Anti-Semitism discounted as cause of demolition in Morocco


(JTA) — The president of Morocco’s Jewish community discounted rumors that the demolition of a Jewish-owned property in Tangier was related to anti-Semitism.

Over Passover, authorities in Tangier began carrying out a longstanding demolition order of a building in Tangier that used to house the Jewish Benchimol Hospital in the city; the property still belongs to the Jewish community. The action prompted the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, Jacobo Israel Garzon, to send a letter of protest to the governor of Tangier demanding that Jewish rights to the property be respected and restored.

The president of the Jewish Communities Council of Morocco, Serge Berdugo, who met with the governor of Tangier after Passover, confirmed that a November 2008 demolition order against the building was being carried out because the structure was unsafe and not for any other reason.

"The fact that the building was demolished over a Passover evening is a mere and unfortunate coincidence," he said. "The decision to demolish the Tangier-based Benchimol hospital was taken after studies showed that this facility, decommissioned and vacant since the mid-1960s, was beyond redemption and could not be revamped at reasonable costs for the Jewish community of Tangier. Although I can understand the feelings sparked by such a decision, the worries and rumors spread in this regard are baseless."

The president of Tangier’s Jewish community, Abraham Azencot, was out of town when the razing began, leading to speculation about the reason and timing of the demolition, Berdugo said. Several other structures in the area also are being demolished, including a mosque and church, as well as private and public buildings, he said.

Berdugo said the Jewish community must decide whether to sell or rent the property parcel, or exchange it for another property.

"We have to discuss what is best for the Jewish community because we need money to preserve a Jewish cemetery and historical Jewish synagogues," Berdugo said.

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