A video has surfaced showing masked pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Morocco leading two men dressed as Orthodox Jews at gunpoint. The demonstration drew thousands of protesters in Casablanca Sunday and reportedly obtained the necessary permission from the local police, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.
On Twitter, many called out the protest as being blatantly anti-Semitic, as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors global anti-Semitism, expressed concern over the event. “These disturbing scenes come on the heels of other expressions of anti-Semitism we’ve seen in Morocco and may have a destabilizing effect not only in North Africa but among the Muslim communities in Europe, where Moroccans make up a large share of the population,” Shimon Samuels, the center’s director of international relations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Public displays of anti-Semitism were considered rare in Morocco, which sits thousands of miles from the conflict in Israel and Palestine and whose leaders have made gestures of peace toward Israel. Although the countries do not have ongoing diplomatic relations, the Moroccan government has invested millions of dollars in restoring Jewish heritage sites in Morocco in recent years. Anti-Israel protests have been common, however, when tensions have flared between Israelis and Palestinians.
The video released from Sunday's demonstration shows two men wearing black robes and tall hats, apparently meant to look like Orthodox Jews, pretending to smash a replica of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Shortly after, two men wearing masks and black-and-white checkered headdresses, called Keffiyehs, lead the individuals dressed as Jews at gunpoint with fake guns, as demonstrators wave Palestinian flags.
The protest was organized in response to a surge in tensions in Israel and Palestine over the last month. Palestinians, as well as Arabs in neighboring countries, widely believe Israeli Jews wish to divide or even destroy the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which is revered by Jews as the site of two ancient biblical temples. The Israeli government has insisted it will maintain the status-quo status of the site, called the Temple Mount by religious Jews.
Israel has seen sporadic knife-attacks by Palestinians, leading to at least 11 Israeli deaths, as Palestinians have staged protests across Jerusalem and the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured in the protests and tens of people have been killed in clashes.
Morocco used to have a sizeable Jewish population and many Moroccan cities had Jewish quarters. Some 250,000 to 350,000 Jews left Morocco in the two decades that followed Israel’s independence in 1948. Just several thousand remain, and many Moroccans pride themselves on their country's tolerance.