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Morocco Week in Review 
December 14, 2013

In Tribute to JFK, Morocco Makes Multi-year Contribution to Peace Corps in Morocco, also Donation to Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative.
Updated December 2, 2013

In honor of President John F. Kennedy, Morocco announced following King Mohammed VI’s meeting with President Obama that it is making a multi-year contribution in President Kennedy’s name to support the work of the Peace Corps – a JFK legacy – in Morocco.  The King and President also announced Morocco’s donation to the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, honoring the late US Ambassador who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1983-85.

MACP (Washington, DC, December 2, 2013) — To honor the memory of President John F. Kennedy, Morocco is making a new multi-year contribution in his name to the Peace Corps to support and extend the work of volunteers in Morocco, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar announced in Washington following the November 22 meeting between King Mohammed VI and President Obama at the White House.

In a joint statement after their meeting, which covered a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, President Obama also thanked the King for Morocco’s contribution to the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, honoring the late US Ambassador to Libya, who worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1983-85.

“As we celebrate our continuing strong partnership with the United States,” said Minister Mezouar, “let us all take a moment to pause and remember the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago on this date. “Morocco lost a great friend that day, a leader who had a keen appreciation of Morocco’s contribution to stability and peace in the world, an unwavering commitment to maintaining our long alliance, and a valued personal relationship with King Hassan II.

“I am delighted to inform you that to honor President Kennedy’s memory, King Mohammed VI has announced a multi-year contribution in President Kennedy’s name to the Peace Corp in Morocco,” said Mezouar, part of a high-level Moroccan delegation that travelled to Washington, DC with the King.

“Over the past 50 years, more than 4,530 Peace Corps volunteers have worked in Morocco, fulfilling President Kennedy’s vision of advancing world peace through service in countries across the globe.

“Morocco’s donation will support the volunteers’ indispensable work in Morocco on rural and youth development, English education, environment and health.”

The tribute by Morocco followed a  productive meeting at the White House between King Mohammed VI and President Obama, where the two leaders worked to deepen the two nations’ strategic partnership, which dates back more than 230 years.

In March 1963, President Kennedy welcomed King Mohammed VI’s father, King Hassan II, to Washington with eloquent words that still resonate today: “Though a wide ocean separates our two countries, they have been bound together throughout our history.”

King Hassan replied that Morocco looked forward to continuing to work with America in “true and honest and unselfish cooperation in their mutual interests, as well as in the interest of the cause of freedom, peace, and human dignity throughout the world.”

The Peace Corps was one of President Kennedy’s defining legacies, established just months before his death, and embodying his vision of international good will and cooperation.

It has done much to further the bonds of friendship and partnership between the two countries.

Christopher Stevens was one of the more than 4,000 US Peace Corps volunteers who served in Morocco, teaching English as a second language in a village in the Atlas Mountains for two years before joining the US Foreign Service and going on to become a US Ambassador.

In the joint US-Morocco statement following their Oval Office meeting, President Obama “commended His Majesty the King for graciously committing to donate $1 million per year over the next five years to the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, which hopes to connect youth from all different age groups in the Middle East and North Africa with youth in the United States through virtual exchange.”

The Stevens Initiative was inaugurated in September 2013, during the UN General Assembly, by the Stevens Family with partner governments and private sector leaders. It aims to “fuel the largest ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the US and the broader Middle East, vastly increasing the number and diversity of youth who have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their formal education.”

The Stevens Initiative goal is to reach more than 1 million youth by 2020.

* For US-Morocco Joint Statement from King Mohammed VI’s meeting with President Obama:

* For details on US-Morocco partnership from White House, click here for Fact Sheet:

* For US-Morocco history, click here for “US and Morocco Share Long History of Friendship”:

Delighting in the Details of a Deepening Morocco-US Partnership
Jean R. AbiNader
, MATIC November 27, 2013

Last week saw an extraordinary uptick in the visibility of the US-Morocco relationship. King Mohammed VI met with President Obama on Friday, and the Moroccan delegation that arrived earlier in the week had a full agenda of meetings and events that underscored the dynamism and momentum of the two countries’ strategic partnership.

While much has been made of the four-page length of the joint statement released by the White House, what was most impressive was the substance of the text, which got rave reviews in the US and Morocco.

The text is different from many communiqués that are replete with platitudes and diplomatic niceties. It spelled out specific programs, initiatives, and understandings that have given new life to the Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue and partnership.

King Mohammed VI and President Barack Obama meet in Oval Office to discuss pressing regional issues and US-Morocco strategic partnership.

As importantly, and in contrast to other trends in the region, “The two leaders also emphasized our shared values, mutual trust, common interests, and strong friendship, as reflected throughout our partnership.”

It is this grounding that is the platform for America’s longest official diplomatic relationship and represents a beneficial alliance that has weathered the stress of recent upheavals in the region.

Although much continues to be written about the political (Western Sahara), security (counterterrorism), and diplomatic (Middle East Peace) references in the statement, I want to look instead at other sections that are at the core of our long-term shared interests.

It is the details of these elements that spell out the engagement and support of the US for the reforms and advances critical to Morocco’s leadership role in the region.

The Democracy Agenda

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI met President Obama at the White House under a portrait of George Washington, who with Sultan Mohammed III began America’s partnership with Morocco more than two centuries ago. AFP

The statement referred several times to Morocco’s constructive response to governance and human rights challenges that are roiling the region. “The President commended the action and the leadership of His Majesty the King in deepening democracy and promoting economic progress and human development during the past decade.”  More than a polite acknowledgement of the King’s role in leading the constitutional reform process, it reaffirmed the US commitment to “help strengthen Morocco’s democratic institutions, civil society, and inclusive governance.” It is instructive that the first section of the joint statement focuses on “deepening the ongoing U.S.-Morocco dialogue on human rights,” noting the continued sharing of views and information. President Obama pointed out that Morocco’s reform initiative on migrants, refugees, and human trafficking was especially welcome and encouraged “Morocco’s intent to take concrete steps to qualify for and join the Open Government Partnership (OGP)” and implement its membership in the Equal Futures Partnership.

While these groups are not on the everyday list of American policy watchers, they are important in linking together domestic reform agendas worldwide. At the heart of the OGP, “government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms” in four distinct areas: accountability, technology and innovation, citizen participation, and transparency. It now includes 62 countries that have qualified for membership based on achieving objectives in the four areas. Launched in September 2012, the Equal Futures Partnership  commits member countries “to taking actions including legal, regulatory, and policy reforms to ensure women fully participate in public life at the local, regional, and national levels, and that they lead and benefit from inclusive economic growth.” Building on Morocco’s commitment to equity and equality in the 2011 Constitution, important changes are underway building momentum for women’s participation across all sectors of society.

Stronger Economic Ties

During the week, USAID announced the latest Country Development Cooperation Strategy (2013-2017) for Morocco focusing on “enhancing the employability of youth; increasing civic participation in governance; and enhancing educational attainment for children at the primary level.” In its statement, USAID pointed out the consequences of poor educational achievement on the prospects of youth, and so will focus on improving reading levels, teaching methods, and learning materials, “and capacity building at the institutional level.” Youth unemployment will be targeted by “enhancing the quality of and improving access to career services… [through] partnerships between the Ministry, Moroccan universities and technical institutes…local NGOs and business associations to develop demand-driven workforce development services…”

Two bilateral agreements that impact business were also inked last week, culminating talks that had begun last year. The Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement expands “bilateral coordination on the detection of money laundering, trade fraud, and other financial crime.”

The Trade Facilitation Agreement represents an enhancement to the Morocco-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that reforms and modernizes customs procedures and endorses “joint principles on investment and information communication technology services trade,” a sector that was not included in the original FTA yet today is a major growth industry for Morocco.

The latter has particular resonance for US companies that want to base their regional marketing hubs in Morocco, and it also benefits Moroccan firms by promoting increased exports in ICT services to the US.

The two partners agreed that the second Morocco-US Business Development Conference will be held in Rabat in early 2014 focused on aviation, agriculture and food, and energy industries. In addition, Morocco agreed, as was announced in Malaysia, that it would host the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the summer of 2014. Both events hold considerable promise for highlighting Morocco’s geo-economic role for doing business into Europe and Africa, as well as allowing the Maghreb countries greater access to the US market.

Focus on Human Development in Africa

Among the several agreements and initiatives concluded during the visit were commitments to further the regional human-development agenda. In their review of their shared interests in development in Africa, “both countries committed to explore joint initiatives to promote human development and stability through food security, access to energy, and the promotion of trade based on the existing Free Trade Agreement…and committed to explore in greater detail concrete options for pragmatic, inclusive cooperation around economic and development issues of mutual interest.”    Morocco’s existing social and human development programs in Africa provide a ready-made opportunity for the US to advance common interests by utilizing Moroccan expertise and networks in the region—a  win-win-win proposition for the US, Morocco, and African countries.

More to Come

The many implications of these and other programs and initiatives coming out of the visit will become obvious as both countries move forward through the Strategic Dialogue to follow up their goodwill with defined implementation steps. The outcomes that emerge in the coming year will indicate the seriousness of America’s contribution to regional security and stability and the joint commitment of both partners to the way forward for Morocco and the region. The details will be a welcome respite from the otherwise bleak prospects in the region.
Jean R. AbiNader is Executive Director of the Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center
Co-published with Fair Observer (

* Click here for Joint Statement.

* For details on US-Morocco partnership & cooperation, click here for Fact Sheet from White House .

* For history of US-Morocco relations, click for “US & Morocco Share Long History of Friendship.”

Women provide “spiritual security” in Morocco
Thu, 12 Dec 2013 Samantha Harrington
RABAT (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Boots on the ground, drones in the skies, and government surveillance of electronic communications have become standard American tools for warding off extremist violence. The Kingdom of Morocco has armed itself with a dramatically different weapon: using the soft power of religious women to quell violence before it happens. They call it “spiritual security.” 

 After 9/11 shook the world, Moroccan leaders began to think, “It could happen here,” and it did. In 2003, a dozen suicide bombers with ties to al-Qaida blew themselves up in Casablanca, Morocco’s economic center. Now the country knew firsthand the trauma of terrorism.

In response, Moroccan leaders came up with an idea dedicated to foiling religion-based violence by using religion itself. In 2006, under the leadership of the Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the mourchidat program was born.

Sanae Elmarouani, 23, already holds a Master’s degree in Islamic studies.  But she’s happy being back in class at Dar al Hadith al Hassania, studying in a prestigious program to prepare her for a vocation in religious service as a spiritual guide.  Her school is a small, ornately decorated building in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat where men train to become imams, Islamic priests, and now ––since 2006 –– women prepare to become their female counterparts, mourchidat.

The setting for this unique school, its high ceilings intricately carved and tiled, is rich in Moroccan tradition.  The goal of the program is similar. When asked how women with religion as their only weapon can possibly expect to beat back the forces of radicalism, Sanae is confident.

 “Our religion in general forbids extremism. So the program is like a representation of Islam. The role of mourchidat is to unify the constants of the Moroccan nation.” She cites the guiding principles as honoring the King, who is commander of the faithful, and adherence to the Maliki doctrine and Ashaarit creed, approved by the Islamic Ministry and taught at her school.  The daughter of an imam, Sanae was a teacher in a mosque when she heard of the mourchidat program. She moved quickly to get her application in and felt lucky when she was accepted.

The program is meant to promote women’s rights, giving Moroccan women unprecedented opportunity and authority.  Their work takes them to all parts of the community. “We work in mosques,” Sanae says.  “We work in prisons, hospitals, and we teach and lead women in all parts of their lives.” 


She and her peers at Dar al Hadith were selected from a large applicant pool. The program is selective. In order to be admitted, women must hold university degrees and be able to recite sections of the Qur’an from memory. Students take a variety of courses, with the main focus on religious training. But in the real world, helping people deal with anger, disappointment and pain, their classes in communication and psychology will be useful. “I’ll use body language first,” Sanae says.

 After graduating, Sanae will likely be placed in one of the many mosques that dot Morocco’s cities and countryside. She will use the Islam that she has learned at Dar al Hadith in all aspects of her work, teaching values of respect and tolerance and diffusing extremist thought.  She will lead circle discussions and answer questions about faith but she will not be allowed to lead men in prayer.

 In some ways, mourchidat can be compared to Catholic nuns. Both are religious women connected to organized groups. Both start from a place of personal spiritual commitment and apply their advanced studies to the needs of their faith communities.  But since they are women practicing in male-dominated cultures both have limits to their religious leadership. Religious orders of nuns are subject to Church hierarchy and Catholic women are denied access to the priesthood. Mourchidat –– although trained to perform the same duties as imams –– are not allowed to lead men in prayer.

Sanae Elmarouani is one of 50 women in her program. Another 150 participants are men studying to be imams in a parallel program.  Mourchidat take an additional course which focuses on women’s issues like marriage and dress. Using this broad portfolio, the mourchidat bring traditional Islamic values to their duties at the mosque. Program creators see their presence as a way of keeping radical forces at bay and providing “spiritual security.”

“[Spiritual security] simply refers to saving people from the different currents that may end up…throwing them into the hands of the people they’re not supposed to deal with,” says Khalid Saqi, Assistant Director of Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania.

 The extremists Saqi speaks of, the ones that people are “not supposed to deal with,” are those whose unbending ideologies morph into social destruction and who bring others along with them. Before the 2003 suicide bombings, religious extremism wasn’t a prominent cause for concern in Morocco. But after Casablanca, the government began to take preventive action.

 “We were dealing with a kind of people, a kind of ideology …that in some cases we were not even aware of and then all of a sudden they surged out of nowhere and we were facing a phenomenon that had to be dealt with,” said Saqi.

Farah Cherif D'Ouezzan, Founder and Director of the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in Rabat, says that the program is effective in promoting the “spiritual security” Saqi speaks of and directing ideological power away from fundamentalist sects. “I think it’s filling that gap that only Wahhabis and Salafis were filling—the gap that people needed someone to explain religion to them –– especially in a country with so much illiteracy and where religion is such an important part of culture. In the past you either had to follow the Wahhabis or Salafis or you were not Islamic,” said Cherif. 

Both the Wahhabi and Salafi movements practice strict, uncompromising forms of Islam which have often brought them into conflict with Western values. While these strands of Islam are not always violent, the intolerance they practice can lead in that direction. The 2003 Casablanca suicide bombers were self-procalimed Salafis linked to al-Qaida. Another violent attack, this one in 2011 in Marrakech, “was not connected to any organized terrorist groups,” the US State Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Terror states, but the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior described [the bomber] as a Salafist and an admirer of al-Qa’ida.”

In the official Islam of Morocco, the King is the commander of the faithful and moderation is the style of religious expression. The preferred religious code is the Maliki School of Jurisprudence which is also practiced in many nearby countries with positive relationships with Europe and the US. The Maliki school takes a traditional approach to Islam and is heavily based in the lives and actions of those who lived close to the Prophet Muhammad. The mourchidat are trained to use the official Maliki Islam.


While the mourchidat program is well liked, it does have critics. Skeptics of the counterterrorism aspects of the program point out that the 2011 bombing in Marrakech occurred well after this program had been established. Other critics are women’s rights proponents who claim that the mourchidat program hasn’t fulfilled its promise of improving the lot of women—that it doesn’t go far enough.

Asmae Lamrabet, one of Morocco’s leading female Islamic scholars, voices those concerns. She is the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies in Islam in Rabat which is associated with the Rabita Mohammadia, Morocco’s main organization of Islamic scholars. Lamrabet recognizes that the program has benefits, but has not yet seen real gains being made for women in Moroccan society.  Islamic tradition holds that men and women are equal, she says. But where is the equality in Morocco today?

To make her point, Lamrabet cites a seventh century Islamic scholar— Aisha, the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife –– one of the most respected Islamic scholars in the years following Muhammad’s death. Aisha was integral in spreading Islamic thought and unafraid to speak out.  She publicly disagreed with misogynistic teachings of the powerful Calif Omar. Her example endures to this day. Lamrabet says Aisha’s courageous voice is heard as a powerful call to  Islamic feminists across the world.

Lamrabet calls the Islam that mourchidat are taught at Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania “very official, traditional, classical and orthodox, there is no progressive ideal in this kind of speech.” To achieve its goal of expanding women’s rights, Lamrabet wants the program to encourage women to think independently rather than strictly follow government teachings.

“[The mourchidat] are going to transmit all the patriarchal messages –– the same message, the same traditionalist message. Yes, we have women in the mosque now, but it’s not a very big deal. We have to do more.”

While its achievements may not seem enough to Lamrabet and other critics, the program is popular. It provides a way for educated women to contribute to social change, for themselves and the communities they serve. Although only 50 women are admitted each year, applications have increased dramatically. In 2009, according to the US Embassy in Rabat, 800 women applied for the 50 seats.


Other Arab countries are getting interested as well. Moroccan mourchidat have traveled to the United Arab Emirates to help train Emirati mourchidat, and Saqi has heard reports that an Algerian mourchidat program is in the works.

Even as the model it provides is being replicated elsewhere, the effectiveness of the mourchidat program has not yet been documented.  No research has been conducted to collect data on its real impact.  The US State Department, however, has bought into its anecdotal success, using supportive language in its 2009 Country Report on Terrorism. In that document, Morocco was commended for continuing, “the pioneering experiment…of training and using women as spiritual guides.”

Sanae Elmarouani, looking at the upheaval in the world, particularly in nearby countries of the Middle East, understands the expectations that she and other mourchidat will carry on their shoulders. But she has faith, education, and the role model of her late father, the imam, to guide her. She is optimistic and self-assured.

 “I adore my job because it has two gains: one for life and one for an afterlife with God,” she says.

Samantha Harrington spent several months in Morocco on a SIT Study Abroad program and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a non-profit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists.   Khadija Boukharfane contributed reporting.

Tackling Youth Unemployment in Morocco
Posted by Katarina Kobylinski on December 14, 2013

Morocco seems to be fulfilling the promise it made to its citizens about two years ago – it has just embarked on a long journey of fighting youth joblessness. The youth unemployment rate has been for quite some time reaching staggering levels – more than 20 percent for men and almost 40 percent for women between 15 and 24.
The “Moubadara” project aims at targeting long-term graduate unemployed to find them jobs in NGO sector. The project also includes the expansion of the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC), which will newly cover most of Morocco, and include also the jobless without tertiary education. Moreover, the main pillar of the ANAPEC as well as the whole endeavor to create employment among the youth is based on the emphasis on self-employment.

The government of Morocco apparently wants to substitute for the lack of job opportunities offered from the side of the existing companies to motivate young graduates to start up their own businesses. The question remains what chances a new start-up might have if the current companies themselves are not able to thrive sufficiently enough to create new working positions. Moreover, how Rabat wants to stimulate business activity without actually liberalizing the process of start-up establishment remains also unclear. Obviously, without relaxing limitations on the creation of new businesses, ANAPEC courses for graduates on “how to get self-employed” might not work well.

While Morocco enhanced its 2014 position on the World Bank’s list “Doing Business” compared to 2013 by moving from the 95th to 87th ranking out of 189 economies, its rating dropped in a number of other categories such as access to electricity, getting construction permits or trading across border. Moreover, there has also been a fall in the ranking for the access to credit (from 105th ranking in 2013 to the 109th in 2014), which is likely to be one of the most crucial areas for young businessmen-to-be.

But on the positive note, Rabat has certainly already identified the importance of having a healthy and up-to-date business laws, which are directly or indirectly the crux of the proper functioning of labor market. This trend is visible in the radical improvement of a variety of “doing business” indicators, such as the reduction in the number of days needed to set up a company that went down from 36 days in 2004 to 11 days on 2014. Moreover, the paid-in minimal capital decreased from the staggering 760 percent of income per capita to pure zero in 2013. However, the country still occupies rather lower positions and lags behind MENA countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia but also Rwanda or Colombia.

Therefore, despite immense achievements that Morocco has made so far in the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment, the government should continue to develop the business sector but in compliance with further evolvement of the labor code and related tax laws. Morocco’s labor market is fairly regulated, which goes back to 1936 when the country adopted the minimum wage legislation. In addition, there are also regulatory and institutional features, such as hiring and firing regulations, the structure of non-wage labor costs or the matching between demand and supply side of the market. For instance, hiring and firing restrictions are rather stringent, while it is basically impossible to lay off or downsize for economic purposes. In fact, the only reason for employers to sack someone is due to disciplinary purposes, and even then a employee can lodge an appeal at the court to decide whether the dismissal was in accordance with the law. Under such strict limitations, it is a bit more understandable why firms hesitate to employ fresh graduates and young people. Without sufficient experience and ability to act in case of a less skilled employee, companies might get into troubles, which they do not really need in the times of a slow economic growth.

Hence, Morocco will very likely need much more than ANAPEC courses on “how to get self-employed”. Fighting youth unemployment should come in a comprehensive package including not only entrepreneurial side but also liberalization of a rather inflexible labor market.

Morocco opposition: Drop the death penalty

A parliamentary opposition group has filed a bill to abolish the death penalty in Morocco, where a moratorium has been in place for 20 years, a member said on Thursday. The bill was filed last week in the lower house by the group of 39 lawmakers from the USFP leftwing opposition party, one of them said, confirming local press reports.
"We are relying on the support of other groups and MPs" to pass the bill, he said, adding that the group would be open to proposed amendments.

The MP said he was "optimistic" about the bill passing "in view of the current reform movement in Morocco".
A parliamentary seminar was held earlier this week initiated by "the network of MPs against the death penalty", a group founded in February and which numbers 210 lawmakers, according to the official MAP news agency. Morocco's lower house has 325 seats.

If a parliamentary committee approves the proposed bill, it could be voted on in a plenary session next spring.
According to the newspaper L'Economiste, the bill contains four articles, among them a proposal to replace capital punishment with life imprisonment.

No executions have been carried out in the North African country since a moratorium was declared in 1993, but the death penalty has yet to be abolished.

Last year Moroccan courts sentenced 10 people to death for various crimes, according to media reports, and more than 100 people are on death row in the kingdom.

Morocco’s booming film industry

A public funding mechanism modeled on the French system has helped boost film-making in the north African country in the past decade. And the Tangier National Film Awards along with the Marrakech Film Festival provide emerging filmmakers with a stepping stone.

“As far as Moroccan cinema is concerned, I am very confident, I think there is great energy in Moroccan cinema today, an energy which is spreading, we are lucky to live in a country which is renowned for its creative freedom, an exception in the Arab world,” says film director Narjiss Nejar.

“Moroccan cinema has experienced real growth in recent years, both production-wise and quality-wise. We have enjoyed recognition, especially at the International Film Festival in Marrakech. We need a Moroccan artist to win the festival’s Golden Star,” says Moroccan actor Driss Roukh.

With its exotic landscapes, Morocco has long been a popular destination for foreign filmmakers. The Moroccan government is welcoming towards foreign movie producers, and shooting costs are relatively low.

But home-grown cinema is a relatively new phenomenon. The first Moroccan movie was made in 1958.

“Moroccan cinema is growing fast, we now have a real cinema industry. In the past, nobody had heard about Moroccan cinema but now the industry is making a name for itself on the global market,” says Moroccan actress Naima Ilyas.

Morocco is the third biggest producer of films in Africa after Egypt and South Africa.

“I’m really pleased with the quality of Moroccan cinema because its reputation is growing fast. We now produce more than 20 films a year, that’s great, it’s extraordinary compared to what we used to produce,” says Moroccan actor and director Said Naciri.

Morocco’s film industry is heavily reliant on the government. Moroccan film-maker Kamal Kamal says that in order to remain independent the cinema industry needs to develop other sources of funding.

“It’s a question of funding. For every Moroccan film that’s made, France makes 20, and the US makes one hundred. Moroccan cinema is also an industry. Of course, there’s the creative part, but it’s an industry, and an industry requires funding to survive,” says Kamal Kamal.

But Morocco’s growing film production has not helped save its cinema theatres – many of which have closed down. Out of 350 nationwide, only 50 are still open. “We produce 20 films a year, but cinema theatres are closing down, there is a limited audience and that’s the problem. But production is growing, and so is the quality of our films, the cinema industry is evolving, both technically and with regards to content,” says film director Latif Lehlou.

Today, Moroccan film-makers face a dilemma, forced to chose between pleasing an audience that just wants to be entertained, and a desire to tackle Moroccan society’s more serious issues. As cinemas continue to shut down, production companies are having to turn to national television to sell their films.

“Morocco’s film festivals are a chance for artists and actors in the cinema industry to meet and talks about their work and projects and the reality of a booming film production,” says euronews’ correspondent in Marrakech Kawtar Wakil.

Morocco set for $4 billion in World Bank loans.
Dec 10, 2013 (Reuters)

Morocco is set to receive $4 billion in loans from the World Bank from 2014 to 2017 for government energy, infrastructure and other projects, a source from the World Bank said on Tuesday. Under the deal, the bank will extend $1 billion each year to finance different projects, the source said.

Morocco is under pressure from international lenders to push ahead with reforms to its fuel and food subsidies, for tighter control over its public wage bill and its state pension payments to help narrow its budget deficit. "The approval of the deal by the World Bank Board of Directors is expected by early 2014," the source said.

The North African kingdom received $600 million each year under a previous 2011-2013 agreement with the bank, but its government has asked for an increase in financial support from the bank.

Reforms to subsidies are politically sensitive as they increase living costs. A reform to fuel subsidies already helped split the ruling coalition and forced the palace to name new cabinet members as way to reassert control of the reform program.

Analysts believe the establishment around King Mohamed is worried that the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development party, which heads the government, plans to push though more reforms that may provoke protests over higher costs.

It is a tricky balance with international lenders demanding that Morocco do more to reduce deficits and limit public spending, which has risen as the palace seeks to calm the kind of popular discontent seen in the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

Unlike its North African neighbors, Tunisia and Libya, where unrest ousted long-term autocratic leaders, Morocco managed to end protests in 2011 with a combination of social spending, harsh policing and constitutional reforms. But the palace is keen to avoid any renewed unrest.

In 2012, the IMF approved a $6.2 billion precautionary line of credit for Morocco over two years while urging reforms to the subsidy system, although it did not formally link the aid to any reform measures.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Patrick Markey and Hugh Lawson)

Morocco looks to welcome more tourists from EU
Dec 09 2013

Although it has suffered from the slowdown in Europe - its largest market - Morocco continues to pursue its plans under Vision 2020 to attract up to 20m tourists each year, bring total bed capacity to 375,000, create 17,000 new jobs and generate $17bn in annual revenues by 2020.

Recent results are promising, with the number of visitors for the first eight months of 2013 growing 6.76% year-on-year (y-o-y), to reach around 7m, and the country is looking to capitalise on a projected 4% increase in international arrivals in 2014.

Attracting more tourists

As highlighted by the easing of demand from its biggest source markets to the north of the country, Morocco has been moving to diversify its links with other non-traditional countries in regions such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Gulf and Asia. The Moroccan Tourism Office (Office National Marocain du Tourisme, ONMT) is planning to set up an office in Brazil in a bid to attract 30,000 visitors each year from the South American country starting in 2014, as well as use its presence there as a base to reach out to the rest of Latin America. Air links between both countries will be strengthened, and started with the first charter flight between Sao Paolo and Casablanca on November 1 as part of an agreement signed between the ONMT and a variety of Brazilian tour operators - notably Schultz, Flot, Raidho and Flytour, among others. National carrier Royal Air Maroc plans to launch three regular weekly flights starting in early December.

The ONMT is also looking to attract tourists from non-traditional markets in Europe. The number of visitors from the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, for instance, registered a y-o-y increase of 88%, 9% and 7%, respectively, in the first eight months of 2013. A recent agreement signed with Polish tour operator Itaka to boost charter flights to Agadir is expected to bring the number of tourists visiting the region of Souss to 129,000 by 2016. The Gulf is another potential source of visitors, and one that the government hopes will be increasingly important. To date, Saudi Arabia has been the largest market in the MENA region, accounting for more than 70,000 arrivals in 2012.

And while the European slowdown has highlighted the importance of bringing in a greater diversity of visitors, Morocco is still committed to attracting greater numbers of visitors from traditional European markets, which still accounts for more than 80% of tourists. It aims to double the number of British visitors by 2016 from its current 500,000 and is focusing on strengthening air links between both countries. At the World Travel Market held in London in early November, the ONMT signed a cooperation agreement with British tour operator Thomas Cook to launch flights to Agadir, in addition to its existing connections to Marrakech, Fes, Essaouira and Mazagan.

Expanding capacity

To accommodate the projected rise in arrivals, numerous plans are under way to expand hospitality infrastructure. Long-term initiatives under Vision 2020 include the government's Plan Azur, which involves the development of six beachside resorts as part of a drive to boost sun-and-sand tourism, although the programme's parameters were adjusted following the global financial crisis. In the more immediate future, the Ministry of Tourism is looking for investments amounting to Dh20bn (€1.7bn) in 2014 and would like to see the addition of nearly 18,000 beds next year.

The national Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development has traditionally been tasked with attracting investment into new tourism projects. However, as part of Vision 2020, sector development is being decentralised and shifted to regional authorities to increase their participation in determining tourism policy, management and devising offerings. Dedicated tourism development agencies will head each of the eight tourism regions identified under Vision 2020 and will gradually be established through 2018, absorbing existing delegations and regional councils.

This strategy is expected to boost competition from one region to another, and improve both the soft infrastructure for new investments as well as ensure that projects reflect the local competitive advantages. So far, 10 of the 16 administrative regions (as distinct from the Vision 2020 regions) have signed Regional Programme Contracts (Contrat Programme Régional, CPR) - an agreement between the Ministry of Tourism and local authorities outlining tourism development priorities. These start with the Chaouia Ouardigha region in April 2013 where 92 projects have been identified, requiring investments of up to Dh8.9bn (€772.7m). The latest CPR to be signed was for the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region in October 2013 where 102 projects are set to be carried out. More than 90% of the required investment of Dh20.3bn (€1.8bn) will come from the private sector. Around 36,000 beds are expected to be added by 2020, bringing the region's total bed capacity to 96,000.

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Do you know Marrakech? You must go’
By BEN G. FRANK 12/08/2013

Once the capital of Morocco, the vibrant city in northwest Morocco is a winter must-see.

Time stopped for me when I visited the Maghreb, especially when I landed in Morocco – known and once feared as part of the treacherous Barbara Coast. You see, Morocco can play havoc with your imagination; a mirage can appear in front of you at any moment.

One day I found myself in the Atlas Mountains on my way from Fez to Marrakech, via a shortcut through the mountains, a drive which would save several hours of travel. The shortcut is well worth the trip, not only because it saves time, but also because the views are magnificent. I would observe great cedar forces, caves and gorges, my guide told me.

A cold morning greeted me, a little too cold even for Morocco, which supports a cultivated country of fields, farms, orchards and gardens, along with deserts, oases and even sandstorms. So we set off, accompanied by our guide, El Kerchi Abdullatif of Heritage Tours Private Travel.

Surprise, surprise – snow began to fall! Not heavy, but enough to blanket the road up ahead. A thin, wooden barrier pole came down at the checkpoint. We stopped.

The snow kept falling. We sat on the road for over an hour, the heater barely warming us on the backseat.

There was no letup; the snowflakes didn’t stop, and officials at the checkpoint prevented us from proceeding onto the mountain road to Marrakech. We detoured to the coastal road, and reached our destination many hours later.

When I returned to the US and met up with some of my colleagues, my first words were: “I got caught in a snowstorm!” They were astonished.

Why not? It’s the unusual, the exotic, that makes a good story of a travel vacation. Obviously, I could have done without the snow.

Finally, entering Marrakech, I recalled a line from Paul Bowles novel, Let It Come Down. “Do you know Marrakech? Ah, you must go.

In the winter it is beautiful.”

I checked into La Mamounia, the grand dame hotel in Marrakech.

The establishment takes its name from the surrounding gardens which were once called the “Arste El Mamoun.” The park covers nearly 20 acres.

Hotel La Mamounia is located on Avenue Bab Jdid, in the heart of Marrakech, within an idyllic 17-acre garden surrounded by 12th-century ramparts. Described as a palace, the hotel has 136 rooms and 71 suites. The hotel stands as a legend, a fable unfolding timeless Marrakech. An ambitious renovation by French designer Jacques Garcia, unveiled in 2009, has turned the original deco complex into a lavish, distinctly Moroccan landmark, decked out with a spa, a fitness center and a quartet of restaurants.

Marrakech has served as one of the greatest trading centers of the Sahara, and is described as the last large outpost this side of the snowcapped High Atlas Mountains and the desert beyond.

Some believe you don’t need a guide in Marrakech. The only itinerary to follow is to find the next great meal, museum, outdoor market, or cafe in this adventurous and exotic destination. Still, you should have a guide in the souk.

As I sat in the hotel I thought of the illustrious names of those who had stayed here before me.

Shall I start with Winston S. Churchill? Mirage again! There he is! Winnie – a photo of Churchill standing in the garden of La Mamounia. The great statesman’s left hand is in his suit jacket pocket, his right hand holding a long cigar.

Another photo with no hat on; but next to it, the famous shot of Churchill sitting in a patch of desert, painting the landscape. He is wearing a white suit and a brown hat, a cigar held tight in his mouth, with paintbrush in hand.

Historic La Mamounia Hotel has been visited by hundreds of dignitaries.

Churchill himself took US president Franklin D. Roosevelt to the hotel after the Casablanca conference in 1943. Churchill, the consummate artist, stayed at this wonderful establishment and is reported to have said that the view from the roof was paintaceous.

Other stars, artists and government officials who have stopped at La Mamounia include Isaac Stern, Yoko Ono, Sharon Stone, Tom Cruise, Elton John, Joan Collins, and Catherine Deneuve, as well as Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II and Ronald Reagan. Also, Enrico Macias, the famous French-Jewish international singer and musician, who hailed from Constantine, Algeria.

Churchill had his own suite at La Mamounia, and this writer was privileged to see it. Brightly colored furniture fills the room. I stand by his desk, which remains untouched, and even spy one of his old hats hanging from a coat rack. The suite is preserved exactly as it was when he last stayed there. I went up to the rooftop of La Mamounia at dusk and watched the sun set. Churchill was right; it is paintaceous.

“Wait until five o’clock,” El Kherchi Abdellatif, our guide says. “I have something magnificent to show you.”

I’m standing in the huge Djemaa el-Fna Square, the cultural and entertainment crossroads for all of Morocco. No wonder the tour buses were lined up around the square.

The city’s main square comes to life each evening with acrobats and storytellers and food stalls. Djemaa el-Fna means “Square of Execution.”

A century ago, the heads of people executed for conspiracy against the sultan were publicly exhibited in this square. But today, it is a huge stage for performers, outdoor stalls and cafes. This frenetic square – said to be the greatest in all of Africa—is a sight not to be missed.

Here, you can observe the spectacle below: costumed musicians, acrobats, snakecharmers, fortunetellers – all practicing their crafts.

And in the square itself, for a few coins, you can take a photo of these exhibitions. Brassware, jewelry, carpets, leather goods and pottery can be obtained here, in and around the square.

If you miss these items in Marrakech, you’ll have opportunities to buy similar goods in other cities. As dusk fell on the square, the mystique of North Africa enveloped me.

“The city itself is expanding,” said Jacky Kadoch, president of the Jewish Community of Marrakech, a small Jewish group – actually 148 persons – with two synagogues. The newer, modern house of worship is located in the New Town at Boulevard Zerktouni (Gueliz) and is visited by most Jewish tourists on Friday night and Saturday morning and holidays, when services are held.

Men and women sit separately in this Orthodox synagogue, which contains 200 seats. Another synagogue is located in the Old Town, (the mellah) at rue Talmud Torah and is open mornings.

Jacky Kadoch indicated that tourism is expanding, and many Europeans, including Jewish businesspeople, are investing in this commercial city, After all, it is a former capital, a tourist center, and a metropolis for the High Atlas Mountains and the northwest Sahara. You can observe mountain and desert people visiting the city markets to exchange skins, hides, dates and animals for cereals and imported goods.

As far as the Moroccan law to outlaw contacts with Israel, Kadoch told JTA and this writer at the end of November that the bills have no chance of passing since King Mohammed VI “will never allow it.”

The king is considered friendly to Israel. In a phone interview he added that a number of Israeli groups were coming for the holiday.

Once the capital of Morocco, Marrakech has always retained its economic importance. Indeed, it is said that from 1745, Jews lived in Marrakech in better conditions than anywhere else in Morocco.

Since yeshivot flourished in the city, many Jews from throughout North Africa came to study with the kabbalists.

The guides and Jewish leaders taught me that when a vast Jewish population existed here, many of Morocco’s educated Jewish elite inclined toward mysticism and studied kabbala. The souks (markets) in Marrakech are picturesque, though not quite as crowded or medieval as those in Fez. I found bargains galore. In these markets, one is obliged to bargain. Indeed, it seems bargaining is the most popular sport in the country. Whether in busy old markets, boutiques, hotels, or airports, the reduce-the-price discourse comes into play.

Before Israel’s independence in 1948, about 30,000 Jews lived in Marrakech. In 1951, the Jewish population dropped to just 17,000, and by 1960, to only 10,000. Most went to Israel. By 1970, only a few hundred Jews remained. As I departed this “oasis city,” I realized why many Moroccan Jews have a special place in their hearts for Marrakech.

Ben G. Frank, a journalist and travel writer, is the author of the just-published Klara’s Journey, A Novel, (Marion Street Press) and The Scattered Tribe: Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond, (Globe Pequot Press); Blog:, twitter @bengfrank

Marrakech Fest: Paolo Sorrentino Reacts to European Film Awards Wins.
12/8/2013 by Rhonda Richford Paolo Sorrentino

The director missed the awards ceremony in Berlin, but toasted his honors for "The Great Beauty" with Martin Scorsese when he heard the news.

MARRAKECH, Morocco – Paolo Sorrentino was 1800 miles away in Morocco when his three European Film Award wins for The Great Beauty were announced Saturday in Berlin.

The Great Beauty took home the best film, director and actor prizes at the film awards, but Sorrentino was absent. He had been in Morocco for the past week serving as a main competition juror at the Marrakech International Film Festival, and he had just handed out the best director trophy in the festival’s closing night when his own wins occurred...................

Read more here:

Letter from Morocco: Saintly secrets: If you don't like to shop, then shrines are the selling point in Rabat's quieter twin, Salé.
Cleo CantoneGuardian Weekly, Tuesday 10 December 2013

Since the French moved their capital to Rabat during the protectorate, twin sister Salé on the opposite bank of Bou Regreg river has been in a state of decline. Once a bustling souk peopled by artisans and craftsmen, it has merchandise, if traditionally made, from Fes, Marrakesh or Essouira.

If shopping is not the main attraction, Salé has something else to offer. Ensconced in shoulder-wide darbs – the maze-like alleys of the medina – are countless zawiyas. These shrines sometimes represent a holy man buried elsewhere or have evolved around his entombed body. And holy men abound in Salé: virtually on every street corner there is a bolted wooden door with a commemorative plaque.

You may be forgiven by mistaking mausoleums and zawiyas as they are marked by a square minaret and often a dome. But "mosques and zawiyas are two separate things", Ahmed Madani from the Zawiya Sidiqiya tells me. "Nowadays few people come to the zawiya," he said.

The city's two most imposing mausoleums belong to rival patrons: Sidi Ben Hassun and Sidi Ben Asher. Sidi Ben Hassun's shrine, almost adjacent to the grand mosque, is surmounted by a green tiled dome and a monumental portal marks its entrance.

Taking my shoes off, I ventured inside. An old woman squatting on the floor asked if I was a " Muslima" and as I replied in the affirmative, she nodded in assent. As I turned towards the tomb, a man appeared. He followed me around, then thrust the corner of a green flag hanging from the saint's tomb on my head, muttered something and asked for money. I replied calmly that I just wanted to sit for a while. He still hovered around, and pulled out a rosary from his djellaba, which he handed to me and again demanded money. I repeated my wish for quiet and he took his leave. Before putting my shoes back on, I gave some change to the woman at the entrance, which she acknowledged in silence, and I left.

Later, walking through the souk, I bumped into the same man who smiled beguilingly, as if there had been nothing sinister in our previous encounter. I'd like to think my visit could pass for religious tourism. If that's what it was, there may yet be a future in Salé's secretive shrines.

Every week Guardian Weekly publishes a Letter from one of its readers from around the world. We welcome submissions – they should give our readers a clear sense of a place and its people. Please send them to

Why the Jews left their Arab lands
By David Bensoussan

There has been a Jewish presence in Arab-Muslim countries since well before Islam was introduced and it dates back to before the 6th century before the current era. These communities have disappeared or are in the process of disappearing in the majority of Arab-Muslim countries. In fact, 865,000 Jews found themselves excluded in the very countries they were born in and felt that they had to leave. [1,2]

The traditional legal status of non-Muslims in Muslim countries

Non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries have the status of dhimmi, which means "tolerated" or "protected". This flows from the assertion that Jewish and Christian scripture was distorted by their unworthy depositories. It is legislated under the Pact of Umar which was amended several times with the addition of other discriminatory measures.

A dhimmi is in an inferior position within Muslim society: they have special taxes, wear recognizable clothing, are the subject of humiliating measures, and do not have legal status when they are involved in a legal matter involving Muslims. Shi'ite Islam considers Jews to be a source of impurity. While the conditions of Jews have differed between countries, some features overlap for Jews in Morocco, and in the Ottoman and Persian Empires.

In the 19th century, several travellers, consuls and educators, sent out by the Alliance Israelite Universelle, sent back alarming reports on the situation of Jews, including the following: daily humiliation, objects of scorn, submissive to the point of atrophy, constant insecurity, abductions, densely populated Jewish quarters, dramatic impoverishment and seriously unsanitary living conditions. They described nightmarish fanaticism on the one hand and resignation on the other.  

The difficult circumstances of Jews, who made up 0.5% to 3% of the population, depending on the country, was also raised by Muslim chroniclers. Jews automatically became the scapegoats whenever there was political instability, a military defeat or difficult economic conditions, as well as drought. Massacres and plundering happened on a regular basis. [3]

Generally speaking, the rulers were benevolent to a certain degree - of course there were exceptions - and their decisions were not always applied accordingly.

For example, the decree agreed to in 1864 by the Moroccan ruler and the philanthropist, Moses Montefiore, on the cessation of mistreatment of Jews, never actually changed anything.

Jews were accused of ritual murder in Damascus in 1840 and in Cairo in 1902. In the Ottoman Empire, there were reforms that ended the mandatory wearing of distinctive clothing and the special tax on non-Muslims, but once again, in the more remote areas of the Empire, this was never enforced.

The precolonial and colonial period

Being on the fringes of the 19th century expansion of Europe, many Jews sought consular protection, and the parameters were set down at international conferences in Tangier, Madrid, Lausanne, and so on. Algerian Jews obtained the right to French nationality in 1870, Tunisian Jews obtained it at their request in 1923 and Moroccan Jews maintained their status of dhimmi when Morocco became a protectorate.  

A large number of Jews acquired Egyptian nationality but this was quietly withdrawn in 1940 which left about a quarter of Jews without a nationality. In Yemen, Sharia law was applied in 1948 and Jewish orphans were taken in order to be converted to Islam, a practice that had been in use since 1922.

It should be pointed out that improved legal status for Jews did not always translate into improved lives, because mentalities do not evolve as quickly as one might hope. Overall, the Westernization of Jews in countries where the majority is Muslim preceded that of Muslims by more than one generation because of, among other reasons, the reach of the school network of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.

Under the colonial regime, Jews were finally able to live outside the Jewish quarter, the mellah or hara, and they no longer had to wear distinctive clothing. Many Muslims saw this as changing the Jewish status that they felt had been carved in stone by Islamic law. The tradition of prosecuting Jews during difficult domestic times, as well as the resentment against colonial power and the emancipation of Jews, were all key factors in triggering anti-Jewish actions, as happened in Fez in 1912, in Cairo in 1945, and so on.

In order to avoid antagonizing the Muslim majority and even the anti-Semitic European colonists, the colonial authorities often turned a blind eye to the abuse of Jews, for example in Baghdad in 1941. No doubt Jews were considering leaving their country if they could not achieve equal rights. During the Second World War, a pro-Nazi regime came to power in Iraq and the sweeping pogrom, the Farhoud, was carried out in 1941. The Mufti in Jerusalem was the self-appointed voice of Nazi propaganda and he encouraged Bosnia Muslims to join the Waffen SS. As well, Jews in Libya were sent to death camps in Europe and a number in Jews in Tunisia were made to do forced labor.

After the Second World War

After the war, there was growing insecurity in eastern Jewish communities. There had been a pogrom in Libya in 1945, anti-British and anti-Semitic riots within the same year in Egypt, in Syria, Yemen and Aden in 1947, and Jews were excluded from the Syrian and Lebanese administrations in 1947. The political committee of the Arab League, made up of seven countries, proposed in 1947, well before Israel's independence, that the assets of Jews be frozen. [4]

Israel's independence and their surprise victory over invading Arab armies was a miracle in the eyes of Jews. Pressure was put on Jews who were told to prove their loyalty by opposing the Jewish state and the Arab press was full of invective against Israel and Jews. People left in a panic for Israel from several countries despite threats to destroy the newly formed state.   

There were multiple anti-Jewish measures: non-renewal of professional licenses in Iraq, a prohibition on leaving Iraq in 1948 and Yemen in 1949, the withdrawal of Egyptian nationality from Jews, who then became stateless in the 1950s, and the withdrawal of the right to vote for Jews in Libya in 1951.

Add to that the pogroms in Djerada, in Morocco in 1948, in Damascus and Aleppo in 1948, in Benghazi and Tripoli in 1948, in Bahrain in 1949, in Egypt in 1952, and in Libya and Tunisia in 1967. There were arrests and expulsions in Egypt in 1956, economic strangulation by spoliation in Iraq in 1951, in Syria in 1949, in Libya in 1970, or by exclusion in Syria and Lebanon in 1947, in Libya in 1958, in Iran in 2000, or by allowing Egyptian business only in Egypt in 1961.

Jewish heritage was destroyed in Oran in 1961 and in Libya in 1969 and 1978, there was police abuse and abductions of young girls with forced conversions in Morocco from 1961 to 1962, Jews were kidnapped in Lebanon in 1967, there were public hangings in Baghdad in 1969, anti-Semitic cliches were used in the Arab press, and campaigns were used to increase anti-Jewish sentiment and incite hatred, using Zionism as an excuse. After the Six-Day War, this rhetoric increased considerably.

Even though there were assurances of equality before the law in countries considered to be moderate, such as Morocco and Tunisia after their independence, membership in the Arab League meant a full boycott in terms of relations or contact with Israel. Mail was prohibited, it was difficult to get a passport, and any media that did not portray Israel extremely negatively was prohibited from reporting. This boycott absolutely prevented any dialogue that could have led to mutual understanding.

Discriminatory measures that were taken against Jews and the state of Israel led to the quasi-disappearance of Jews in these countries. No Arab state has taken responsibility for the fate of its Jewish citizens. We are witnessing nowadays preservation measures of Jewish patrimony and increased Israeli tourism in Morocco. On the other hand, former Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric denies the holocaust and calls for the elimination of Israel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan acts as if it wanted the state of Israel to become a dhimmi state.

In conclusion, modern times opened the door to the possibility of the dignity of citizenship for Jews, and prejudice compelled them to leave their place of birth. The end of commonplace Jewish servitude in Muslim-Arab countries was dramatic for the Muslim world, which is why Arab nationalism has made Palestine its focal point for mobilization. Zionism represents Jews who have reclaimed their dignity and defend themselves, in other words the antithesis of dhimmis.

One must consider, furthermore, that the measures taken against Jews varied from one country to another. Once they were promulgated, the measures taken to protect Jews were rarely applied. In addition, it did not take much to arouse the people's animosity toward Jews, regardless of these measures.

The policy of terror and exclusion led to ethnic cleansing without regard for rights or a possessions that were lost, confiscated or abandoned, or to discriminatory measures along with their vicious propaganda, which ultimately led to an exodus that was practically forced, and often people left very quietly.

These discriminatory measures came in different forms and varied depending on the country. If it had not been for the Arab media's anti-Israeli frenzy and the discriminatory measures against Jews, it is highly likely that some of them would have decided to stay in their country. The feeling of insecurity constantly hung over Jewish communities. Their departure became necessary for their survival, otherwise it was just a question of time before they would be taken hostage by the potential unrest, which they were sure they would fall victim to next.

Jews who had been present in Arab Muslim countries for a 1,000 years were squeezed out in the span of one generation, and they had to choose exile to other countries.

1. House of Commons, Canada, November 2013
2. See here 3. Georges Bensoussan. Juifs en pays arabes - Le grand d'racinement 1850-1975, Tallandier 2012, ISBN 978-28473-48873 4. See here

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Dr David Bensoussan is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the ecole de technologie superieure de l'Universite du Quebec and has served as President of the Communaute Sepharade Unifiee du Quebec. (Copyright 2013 Dr David Bensoussan)

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