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

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The Moroccan Nationalist Movement and Its Attitude toward Jews and Zionism · 163

had begun around 1900 and had slowly seeped into areas where there
were large concentrations of Jews. Local branches of Zionist organiza-
tions were founded, and a communication mechanism with the Zionist
organizations of Europe was established. Nevertheless, Zionist activity in
Morocco was very limited. The important change began toward the end
of World War II, mainly among the younger elements of the Jewish com-
munities, when emissaries of the Jewish Agency, the Hagana,^7 and the
Mossad Le- ̔Aliya Bet arrived in the country.^8 Recruiting young Moroc-
cans into this new movement and training them for ̔aliya to Ereṣ Israel,
immigration to the land of Israel, resulted in two waves of emigration,
the first in 1943–45, and the second in 1947–49. Three main factors led
to the Jews virtually falling into the Zionists’ lap: first, the failure of the
colonial authorities to change the legal, social, and political status of the
Jews, leaving them in their continued dhimmi status under the makhzan
and the sultan; second, the recent political developments and changes
that enabled Jews to emigrate to Israel; and, finally, the poverty and suf-
fering from a low standard of living, especially of those residing in the
mellaḥs, the old Jewish neighborhoods in the larger cities.^9
On top of all these we may add another catalyst: the riots that broke
out on 7 June 1948 in the cities of Oujda and Jerada, close to the border
between Morocco and Algeria, which served as a transfer station for Mo-
roccan Jews on their way to Israel. In these riots forty-three Jews were
killed, dozens were injured, and property was greatly damaged. It is be-
lieved that the riots were brought on by the speech given a short while
earlier by Sultan Muḥammad Ben-Yussuf, which inveighed against the
Zionists and cried for solidarity with the Arabs fighting in Israel. Claims
have been made that the French authorities not only knew about these
impending events but also goaded and collaborated with the instigators
as a provocation against the heads of the Moroccan Independence Party,
who could later be blamed for committing murder. These events are con-
sidered the most significant in the relationship between Jews and Mus-
lims in Morocco and an important formative element in the emigration
process of Moroccan Jews.^10
Between 1949 and 1956, the activities of various ̔aliya operatives inten-
sified greatly. The establishment of the state of Israel signaled the prom-
ise of change and, at a time when their future in Morocco was highly
uncertain, of a new and better future for a large number of Jews. There
was also a messianic dimension, especially among Jews of the distant,

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