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Behind the Head Lines the Jews of Morocco

The Moroccan version of America’s Fourth of July took place last March 3 throughout the length and breadth of this colorful and fascinating Moslem nation, and almost the entire Jewish population of close to 20,000 turned out en masse to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of their King’s ascension to the throne.

In each of the major cities, including Casablanca, Tangiers, Fez, Marrakesh, and Rabat, the Jewish community renewed its pledge of loyalty and support for King Hassan II at huge parties and dinners.

During the elaborate reception in the King’s palace in Casablanca, the monarch affectionately welcomed a Jewish contingent led by the Grand Rabb and David Amar, the distinguished head of Moroccan Jewry. What appeared extraordinary to this writer, who viewed the Jewish observances in both Marrakesh and in Fez, was the fact that scores of government officials, including the governor of each province, were on hand to demonstrate their kinship with the Jewish community.

To quote one of the Moslem leaders, the president of the Municipal Council of Marrakesh: “There’s never been any real difference in Morocco between the Mussulman and Jew. Let us inspire in our children and grandchildren the same spirit of amity that brings us here tonight.” And the presidents of each Jewish community seemed to endorse this public avowal of friendship.

INTERVIEW WITH FOREMOST JEWISH LEADER

In an exclusive interview in Casablanca, just two hours prior to this reporter’s return home on an Air Maroc flight, Amar, the country’s foremost Jewish leader, insisted that the rights of all faiths must be vigorously maintained, not only in Morocco but in Israel as well.

Amar, a trim, vigorous and youthful 63, began his Jewish activities in 1945, became the head of Moroccan Jewry in 1956, and is a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and works closely with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and other international Jewish organizations. He is a frequent visitor to the United States.

Having made his fortune as a major industrialist Amar now devotes himself to Jewish affairs and “to do what I can do to contribute to peace.” He maintains that since the Jewish people “are the people of the ‘law’, they have a special duty to support and enforce the religious, ethical and physical rights of all faiths as they do their own. “

In Israel, he said, “the government has the duty to understand and to enforce the rights of the Palestinians within its borders. Such a policy is in accord with Biblical precepts. Just as Israel’s boundaries and its right to exist must be respected, so must the Palestinians be afforded the opportunity to live in peace and dignity.”

SAYS KING HAS HIGH REGARD FOR JEWISH CITIZENS

Amar considers the Jews of Morocco to be “Moroccans, first and foremost.” He feels that “the response of Jewry on March 3rd was to confirm our allegiance to our King.” He revealed that he had telephoned, a few weeks earlier, some prominent American Jewish officials and told them that there had been “absolutely no change in the King’s high regard for his Jewish subjects, despite any published reports implying the contrary.”

Amar was referring to remarks by Hassan in a television speech in January in which he blamed the riots taking place on “a multifaceted conspiracy perpetrated by Marxist-Leninists, Zionist agents and Khomeinists,” supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, who, the King said, were trying to sabotage the Islamic Conference being held in Casablanca at the time. Reports from Morocco at the time said the riots were triggered by the government’s announcement of high food prices and higher school fees.

Amar claimed that “what is lacking is effective world Jewish leadership.” And it was his staunch view that “the use of arms will settle nothing in the Arab-Jewish disputes. The only possible way to peace is sitting down together to negotiate.”

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