Rabat – Morocco’s relationship with its Jewish communities has been the subject of wide interest—both scholarly and journalistic—in recent years.While the world generally views the Arab-Jewish relationship as conflictual and continuously tumultuous, a recent message by King Mohammed VI to a symposium on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, has opted for the contrary. The King said that, at least in the Moroccan context, peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Muslims is real and has been so for generations.Drawing attention to a history of peaceful coexistence between different faiths in Morocco, the King reiterated Morocco’s desire to not only fight anti-semitism, but also to promote religious tolerance and open-mindedness in school. The message was delivered by Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani at a roundtable on “The power of education in preventing racism and discrimination: the case of anti-Semitism.” The King underlined Morocco’s historical role as a champion of religious dialogue and peaceful cohabitation.Antisemitism, the King said, “provides a breeding ground for violent extremism and growing insecurity.” He added, “Anti-Semitism is the antithesis of freedom of expression. It implies a denial of the other and is an admission of failure, inadequacy and an inability to coexist. It implies an anachronistic return to a mystified past.”The King called participants at the UN roundtable to “promote education for peace” and invest in education and culture to win the battle against the proliferation of exclusive and racist ideologies. The legacy of exclusion and suspicion, he concluded, should not be passed on to future generations.Holocaust in Moroccan school books?Following the King’s message, a number of international media outlets have speculated about the implications of the King’s insistence on religious cohabitation and the teaching in Moroccan schools of an inclusive and comprehensive approach to history. Journalists have raised the possibility that Morocco might include the Holocaust and other episodes of Jewish history in Moroccan history textbooks. The King’s message, they argued, points to a willingness to integrate historical episodes that were previously sidelined or ignored by Moroccan textbooks.But whether King Mohammed’s insistence on a collective and inclusive Jewish-Muslim history will indeed be taken into account in the country’s history textbooks is bound to remain media speculations. The Moroccan Ministry of Education did not respond to Morocco World News repeated requests for comment. Fatima Ouahmi, head of the ministry’s communication department, told us that she is “not qualified to answer.”Agence France Press (AFP) also reported earlier today they contacted the communication department of the Ministry of Education for comments. The ministry refrained from commenting, telling AFP to refer to the original message. The King has not ordered the government to include the Holocaust in Moroccan school books, AFP reported.Rachid Aguadou, the director of the cabinet of the Ministry of Education was unreachable.We’ve been here beforeWhile King Mohammed VI’s much-reported message has taken on a new meaning in media circles, especially given the context of the King’s continued focus on youth-related matters, headlines about the complex history of Moroccan Jews have been around much longer.In October 2017, Israeli outlet Haaretz reported a partnership between Morocco and the US Holocaust Museum to “educate about the Holocaust and counter intolerance.” Prince Moulay Rachid endorsed the museum’s proposal on Morocco’s behalf. He was reported to have accepted the museum’s suggestion to work on a project “to bring the lessons of the past to address the lessons of the present and to make a better tomorrow.”Haaretz added that museum director Sara Bloomfield invited Prince Moulay Rachid to attend another event in Washington, D.C., to honor his grandfather, King Mohammed V, “who refused to hand over Jewish Moroccans to the Vichy France occupier during the Nazi period.”Moroccan Jews and Muslims: A complex historyFor all the positive accounts about Morocco’s genuine concern for its Jewish population and government-backed efforts to integrate minorities in the public sphere through various cultural events or participation in international forums on socio-religious tolerance, the numbers and historical records tell a mixed tale. In a 2016 book on Jewish-Muslim cohabitation in Morocco, the Moroccan historian Mohammed Kenbib retraces the trajectory of Moroccan Jews between 1858 and 1948 to the present, shedding enormous historical light on inter-community relations in Morocco. The book pointed to Morocco’s dwindling Jewish populations since 1948, between the creation of the State of Israel and mounting fear among Jews around the world about their security and well-being in other parts of the world. Raising questions about remnants of Morocco’s Jewry and the ties now binding Morocco with its Jewish communities—both living in Morocco and dispersed across the globe, Kenbib speaks of the Jewish presence in Morocco in terms of one of the North African kingdom’s greatest cultural and historical assets. Kenbib’s book, however, is rueful and nostalgic about the gradual loss of Morocco’s Jewish heritage. Whereas in 1948 Morocco had over 265,000 Jews, the numbers today are just somewhere around 10,000, Kenbib’s various sources concurred. Other sources say as few as 3,000 Jews live in Morocco today, indicating the general tendency towards emigration to places where they feel relatively more safe. The majority of Jews of Moroccan descent now live in France, Israel, the US, and Canada, while thousands others are disseminated around in the world.Despite the massive emigration of Moroccan Jews, Morocco’s current tiny Jewish community still remains the highest in number among Jewish communities in the Arab world. And, like King Mohammed VI’s message at the UN symposium, Kenbib’s book is filled with suggestions and historical examples of functional cohabitation between Muslims and Jewish Moroccans. The thesis stands in stark contrast with the suggestion that the entirety of the Arab world has been historically founded on the marginalization and downright exclusion of Jewish communities.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Related’Difficult to see success in anyone of them’- Jordan on State-owned entities performanceApril 16, 2018In “Business”Revenue for State agencies on downward spiral – AliAugust 12, 2018In “Local News”GuyOil records reduced profits for 2017— ReportDecember 24, 2018In “Business” Dear Editor,The Honorable Finance Minister in his Budget 2018 speech forecasted a deficit of $12.8 billion in the overall performance of the Public Enterprises (PEs). He further pointed out that even though GNNL, GRDB, MARDS, GPOC, GUYOIL, GNSC and GNPL had a combined surplus of $2.5 billion, this was effectively eroded by GUYSUCO and GPL. Some of these entities such as GUYSUCO, GRDB, GPL and GPOC are virtual monopolies yet they are generating deficits.However, it was reported in the press on August 9th 2017, under the caption, ‘GUYOIL earns $18 billion in first half of year’, that the Finance Minister said that GUYOIL is expected to post a deficit of $328.4 million from an originally projected surplus of $813.1 million. On the other hand, in May of this year Mr Jordan had said that GUYOIL is projected to earn a surplus of $3 billion.This is not illuminating at all, he should have given more details since earlier, the said Minister had boasted that GUYOIL stands ‘like a financial beacon in an ocean of economic woes’ while noting that the entity had always enjoyed an operating surplus. It must be noted that it is not very enlightening to have all these entities bundled together in his presentation since it is difficult to gauge the loss makers. From all indications nearly all of these entities made losses.In another article dated August 10th, 2017, under the caption, ‘Public Enterprises show mixed performance at end of mid-year’, it was reported that there was an 8.7% decline in the total revenue of the PEs and this would have included GPL,GUYSUCO, GNNL,GRDB, and GPOC.It was stated that employment costs are more than 40% of total revenue and there was an increase of operating costs of 12%. GPL and GUYSUCO were forecasted to record deficits of $5 billion and $8.4 billion respectively. These two alone would have given a total deficit of $13.4 billion which would be above the $12.8 billion that he forecasted in his Budget speech. It is very disappointing that the clarity of his pronouncements is compromised by his contradictory statements as well as his skeletal report of the PEs performance.It is important to note that even though the decline of Guysuco began under the previous Government this downward slide was greatly accelerated from the time this Government took office.In December 2015 the CEO, Dr Clive Thomas boasted about the achievement of Skeldon Estate and Guysuco as a whole. Skeldon achieved its target of 30,594 tonnes and exported 1,184,000 kilowatts of electricity to GPL yet in 2016, the same person said that it was a ‘ticking time bomb’. Furthermore, the COI in 2015 never reported that the factory was ‘falling apart’ even though the COI team included Mr John Dow who is responsible for Guysuco’s Factory Operations.Now the entire Guysuco is falling apart with the lowest output predicted for 2018. Having given this illustration, I will agree with Mr Gobin Harbhajan who in his very insightful letter concluded that Guysuco’s management from the Board of Directors downwards is responsible for the failure of Guysuco. However, he failed to address the high degree of political interference and direction.It is quite evident that the other Public Enterprises are rapidly following in the footsteps of GUYSUCO and it manifests the fact that governments should not run business. All of the entities were doing better until the Coalition Government took over and this was pointed out by the Finance Minister.There is a strong belief that these losses will increase since the increased wages and inefficient spending will drain the resources of the Government. These entities are a dumping ground for rewarding political patronage.This is not unlike what happened in the 1970s when political interference resulted in the bankruptcy of many PEs. Political considerations impact heavily of these entities. What will eventually happen is that the government will continue to inject monies to keep these entities afloat. Therefore, the government will have to continue to depend on raising taxes and implementing new tax measures to meet its budgetary allocations as in evidenced by the 2018 Budget.Public enterprises must be capable of generating surpluses and from the evidence submitted by the Finance Minister, deficits are forecasted. Furthermore, it is expected that from these surpluses generated the Government will have at its disposal fresh capital to invest and improve the production and productivity of these PEs. In addition, this will create employment. However, this is now an elusive dream. It is evident that political interference and political patronage will always take precedence over pragmatic business decisions.These entities should be divested and the Government should utilize the funds garnered to do investments in infrastructural works to boost private investments. A point to note is that this is also lacking in the 2018 Budget. The 2018 Budget though bigger is showing a reduction in the Public Infrastructure and Agriculture allocations by $5.2 and $1.3 billion respectively. This does not bode well for encouraging private sector investment. Why?Once the divestment is done in a structured manner it is more than likely that it will be successful. Transparency and accountability should be ingrained in the process. It should not be allowed to generate the confusion generated by the Guysuco’s divestment.Drastic surgery should be done to these PEs before it’s too late. It simply defies logic that monopolies can fail so miserably but public enterprises have an ingrained political culture which acts as a catalyst for failure.Yours sincerely,Haseef YusufRDC Councilor-Region 6