Wide Angle

The origins of the Jewish state plan in Morocco in the 17th century

In the 17th century, a Moroccan man of Jewish faith tried to establish a Jewish state in Taza, taking advantage of the decline of the Saadi dynasty and the arrival of the Alawites from Tafilalet. At the beginning of the 20th century, Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement was also considering establishing a state for Jews in Morocco, before the leaders of the movement opted for Palestine.

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After the decline of the Saadi Empire (1554-1659) and before the Alaouites gained control of the country in 1631, political unrest reigned in Morocco. Political figures or figures with a significant social status had attempted to govern their territories on their own. One of them was a Moroccan Jew named Haroun ibn Mishaal, who lived in Taza.

In a book, historian Abdelhadi Tazi tells how Haroun ibn Mishaal took advantage of the power vacuum in Fez to create a Jewish province, in the vicinity of Bani Yazanassin and become governor of Taza and Fez.

Ibn Mishaal noticed the «danger over Morocco and the Saadian dynasty». «The Jews therefore sought to realize their dream of restoring the State of David, putting a first brick away from their temple», according to Daawat Alhaq.

An old dream of Zionism

The same source reports that Ibn Mishaal was planning to «set up his Jewish state, in the eastern region, near the borders with the Turkish state in Algeria». Thus, «Judaism had planned its state and placed its first castle or kasbah, known under the name of Dar ibn Mishaal», the magazine added.

Moroccan historian Abdelhadi Tazi recalled in an article titled «The Alawite State and the Feudalism of Ibn Mishaal» that «the State of Israel was about to be hosted by Taza» and was to include Fez as well as other regions of the country. He noted that «the power wielded by Ibn Mishaal, whether in terms of money or equipment, his reputation as a man wanting good for the richest and the poorest as well as stability for the country pushed the oppressed or confused them into trust him».

However, Ibn Mishaal's reign over Taza and his dream of establishing a homeland for Jews in Morocco collapsed. The Moroccan historian reports how an incident with a woman was behind the death of the one who dreamed of becoming a Jewish sovereign.

«Ibn Mishaal passes one day and comes to stand in front of a woman carrying a small child with a pot of water in her hand.He then asked her to give him a drink - a likely attempt to find out how she felt about him – and she refused.He took the child and threw him (which led to his death, note).The mother recovered the remains of her child and returned to the village to raise the people against Ibn Mishaal».

Abdelhadi Tazi, «the Alawite State and the feudalism of Ibn Mishaal»

This incident came as the Alawites rulers in Tafilalet were gaining power. «Moulay Rachid, one of the members of the family, was a student at the Qarawiyyin University in Fez», who subsequently destroyed those ambitions. 

According to book «Al Isstiqssa Fi Akhbar Al Maghrib Al Aqsa» by Ahmed Ben Khaled Naciri, Ibn Mishaal had «huge sums of money and precious ammunition» and despised Muslims and Islam. Moulay Rachid manage to kill him and seized his money which was then distributed to those who joined the future Chief of Tafilalet.

Ibn Mishaal's fortune was used to equip the army of the prince of Tafilalet, who went on to take control of the city of Fez, and strengthened his army before facing that of his brother, Moulay Mohamed Ben Cherif, who was defeated and killed during the Battle of Angad near Oujda on August 2, 1664.

In its 203rd issue, the magazine Daawat Alhaq indicates that the fortress of Ibn Mishaal remained in place, even after his death : «The Turkish armies visited it from time to time and occupied it, sometimes as a buffer against Moroccan forces, sometimes as a starting point to attack them».

A dream of a Jewish state rising from the ashes

Hundreds of years after the death of Ibn Mishaal, the Zionists' dream of establishing a homeland started resurfacing by the start of the 20th century. Israeli media recently reported a mysterious and secret message that Theodor Herzl, one of the earliest figures of the movement for the creation of a Jewish state, attempted to promote a plan to establish a state in Morocco.

The Yediot Aharonot newspaper indicates that the «Uganda plan» to settle Jews in East Africa is being studied in the history books, but few have heard of an alternative plan prepared by Herzl. According to a letter he wrote in April 1903, his «Moroccan plan» aimed to settle Russian Jews in the Kingdom.

According to the same site, Herzl thought «to propose a different site for the Jewish state in the southwestern region of Morocco».

«There was a very large concentration of Jews there, whether in Morocco itself or in the North African region in general.You have to understand that Herzl was a very pragmatic man.He saw the problem on the one hand with persecuted Jews who suffered mainly in Eastern Europe and other countries, and on the other hand Morocco with its thriving Jewish community and active Jewish centers».

Yaakov Hagoel, President of the World Zionist Organization

Professor Yosef Shitrit of the Hebrew Department at the University of Haifa told the same newspaper that the option of an international Jewish state in Moroccan lands was also presented by brothers Baruch and Yaakov Moshe Tolidano, the two sons of immigrant parents from Morocco and well-known Zionist activists at the time.

He added that «Baruch spoke to Herzl, several months before his death, and then conveyed his appeal to French rabbi Vidal of Fez, close to the Moroccan monarchy and government, to establish an independent territory for the Jews».

«The French rabbi, who was very familiar with domestic politics knew that it was an illusory plan which did not take into account the internal situation of Morocco and dismissed [the project]», the same source added.

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