Serge Berdugo pulled out his iPad and quickly scrolled to a photo showing Yom Kippur services at a Moroccan synagogue.
“This is the whole story,” he said, pointing at a row of dignitaries sitting up front. Government officials, police officers and military commanders, all Muslim, come every year to honor the Jewish community on its holiest of days. The service is also carried live on the national TV.
For Berdugo, secretary general of the Moroccan Jewish community and a former minister of tourism, this is perhaps the most shining demonstration of just how well the Jews of this Arab country are being treated.
“Jews in Morocco are in the best situation that they can imagine,” said Berdugo in an interview that took place on Friday, hours before King Mohammed VI met at the White House with President Obama.
Berdugo, who also carries the tile of Ambassador at Large, was part of the official delegation visiting Washington. In his meetings with American and Jewish officials he portrayed Morocco as a heaven for religious tolerance at a time when its neighborhood is falling in the hands of extremists.
“The message is: it’s possible. It’s not a fairy tale, come and see for yourself,” added Ahmed Abbadi, a Muslim, who chairs King Mohammed’s council of religious scholars.
It is a message welcomed by Washington, which has been taking flak for not standing up to Islamist in post-Arab Spring Egypt and Tunisia. The model Morocco sought to present during the king’s visit was of an alternative to the anti-authoritative uprisings the Middle East and North Africa had experienced – one in which gradual reform and relative tolerance could prevent tensions from building up and maintain a pro-Western monarchy. Treatment of the Jewish community is a key test for this doctrine, and Morocco’s Jewish leader was in town to show that it works.