JERUSALEM (Jun. 7)
An unconfirmed report in Haaretz this morning that substantial numbers of North African Jews in Israel were planning to return to Morocco at the invitation of that country brought a strong denial from Jewish Agency treasurer Leon Dulzin and a Knesset motion by Likud leader Menachem Beigin for an investigation of reported “yerida” to Arab lands.
Dulzin addressing a delegation of world Sephardic leaders currently visiting Israel, declared “All the talk about Jewish yerida to Arab lands and to Morocco is the fruit of Arab–and particularly PLO–propaganda,” He said “A few isolated cases” were being exploited by the propagandists to create the impression of large-scale defections of Jews from Israel. The invitations from certain Arab states to their former nationals in Israel to return are nothing but a trap. Dulzin said. He urged the Sephardic leaders to impress that fact upon their brethren.
Beigin proposed the establishment of a commission to study the motives behind yerida and why some Jews desire to leave. According to Haaretz, Arab states have set up a $5 million fund to encourage Jews and especially Israelis who left the Arab countries of their birth, to return. Haaretz said there was opposition to the fund in Morocco because of that country’s pressing economic problems but that King Hassan plans to have a “colony” of some 200 Israeli returnees in Rabat by the end of this year.
OTHER ALLEGATIONS MADE
The Haaretz report also said that French Jewish intellectuals of the left and some Israeli leftists have been trying to encourage Israeli families to consider returning to Morocco. Other recent developments relative to the issue include; allegations that Yehoshua Peretz, leader of the volatile Ashdod port workers’ union, has been encouraging yerida to “get even” with Israeli authorities because of his conviction for disturbing the peace (Peretz hotly denies these allegations); a declaration of a large Jaffa family of slum dwellers that they were preparing to return to Morocco; the actual return of a former Iraqi family to Iraq. (The family of Yosef Nawi. 47, held a press conference in Baghdad and has appeared on Iraqi radio); persistent rumors that significant numbers of Moroccan Jews plan to return to Morocco.
In that connection, leaders of the Moroccan community have been less than unequivocal in their denials. While these leaders seem to have no desire to exaggerate the yerida phenomenon, they seem to feel it can be used to focus attention on the social and political grievances of their community.
Shaul Ben-Shimon, chairman of the World Union of North African Jews and a Histadrut official, was quoted by Haaretz as saying, “The information in the government’s hands regarding yerida to Morocco is far more serious than publicly acknowledged. But I prefer for the present to deal with this matter quietly and without publicity.” Ben-Shimon said in an interview on the army radio station yesterday that he knew of no case of actual yerida to Morocco or of a threat to that effect being implemented. He added that those who threatened yerida were often not the poor and down-trodden but well-to-do people.