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Report: Moroccan textbooks ‘welcome schoolchildren into Jewish life’

February 21, 2023

Analysts at Israeli non-profit give the thumbs-up to reformed national curriculum which promotes 'peace and tolerance' above all else

Researchers examining Morocco textbooks over the past decade say a “significant” amount of new information about Jews and Judaism was introduced the year after it normalised relations with Israel.

Peace and tolerance are highlighted as “central themes” across all Moroccan teaching, regardless of grade or subject, with a new report showing how “coexistence with Jews is emphasised and antisemitic stereotypes avoided”.

Analysts working for the Israeli organisation IMPACT-se evaluated 127 textbooks taught in Morocco’s national school curriculum and published between 2013 and 2022 by the Ministry of Education covering the humanities, geography, history, Islamic studies, Arabic language and literature, French, and English.

Morocco and Israel agreed to normalise relations in December 2020 after Donald Trump’s White House administration agreed that the United States would recognise Morocco’s contested claim to the Western Sahara.

IMPACT-se report said “positive reforms, created as recently as 2021, introduced significant amounts of new educational material by Morocco’s Ministry of Education that familiarises students with Jews and Judaism to a far greatly extent”.

It added that “Morocco’s Jewish community is frequently and affectionately represented in the textbooks… Students learn that the Jewish community is an inseparable part of Morocco, and current government efforts to preserve Jewish heritage are highlighted”.

Although the textbooks do not teach about the Holocaust, they do describe Jewish history, culture, and contributions to Moroccan society, with students learning about life in the mellah (Jewish Quarter) and stories of “nostalgia and affection toward Morocco, which textbooks interpret as a sign of Jews’ patriotism”.

The researcher found that “the portrayal of Jewish people is sympathetic, and antisemitic stereotypes are avoided or subverted with positive traits like generosity, and loyalty to Morocco… Coexistence between Jews and Muslims is emphasised, with examples showing non-Jewish Moroccans hosted for Shabbat and Mimouna”.

IMPACT-se chief executive Marcus Sheff said: “We are struck by this unique embrace of Jews and Judaism in the reformed Moroccan school curriculum, a project of King Mohammed VI.

“The affection through which Morocco’s Jewish community and its customs are represented as well as the lives of individual Moroccan Jews is heart-warming. We are welcomed into the homes of the Jewish community through the textbooks and learn that Jews are entwined in the national and cultural fabric of Morocco.”

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