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

(Joyce) #1
Introduction · 9

were pockets of agricultural Jews in the central High Atlas Mountains
and elsewhere in the country, but no more than that. The majority of
them were petty merchants and artisans. Often they sold the agricultural
products of the Muslims in the rural markets (suqs), which was part of
the economic coexistence between the two groups. Jews who did pur-
sue farming were largely landless and held land owned by Muslims in
usufruct. As Schroeter observes, “The fact that most Jews were in profes-
sions other than agriculture, the occupation of the vast majority of the
Muslim population, was to the Jews a mark of their distinction, indeed
even demonstrating their superiority over non-Jews.” After many years
since the resettlement of most of Moroccan Jewry in Israel, older Muslims
remembered this distinction.
Dalit Atrakchi’s essay on “The Moroccan Nationalist Movement and
Its Attitude toward Jews and Zionism” attests to some of the dominant
political complexities faced by Muslims and the dilemmas confronting
Jews. Atrakchi tackles à la fois the tension looming large between local na-
tionalists and Zionism in mid-twentieth-century Morocco, its relevance
to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the status of Moroccan Jewry in the tran-
sition of their country from a colonized entity to an independent nation-
state. She confirms that Morocco’s geographical remoteness from the
Middle East conflict was hardly a factor in the decision whether or not
local nationalists ought to identify in solidarity with the Arab struggle
over Palestine. This affected Judeo-Muslim relations negatively mostly
in the urban areas.
At the same time, Moroccan Jewry contributed to the weakening of
Judeo-Muslim understanding. They refused to take the side of the na-
tionalists in the struggle for statehood, hoping quietly that French and
Spanish colonial presence would endure indefinitely. Finding themselves
positioned between the colonizers and the colonized, the Jews were pres-
sured by each side to embrace its cause. It became apparent to the na-
tionalists that the Jews—at least inwardly—supported the colonialists.
These realities convinced the majority of Jews that they should opt for
departure to Israel, France, and the Americas.
In Libya, the tumultuous atmosphere clouding Muslim-Jewish coex-
istence was far more pronounced. This is clearly shown by Rachel Si-
mon’s “Jewish-Muslim Relations in Libya,” especially during the Italian
colonization (1911–43), the British Military Administration (1943–52), and
independent Libya. Under Italy, Jews had benefited from modernization;

Free download pdf