Images of a mock execution of men dressed as Orthodox Jews at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Morocco came as a jolt to many.
“We were surprised and shocked,” said Rabbi Gad Bouskila of Congregation Netivot Yisrael on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway, a native of Morocco who maintains close ties to the Jewish community there. “Morocco is known as being moderate and friendly to Jews. Such a thing is very alarming, not only to us, but to the whole population.”
The demonstration, which was attended by thousands of participants, was held Sunday in the city of Casablanca, home to the country’s largest Jewish community. The images were captured on video and made public by French-Jewish news outlet, Alyaexpress.
The film shows several participants dressed in long black coats, top hats and beards smashing a model of the al-Aqsa mosque, which has been a rallying point for recent violence against Jews in Israel. As the “skit” continues, these men are then seized by other demonstrators wearing keffiyehs, a scarf associated with Palestinian terrorist movements, and carrying what appear to be model guns. The “Jews” are then made to kneel and are “shot,” whereupon they fall to the ground.
Morocco, which maintains a heavy European influence even decades after decolonization, has largely resisted the wave of Islamist fundamentalism which has swept much of the Arab world. While only an estimated 3,000 members of its Jewish population, numbered at over 250,000 in 1948, have remained, the community is an affluent and influential one.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is outspokenly supportive of his country’s Jews and has dedicated significant funding to protecting its institutions, as well as to maintaining graves and other heritage sites. However, despite this strong support from the government, the discovery of several ISIS-affiliated cells in the nation have raised grave concerns.
“We know that the king is with us and loves us, but there is only so much he can do,” said Rabbi Bouskila. “Through all of the wars and intifadas, Morocco never had a pro-Palestinian demonstration. This would not have happened without religious incitement coming from somewhere.”
He added that while he had received a call from one person living in Morocco whose concern over what the incident could imply for the future had moved him to consider emigrating, this was not representative of the majority.
“Most Jews were scarred by it, but they are very settled there and will probably try to brush it off,” said Rabbi Bouskila, who felt the images betrayed a growing threat. “The pictures show how many people were there. These are people they work with and live next to.”