BBC again edits the history of Moroccan Jews

The April 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item (from 06:18 here) by travel writer Elizabeth Gowing relating to the former Jewish population of Morocco.

Presenter Kate Adie gave an introduction to the item which opened with a superficial account of why the vast majority of Morocco’s Jews left the country. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “The Jewish population of Morocco is another which left for a new life, not in a sudden exodus but gradually, from the 1950s onwards, as relations worsened between the Arab world and Israel. At its peak there were several hundred thousand Jews living in the country, many in the coastal town of Essaouira which is better known these days as a holiday destination with its fine beaches and picturesque old town. But diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel are now on the mend so some citizens of Essaouira are attempting to reach out to Israelis and to those elsewhere who can trace their lineage back to this one-time vibrant hub of Jewish life. Elizabeth Gowing found herself wondering whether tensions of the recent past can be replaced by fonder memories of a one-time shared communal history.”

Gowing’s account told listeners of:

“…the huge diaspora of Jews of Moroccan heritage of whom there are nearly half a million in Israel. At one point Essaouira’s Jews were a majority in the town. But families started to leave in the 1950s and there are now none left living permanently here.”

Clearly those accounts do very little indeed to inform listeners why Morocco’s Jewish population plummeted from some 265,000 to only a couple of thousand and the claim that the reason was worsening relations “between the Arab world and Israel” whitewashes other no less important factors.

As we have had cause to note in the past when the BBC has similarly promoted narratives about Jews living harmoniously in Arab lands until Zionism and Israel came along:

“The Jewish community in Morocco had suffered periodic pogroms and forced conversions throughout history, including in the 18th and 19th centuries and in the early 20th century tens of Jewish families from Morocco had already emigrated to what was at the time Ottoman ruled Palestine. One event which was still within living memory at the time when the significant exodus of Jews from Morocco began was the pogrom in Fez in 1912. During World War Two, Morocco – at the time a French protectorate – came under pro-Nazi Vichy rule and Jews were subjected to anti-Jewish legislation.

Following a serious episode of anti-Jewish violence in Oujda and Jerada in June 1948, thousands of Jews emigrated. As Morocco moved towards independence in late 1955, new fears arose within the Jewish community and indeed between 1956 and 1961 Moroccan Jews were prohibited from emigrating to Israel. In the three years following the lifting of that ban, a further 80,000 Jews left Morocco for Israel.”

However, once again the real history of Morocco’s Jews has been edited out by the BBC in favour of a narrative that puts the focus on Israel.

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