The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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In Search of Jewish Farmers: Jews, Agriculture, and the Land in Rural Morocco · 149

singular most powerful leader of the central High Atlas. Significantly,
in the five casbahs that Glawi constructed for his deputies in the south,
there were either mellahs or significant Jewish population in the area un-
der his control.^25 Jews also became closely linked to Glawi and his agents.
Corcos served as a key intermediary for Glawi, through the former a
conduit for the production of his many landed properties. Corcos himself
was able to acquire considerable landed property.^26
The transition to colonial rule brought some uneven changes in the
relationship between Jews and the land in rural areas. While it might
seem like the extension of French control and the elimination of legal
restrictions would facilitate easier acquisition of rural land by Jews, this
was often not the case. Local circumstances, some of which predated the
French conquest, were often determining factors. Here we have seen a
wide range of possibilities. In some areas, Jews were not allowed to own
land, either the surrounding fields or the houses they lived in. In some
cases, Jews owned the trees but not the land itself. Elsewhere Jews in-
deed owned land and were able to take possession of land when a debtor
defaulted. However, in the small mellahs of the High Atlas, it was often
only a few Jews who actually owned the land by title as individual hold-
ings (mulk).^27 In some locations, often when a powerful chief owned the
land, Jews rented their land and houses. As we have seen, Jews farmed
in only a very few places; in many more instances, Jews either employed
sharecroppers if they owned the land or held land as usufruct usually the
result of the Jews loaning money to the Muslim property owners who
farmed and harvested their land in association with the Jews. This was
based on a contract, referred to in Arabic by a more generic term, rahn,
whereby a debtor transfers to his creditor the possession of his property,
which was then held as usufruct until the debt was reimbursed. In theory,
this usually lasted for three years, but in reality it was understood that
there was no intention to pay off the debt. This may have been the most
common means by which Jews acquired property, although in theory,
the land was more often held as usufruct rather than by title of owner-
ship. This sometimes led to disputes about actual ownership, since by
this means Jews might hold land for generations.
The situation of landownership was also far from static, and many
factors could alter the status of Jews in relation to the land. On the one
hand, Jews may have taken advantage of environmental crises of the
twentieth century and bought land from destitute Muslim owners.^28 The

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