Images of a mock execution of men dressed as Orthodox Jews at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Morocco came as a jolt to many.
“This is an isolated event that we are very shocked about,” Rabbi Levi Dadon of Casablanca told Hamodia. “It does not represent the mentality or ideology of the people here.”
He said the event was organized by a private organization calling itself a ‘human rights’ group and that it “does not represent how 99 percent of Moroccans feel.”
The demonstration, 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.
“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.”
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.
Rabbi Dadon said that while the incident made the local Jewish community feel “unsettled,” there has been widespread outrage among Moroccan Muslims over the demonstration — which he said was far more representative of the predominant public opinion.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is outspokenly supportive of his country’s Jews and has dedicated significant funding to protecting their 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 has 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.”
Rabbi Dadon was optimistic that the aberration in Morocco’s peaceful status-quo would remain an isolated incident and that the government would take appropriate action to curb Islamist forces.
“The community is very stable and we feel very welcome. Jews have been here for over 2,000 years, so it is as much our home as it is anybody else’s,” he said. “King Mohammed VI has been great to all Moroccan citizens as well as to the Jewish community. He has set an example of tolerance for the rest of the world and we believe that this will continue.”
A version of this story appeared in Tuesday’s daily edition.