930s Antisemitism mounts from the French far-right and Moroccan nationalists

1934 Grand vizir asks French authorities to ban Jews moving in alongside Muslims in New Medina (Habou quarter) and new central districts of Casablanca

1936 rumour that Jewish girls are having a bad influence on Muslim girls leads to 1937 ‘pogrom’: In Meknes, nationalists ransack 40 Jewish shops. Jews counter with a call for a boycott of German goods.

3 Oct 1940  First Vichy statute expels Jews of French nationality from public service, education, law, medecine and media.

31 Oct 1940 the sultan signs anti-Jewish dahir. Jewish schools and administrative committees remain unaffected; Journals are banned. Converts to Islam exempt.

Nov 1940 Muslim girl servants in Jewish homes banned 

1941:  sultan declares his disapproval of antisemitic laws to a Jewish delegation.

Sultan delays, but still signs, five more dahirs in August 1941 banning Jews from banking, finance, property, law. Jews must declare their assets. Numerus clausus in public schools.

8 August 1941 Jews sent back from city European districts to mellahs.

1942: “There are no Jews, only Moroccans,” the sultan declares.

1948 Riots in Oujda and Djerada. 44 Jews murdered. 10 percent of Morocco’s Jews leave for Israel

1948 – 49:  22, 900 Jews leave for Israel.1949 – 57: 110, 000 Jews leave Morocco.

1953 Four Jews die in Oujda disturbances

1954 Petit Jean massacre: seven Jews die

1955: 1,700 Jews escape to the European city of Mazagan after large number of houses in the Jewish Quarter were set on fire and burned to the ground ; 200 Jews left homeless

1955: Wadi Zem: family of five and two other Jews murdered.

1956. Morocco declares independence. Dr Leon Benzaquen named Minister of Postal services. Five Jews named to national consultative council.

Sept 1956 Independent Morocco imposes emigration ban to Israel. Nevertheless 29, 472 Jews leave secretly with help from the Misgueret.

1958 Morocco joins Arab League: arabisation. Postal links to Israel cut.

Jan 1961:President Nasser of Egyptvisits. Jews roughed up. Jewesses forcibly converted amid nationalist resurgence.

Jan 1961 Shipwreck of illegal Pisces. 42 Jewish emigrants and one crewman drown.

1961 Operation Yakhnin evacuates  87, 707 Jews to Israel. Morocco receives ‘ransom’ of $20 million.

1948 – 67: 237, 813 Moroccan Jews arrive in Israel.

After 1967: 40, 000 Moroccan Jews move to France.

 16 August 1972: attempted coup against King Hassan II fails

1972 30, 000 Jews remain

2003 Less than 5, 000 Jews live in Morocco.

With acknowledgements to ‘Mohamed V et ses juifs’ by Guillaume Jobin (Information juive Fev/Mars 2015), ‘Il etait une fois le Maroc’ by David Bensoussan; Yigal Ben Nun in ‘La fin du Judaisme en terres d’Islam’, ed. Shmuel Trigano.


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