The Radicalization of Moroccan Jews between Casablanca and Wadi Salib, 1956-1959

By Shay Hazkani
Submitted to Session P6383 (The Politics of Culture in Postcolonial Morocco and its Diasporas, 2021 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper reconsiders three years in the lives of Jews in Morocco and their families which chose to emigrate to Israel. Relying on personal letters sent and received by Moroccan Jews in both places—and secretly intercepted by the Israeli intelligence apparatus—the paper shows that the period between Moroccan independence in 1956 and the Moroccan uprising in Israel, known as the Wadi Salib revolt, in 1959 was a major juncture for both groups. It argues that the ultimate negative perception of Moroccan independence by Moroccan Jews in Morocco was a determining factor in the strategies taken by Moroccan Jews in Israel. Up until the early 1950s, Moroccan Jews who had already immigrated to Israel saw Ashkenazi racism, as well as economic hardships, as reasons to leave Israel and return to Morocco; however, the pleas by their families still in Morocco made Moroccans in Israel abandon the plans of returning. Despite a rapprochement between Jews and Muslims in Morocco in the aftermath of Moroccan independence, many Jews in Morocco felt that a better future awaited them in Israel. Another argument the paper makes is that abandoning the concrete plans of returning to Morocco brought about a radicalization of the resistance of Moroccan Jews in Israel to racism. Moroccans in Israel started framing their struggle in terms of other anti-colonial and anti-racist revolts from around the world, using language that was new to them. For example, letters include drawing comparisons between the Wadi Salib revolt and the black civil rights movement in the U.S., and between the repression of the revolt by the Israeli state and the and the Nazi occupation of Europe. Moroccan Jews even likened their revolt to actions of Palestinian Fedayeen. The paper also considers the methodological concerns of using a primary source, originally created for nefarious means, for studying “history from below”.