TEL AVIV (Sep. 28)
Official ceremonies naming a square in Ashkelon in honor of the late King Mohammed of Morocco were cut short Sunday when Rabbi Meir Kahane and followers of his extremist Kach Party invaded the municipality offices, smashed windows, overturned furniture and threatened the clerks.
Premier Shimon Peres, the principal speaker, had difficulty making himself heard over the shouts of hecklers. Most were supporters of the right-wing opposition Tehiya Party who had a permit to demonstrate and did so noisily but peacefully. The violence came from Kach.
The town on Israel’s coast south of Tel Aviv is in ferment over the fatal stabbing of one of its residents, Haim Azran, in the Gaza marketplace Saturday. (See separate story.) His funeral, scheduled for Sunday, was postponed at the request of local police who feared clashes.
Mohammed was the father of King Hassan, the present ruler of Morocco, with whom Peres met last July. Peres reminded the crowd that the late monarch had befriended Jews during World War II and at other times. But a historian of the Moroccan Jewish community claims Mohammed signed Nazi racist laws at Hitler’s orders when his country was administered by the collaborationist Vichy regime.
Peres referred to Azran’s murder, noting that it followed a recent attempt on the life of Hassan by Palestinian terrorists. “We shall not allow PLO people in Gaza or PLO people in Morocco to kill the peace process,” Peres said. He told the hecklers, “Peace is built on love of country, not hatred of Arabs. It (the square) can serve as a center for permanent dialogue between the different people.”
Tehiya MK Gershon Shafat told reporters his party objected to honoring King Mohammed because “To this day I have not heard of naming a square in Morocco in honor of Ben Gurion or any other Zionist leader.” He said such “gestures” to the West would bring no benefits.