MONTREAL (Oct. 21)
The first World Assembly of Moroccan Jewry ended with a call for Arab-Israel coexistence and a pledge to help promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
David Amar of Casablanca, president of the Council of Moroccan Jewish Communities, was elected president of the World Assembly at its organizing meeting here over the weekend. Some 150 delegates, representing 750,000 Moroccan-born Jews around the world, adopted a program that included an appeal “to strengthen the attachment and solidarity between Morocco and Moroccan Jews wherever they may be.”
Amar said he hoped the newly-formed Assembly would “serve as a bridge between the Arab and Jewish people, to bring closer the day when the Arab states and the Jewish State will live in peace. Our experience in Morocco, and the affection we feel for this land, where we enjoyed equal rights and the friendship of King Hassan II and his predecessors in the royal family, are testimony to the possibilities of Arab-Jewish, Jewish-Palestinian and Israeli-Jordanian peace.”
Since the establishment of Israel, about 440,000 Jews have emigrated from Morocco to the Jewish State, where they constitute about one-fifth of the population. About 15,000 Jews remain in Morocco, with an equal number in the United States. Montreal, with 30,000 Moroccan-born Jews, has the largest Moroccan Jewish community in North America.
NEW PEACE INITIATIVE NEEDED
The head of the Israeli delegation to the conference, Knesset member Rafi Edery, a close adviser of Prime Minister Shimon Peres, urged in a speech to the Assembly that King Hassan should “launch another initiative aimed at direct Israel-Arab talks.”
“Nearly 10 years ago,” he recalled, “the King played host at secret meetings of Egyptian and Israeli officials that led to President Sadat’s flight to Jerusalem. I appeal to King Hassan to launch another such initiative, this time aimed at Israeli talks with Jordan.”
Another Israeli Knesset member, Aharon Abu Hatzeira, founder of the Tami Party, recalled that Morocco was the only Arab state that permitted its Jewish population to emigrate to Israel. “That is one reason why we have retained our love for Morocco,” he said. “We are automatically pro-Moroccan. Israel is of course our home, our country. But if I can do anything to help the Moroccan people or the Moroccan king, I’ll do it.”
In his acceptance speech, Amar praised King Hassan for his positive attitude toward the Jewis community and recalled that during the Vichy government’s rule over Morocco during World War II, the Sultan Mohammed V had rejected Vichy demands to impose anti-Jewish legislation and had permitted Morocco to become a haven for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe.
“These are some of the reasons why Morocco remains dear to all of us, no matter where we live,” Amar said, “and why we fully support Morocco’s territorial integrity in its struggle with the Polisario in the Western Sahara.”
Lilliane Shalom of New York, who was elected a vice president of the World Assembly, told the conference: “We have an obligation to destroy the negative image of Moroccan Jewry that too many people hold. Let us let the world know of our rich heritage — cultural, spiritual, intellectual — as we preserve it for ourselves and for the generations to come.”
Her words underscored a statement by Amar, who told the conference that the organization’s initial task would be “to change the commonly held view of Moroccan Jews as a backward community, lacking culture and outside the mainstream of modern Jewish life.
“This is a false image, and it is time to correct it,” he declared. “It is time, too, to express our pride in the traditions that link together all Moroccan Jews, wherever they may live, with our native land, Morocco, with our beloved Israel and with the Jewish people.”
MOROCCAN, ISRAELI ENVOYS HAIL CONFERENCE
In a letter to delegates read at the opening session of the World Assembly, Morocco’s Ambassador to Canada, Ahmed Mamoud, praised the organizers of the conference and called it “an immensely promising event which will strengthen the ties between us, help preserve the identity of your community and guarantee the preservation of the links between the Moslem and Jewish communities of Morocco, ties which contributed greatly to our common national heritage.”
He added: “Your organization will testify to the solid attachment you hold to your country of origin and to King Hassan II, whose concern for the Jewish community remains unlimited.”
Ambassador Yakov Aviad, Consul-General of Israel in Montreal, greeted the conference in the absence of the Israeli ambassador, Eliashiv Ben-Horin, who was out of the country. “The tradition and the values of Moroccan Jewry have enriched the culture of all the Jewish people and of the State of Israel,” he said in a letter read to delegates. “It is my hope that the World Assembly of Moroccan Jewry will strengthen the ties between Israel and the Moroccan Jewish community. We look forward to your next meeting in Israel.”
Among the 150 delegates were the Moroccan-born mayors of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Shmona and Petach Tikvah in Israel. This World Assembly was described as an outgrowth of an international conference of Jewish communities held in Rabat, Morocco, in May 1984. The Assembly will meet every two years.