King Hassan of Morocco Assures Jews of Protection

Moroccan King Hassan II promised his country’s 30,000 Jews last, night that he would “continue to defend them” and said that they would continue to enjoy the same rights as the rest of the population, according to reports reaching here today. The King, who addressed a press conference at his summer palace in Rabat, said: “I want to use this opportunity to tell my Jewish subjects that they have nothing to fear and that nothing will be changed in their situation.”

Referring to Gen. Mohamed Oufkir, the Moroccan Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff whose death last week after an aborted coup attempt has been called suicide, King Hassan said Morocco’s Jews “do not need Oufkir to defend them.” He explained that “the royal throne has traditionally always defended the country’s Jews, and I personally have managed to prevent the outbreak of anti-Jewish pogroms after the Six-Day War.” The King’s statement, broadcast over the Moroccan radio and television network, has reassured the Jewish community’s leaders and most of its Jews, it was reported. Special prayers for the King have been recited in synagogues throughout the country, and Jewish leaders are due to call at the Royal Palace in the coming days to assure him of their loyalty.

Earlier reports indicated widespread anxiety among Moroccan Jews following the attempted putsch and Oufkir’s death. Many of them reportedly feared that as a result of what Hassan termed “Oufkir’s betrayal,” the monarch might turn for support to the ultranationalistic Istaqlal Party led by Allai el-Fassi. Fassi, the reports said, is a virulent anti-Semite who has accused Morocco’s Jews of “sabotaging” the country’s economy and serving as “Zionist agents.” During the late-1950s rule of the National Union of Popular Forces, Jewish governmental officials were dismissed, postal relations with Israel were broken, and Jews were forbidden to leave the country lest they migrate to Israel.

Moroccan Jews were thus reassured, It was reported, when King Hassan indicated last night that while he was prepared to cooperate with the two opposition parties, he would not give in to their demands. Those parties, in turn, have indicated that they will not take part in a Moroccan government for the time being.

At last night’s press conference, an incident occurred which showed the King’s anti-Egyptian sentiments. When an Egyptian journalist sought to ask a question, Hassan interrupted him with: “First let me ask you: How come your President, Anwar Sadat, was the only one not to have congratulated me on my escape?” In angry tones he added: “Answer, answer, I shall answer your question only when you have replied to mine.” Observers in Rabat thus believe that Morocco’s relations with the “progressive” Arab countries of Libya, Syria and Iraq will further worsen as a result of the attempted putsch.

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