Conciliation between Israel and Morocco Isn’t Just about the Necessities of the Present, but Also Millennia of History

Dec. 22 2020

Herself a Frenchwoman of Moroccan descent, Marie Daouda explains the enthusiasm she feels for the normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Rabat, and seeks to place recent diplomacy in its historical context:

The first Jews in Morocco were Berbers, converted via commercial bonds as early as the 2nd century BCE. One of the most ancient synagogues [in the world] is in Zagora, [a city in southeastern a Morocco]; a funerary stone in the Roman ruins of Volubilis, [ in the norther part of the country], mentions Caecilianos, a member of the Jewish community, and some Jewish cemeteries have been in use for two millennia.

This original Jewish population was joined in the 7th century CE by refugees from Spain escaping the persecution of the Christian Visigoth kings. By that time the Maghreb had fallen to Arab invaders and provided a springboard for the conquest of Spain in 711, which would subsequently prove a more welcoming home to Jews for centuries. Yet Islamic rulers in Morocco had fits of intolerance, too: in 1033, the Muslim chieftain Tamim Ibn Izri massacred the Jews of Fez and forced the surviving women and children into slavery.

The arrival of Spanish Jews after the Reconquista coincided with more peaceful relations. . . . Paradoxically, because Jews worked in professions Muslims recoiled from for religious reasons, they found themselves in charge of essential diplomatic and commercial duties. . . . Moroccan Jews were not just moneylenders, but also extremely skillful craftsmen and artists. Their contribution to music, architecture, and literature was enormous.

Following [World War II], the first Jews to leave the country did so in order to follow the dream of an independent Israel, but conditions at home were to drive many more away in the following decades.

And when I hear Sephardi grandmothers talking in Moroccan Arabic with that distinctive Jewish accent, either in Paris’s Sentier or on Brent Street in northwest London, I feel a kinship that is hard to put into words but that can move me to tears. And so in these troubled times, when anti-Semitism takes a new face, it warms my heart to see my native country welcoming back its most genuinely Moroccan citizens.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Israel diplomacy, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria