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Emet m'Tsiyon

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jews Oppressed in 19th Century Morocco -- Part 2

The letter below was sent to the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris from the town of Sheshwan [Chechouan] in Morocco. Originally written in Judeo-Arabic, it was translated by a Monsieur Carmona and transmitted with the original to the AIU in Paris. It is a statement by the Jewish community of Sheshwan and counter-signed by a man named Asseruya.

"The Captivity Is Felt Here as Much during the Day as at Night," 1864
. . . we hurry with some delay to indicate to you in writing the state of
the town of Sheshwan and its inhabitants.
Sheshwan is a small village
surrounded by Arab clans. The inhabitants [belonging to the
are devoted to perpetual struggles the consequences of which are
made to rebound against us, their anger stirred up by their reciprocal
failures. And above all, the government of this region is so to speak nominal
and powerless. Here, the Captivity [of Israel in Exile] is
felt as much during the day as at night. As far as we are concerned, we are
almost accustomed to no longer having hope except in God Almighty.
So that you can have an idea of what we can suffer, we are going to tell
you of our monotonous life imprinted with several episodes.
When we leave the Jewish quarter, we must take off our shoes for the whole
passage through the Arab quarter, and this while looking forward to receiving
several stones on our bodies. No one tries to defend us.
Before the judges, it is said: "He is a Jew." The robberies here are very
out in the open. "An Arab goes to buy something from a Jew. In order to pay him,
he says to him: But I paid you, O Jew, son of a dog! The unfortunate man must
overlook it.
[quoted in Littman, "Quelques aspects de la condition de
dhimmi: Juifs d'Afrique du Nord avant la colonisation," Yod, v 2, fasc.
1, Octobre 1976; p 17]

Note the extreme inequality in law of the Jew in traditional Muslim-Arab society in North Africa before the French conquest, that is, before the start of colonization. The Jew here was without protection by the state and its organs of law and order, such as they were. This social order was not caused by Israel or Zionism.
- - - - - - - -
Coming: More on Jews in Morocco, Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, peace follies, British diplomacy & psychological warfare, etc.


  • Thid is really interesting. I was on a trip to Morocco recently, and when I told a few people I was Jewish, they would mention how the Moroccan king saved his Jewish subjects during WW2 (which is apparently true), and they would go on and on about how Jews and Arabs lived together as "brothers" once upon a time. They were well-meaning, but their view of history was skewed, to say the least.

    In some cities there are "mellahs," or old Jewish quarters. As one European hotelier there said, if the Jews had it so great, why did they all have to live in ghettos? I was especially amused when I asked someone why most Moroccan Jews left for Israel in the 1950s. I had read that during the independence riots in 1956, Jews were especially targeted. The man I asked said, oh well...when Israel was founded the government there sent a letter to the Jews of Morocco and told them they should go to Israel. So they did.

    Uh huh. Sure. Whatever.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:49 AM  

  • Joanne,
    Michel Abitbol wrote about North African Jews during WW2. He can clarify the matter of the king's help for the Jews [then Sultan Muhammad V]. Don't forget that the country was then ruled by the French. Tunisia was occupied by the Germans and there many Jews were sent to concentration camps. At that stage, these were only labor camps. That is, labor camps were the preliminary stage of the Holocaust. However, some Jews were sent to European camps from Tunisia and Algeria. I don't know about Morocco. Abitbol is the authority, but Gitta Amipaz-Silber wrote an interesting little book about Jews who made up the bulk of the Resistance in Algeria and effectively defeated the Vichy power there, opening the way for the American troops to land at Algiers without suffering losses. This chapter of WW2 history is little known in America.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 3:26 PM  

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