As Anti-Semitism Increases, Let’s Remember How Morocco Saved its Jews

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“There are no Jews in Morocco; there are only Moroccan citizens.” This was how King Mohammed V of Morocco responded to the Vichy government of France to the request to turn over Jewish citizens. “I do not approve of the new anti-Semitic laws, and I refuse to associate myself with a measure I disagree with,” he told the French government officials. “I reiterate as I did in the past that the Jews are under my protection, and I reject any distinction that should be made amongst my people.”

While other rulers made common cause with the Nazis due to their shared anti-Semitism, Mohammed V was a strong supporter of the Allies, and he took seriously his role as “Commander of the Faithful,” which entailed protection not only of Muslims but of his Jewish and Christian subjects as well. During the Vichy rule, no Moroccan Jews were deported or killed.

My parents escaped from Belgium to Casablanca en route to the United States during the war and thus were saved. Recently, I met with Hillary Clinton, and she mentioned to me that she had just returned from a trip to Morocco. She asked me if I was aware of the country’s history of benevolence toward its Jewish community. I told her that my own family was a beneficiary of that history and that I was traveling to Morocco myself in a few days.

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The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.