Washington D.C. - Israel media outlets have been reporting on the recent award bestowed posthumously on the late King Mohammed V’ for his protection of Moroccan Jews during World War II.
Washington D.C. – Israel media outlets have been reporting on the recent award bestowed posthumously on the late King Mohammed V’ for his protection of Moroccan Jews during World War II.
This Sunday in New York city, the late King Mohammed V was honored by the The Institute for World Jewish Studies with the first The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. – Rabbi Abraham Heschel Award, to mark the organization’s 10th anniversary.
At the time late King Mohammed V reigned, Morocco was controlled by pro-Nazi Vichy French forces. There were around 250,000 Jews in the North African country.
King Mohammed V was known for refusing the Nazi forces to enact legislation discriminating against Jews, having reportedly said: “there are no Jews in Morocco, only subjects.”
The Jerusalem Post focused on King Mohammed V’s response to the creation of Israel, saying though there was anti-Jewish rhetoric in Morocco at the time, “Mohammed V warned Muslims not to hurt Moroccan Jews, reminding them that Jews had always been protected in Morocco.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency stressed that the honor was “timely” as the Simon Wiesenthal Center “expressed concern at what it described as a proliferation of expressions of anti-Semitism in Morocco” after a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Casablanca this past October.
The protest reportedly featured men dressed as Orthodox Jews being led away to a fake execution. In 2013, two bills aiming to criminalize trade with Israel were introduced into Morocco’s Parliament. However, neither one has been passed into law.
Morocco has around 2,000-2,500 jews today. Though the community is small, the Moroccan kingdom has a deep interest in preserving and promoting its Jewish heritage. Under King Mohammed VI, Morocco has recognized Jewish contributions to Moroccan national identity as part of the 2011 constitutional reforms and has restored an ancient synagogue in Fez.
In January of 2005, Moroccan Jews paid homage to those killed at Auschwitz by holding special prayers in synagogues. They, meanwhile, expressed gratitude to King Mohammed V for protecting their ancestors from the Nazis during World War II.
When being honored with the award, Serge Berdugo, the head of the Council of Israelite Communities of Morocco, said the award represents the American Jewish community’s ”recognition of the deep convictions, the moral approach and brave policy,” of King Mohammed V.
“Speaking to you as 2015 draws to a close, I am sure you realize that my understanding of the honor bestowed on the Kingdom of Morocco tonight is more than a mere reminder of an exemplary page of history written more than 70 years ago,” he said.