Plaque Honoring Moroccan King Removed from Square in Ashkelon

A plaque honoring the late King Mohammed of Morocco was removed from the newly named Peace Square in Ashkelon Monday barely a week after it was dedicated at ceremonies attended by Premier Shimon Peres.

Mayor Eli Dayan said the plaque was removed for cleaning and maintenance. It had been repeatedly vandalized with paint, hammer blows and a pneumatic drill. The name of the former ruler of Morocco was obliterated and replaced with the name of Haim Azran, an Ashkelon resident fatally stabbed by an unknown assailant in Gaza several days before the dedication.

The concurrence of both events created fury in Ashkelon, which has a large population of Jews of Moroccan origin. It also re-opened the controversy over whether Mohammed, father of the current Moroccan sovereign King Hassan, deserved to be honored.

Some historians claim Mohammed was a tool of the collaborationist Vichy regime which imposed anti-Jewish edicts in Morocco during World War II. Others, cited by Peres at the dedication, maintain that Mohammed was a friend of the Jews and helped them during the Nazi era.

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