Fleeing Rabbi Draws Unwanted Attention to Israeli Fugitives in Morocco

Police Estimates Presence of Dozens of Israelis With Mafia Ties

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By JTA

Published December 05, 2013.
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Another Moroccan Jew who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity had similar concerns about the presence of Israelis fleeing legal troubles.

“The criminals here cast a negative light on the Jews and undermine years of intercommunal work,” the man said. “They are drawing negative and dangerous attention.”

The attention has spilled onto the front pages of major Moroccan media. The Ya Biladi daily ran a front-page article recently calling Berland a pedophile. Last year, Les Temps magazine published a front-page expose about Israeli criminals in Morocco, noting that their presence justifies a boycott of Israel.

Another Moroccan Jew speaking on condition of anonymity said the attention has also helped create popular support for two bills submitted to parliament this summer that propose to outlaw all contact with Israelis. The bills are supported by the ruling Islamist Justice and Development party.

Ben Chetrit, Kadoch and others say the bills have little chance of passing because King Mohammed VI will block them. The king has generally been solicitous of Morocco’s Jewish community, undertaking a massive renovation of more than 100 synagogues and supporting an addition to the constitution recognizing the contribution of “Hebraic influences” to Moroccan culture, an unusual gesture in the Arab Middle East.

But the measures are supported by a majority in parliament and if they do pass, Moroccan Jews stand to lose a lot.

Morocco is arguably the Arab world’s most open nation to Israel and annually receives an estimated 45,000 Israeli tourists. Many of them go on Jewish heritage tours run by members of the local Jewish community.

“This Berland guy, I don’t know if he’s guilty,” a local community member told JTA. “I only know he could not have come at a worst time for us. And I think that’s the reason he is no longer here.”


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