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September 30, 2022 3:01 pm
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Moroccan Textbooks Emphasize Jewish History, Report Says

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The Lazama Synagogue in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: David Berkowitz/Flickr.

School textbooks in the Kingdom of Morocco promote appreciation of Jews and educate students about their contributions to the country, according to an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Morocco became in 2020 the first Arab country to include Jewish history in its school curriculum. The decision was announced after the Abraham Accords normalized relations with Israel. The ADL’s review of the new curriculum is the first since Israel and Morocco’s rapprochement opened what many hope is a new era in the Middle East.

“The country’s elementary school textbooks depict Jews as an integral part of Moroccan society whose heritage and societal contributions are national assets,” the ADL said on Thursday. “This poses a contrast to textbooks in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where Jews are routinely demonized and positive descriptions of Jews are scarce.”

One example from the curriculum that the ADL cited shared a story titled “Hosted by Sami” about a friendship between three Jewish and Muslim Moroccan youth, Sami, Ibrahim, and Idris. It ends with Sami’s mother serving them “a mouthwatering dish” called Skinha on the Sabbath.

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“Before leaving Sami’s house, Idris thanked Sami on our behalf for his hospitality, and Ibrahim invited us to his house the following Friday for another delicious meal from our Moroccan cuisine,” it said.

Others emphasized the Kingdom’s constitutional commitment to anti-discrimination, highlighting its antecedent in the long history of coexistence and cultural exchange between its Christians, Muslims, Jews, and various ethnic groups.

“Moroccan Jews had a strong presence in the countryside and cities,” said a textbook titled “A Thousand Years of Moroccan Jewish History.” “This facilitated their ability to live in peace with their Muslim compatriots, with whom they shared common interests.”

The ADL also pointed to the curriculum’s commentaries on Jewish blacksmiths, farmers, and scientists, and the addition of Holocaust studies to the curriculum.

“The philosemitism expressed in the textbooks is a reflection of the centuries-long existence of Jews in Morocco, the relative security and comforts the Jewish community have enjoyed over the years, as well as the Kingdom’s principled stance against any form of discrimination and religious fanaticism, including that which could lead to violence,” the ADL concluded.

Other nations in the Middle East are “slowly” making progress towards eradicating antisemitism from its curriculum and acknowledging Jewish contributions to culture and civil society, Israeli education watchdog Impact-se — which has issued reports on Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian, Turkish and a range of other curricula across the Middle East — reported in July.

Officials in the Gulf state of Qatar, for example, have removed antisemitic content describing Jews as treacherous, immoral, and responsible for Germany’s loss in World War I from its curriculum, but content on the Arab-Israeli conflict has retained its “anti-Israeli nationalist narrative.” Also, the Qatari curriculum still legitimizes violence against Israel and opposes efforts to normalize its relations with Arab states.

In January, Impact-se CEO Marcus Sheff described textbooks in the United Arab Emirates as “by far the most tolerant and peaceful Arab or Muslim majority curriculum that the institute had reviewed in over a quarter of a century of research.”

However, parts of Emirati curriculum remained “hostile” to Jews, including a grade 11 lesson describing Muhammad’s filling “[Jews] hearts with horror” — for, the report said, “supposedly violating their commitment to support Muhammad.” In a lesson drawn from a passage from the hadith, students are told not to “resemble the Jews.” And the materials say nothing about the Holocaust or the history of Jews or other minorities in the Middle East.

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