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Status of Moroccan Jews Now Worrying French-jewish Circles

With the return from Morocco of Professor Victor Basch, president of the League for Human Rights, with the tragic tale of the situation of the Moroccan Jews, their status is beginning to attract the attention in French Jewish circles. The Jews of Morocco, which is under a French and Spanish protectorate, are not permitted to acquire either French or Moroccan citizenship.

The protection of Sultan Moulai Mohammed III means that the Jews are subjected to backward and often arbitrary Moslem jurisdiction. Flogging of Jews by local judges is an almost daily occurrence.

Professor Basch declares that the cultural standing of the Jews is low and any change in their civil status is impossible and undesirable. He believes that “schools and more schools are a first desideratum” because political considerations make it impossible for France to interfere. Professor Basch points out that “it is impossible to deprive the Sultan of his prerogatives, or rather his courtesans who oppress the people and despise and harass the Jews.”

Most of the Jews in Morocco are descendants of the Spanish Jews who fled from Spain in 1492 during the Inquisition and after the expulsion edict. Morocco, being a Mohammedan country, was more hospitable to the Jews, although even there they have had great miseries to contend with. There were, however, important Jewish settlements in Morocco during Roman days. Many of the Jews were of Berber origin.

In the middle of the 19th century the Moroccan wars with Spain and France brought great hardships to the Jews. In 1864, through the intercession of Sir Moses Montefiore, the Sultan issued an edict emancipating the Jews but local officials practically vitiated this measure. The Alliance Universelle Israelite of France has been active in Morocco in establishing schools and sanitary organizations.

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