Article: Zionism, Colonialism, and Post-colonial Migrations: Moroccan Jews’ Memories of Displacement
Author: Yolande Cohen
The emigration of Jews from Morocco to Israel, in particular, is the subject of intense debate among historians, signaling the difficulty of telling a unified story of this moment. I want to contribute to this debate by showing that the combining and often opposing forces of Colonialism and Zionism were the main factors that triggered these migrations, in a period of rising Moroccan nationalism. But those forces were also seen as opportunities by some migrants to seize the moment to better their fate and realize their dreams. If we cannot assess every migrant story, I want here to suggest through my family’s experience and memory and other collected oral histories, how we could intertwine those memories to a larger narrative to shed more light on this history. The push and pull forces that led to Moroccan Jewry’s migrations and post-colonial circulations between the 1940s and 1960s were the result of a reordering of the complex relationships between the different ethnic and religious communities well before the migration took place. The departures of the people interviewed for this study are inscribed in both the collective and family dynamics, but were organized in secret, away from the gaze of the others, particularly that of non-Jewish neighbors. Their belonging to a sector of the colonial world, while still prevalent in their narratives, is blurred by another aspect of post-colonial life in Morocco, that is the cultural/education nexus. Depending on where one has been educated and socialized, the combined effects of Colonialism and Zionism strongly impacted the time of their departures and the places they went to.