Three experts on Moroccan Jewry claim that an agreement reached this year with the German government to compensate Moroccan Jews who suffered during the Holocaust is worthless, because few will qualify for compensation under its terms.
The deal, which would award a one-time compensation payment to Moroccan Jews deprived of freedom of movement, is not relevant to Moroccan Jewry, whose Holocaust suffering did not take that form, say the three - Dr. Yigal Bin-Nun of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, a leading research institute in Paris; Prof. Michael Lasker of Bar-Ilan University and Prof. Yaron Tsur of Tel Aviv University.
During the Holocaust, Moroccan Jews were under the rule of France's Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. Under the agreement reached in April between the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the German government, the Claims Conference was allowed to distribute up to $26 million to an estimated 7,000 Moroccan Jews who were subjected to regulations that restricted their freedom of movement.
To make a claim, the victim must have been restricted by the Nazi regime or its allies by being subject to a curfew, or obliged to register, or had their area of residence limited. Each eligible claimant would get a one-time payment of 2,556 euro, a bit over NIS 12,700 at the current exchange rate.
"Restricting the freedom of movement to the domestic area or a specific region was an effective means to the goal of seizing the Jewish population in Germany and the regions under German influence," said Julius Berman, the Claims Conference chairman.
According to the three researchers, using the term Holocaust to describe the Moroccan Jewish experience is itself misleading, because Morocco was actually a place of refuge for Jews and not one Moroccan national was sent to a concentration camp.
But more pertinently, restricted freedom of movement was not the primary source of suffering for Moroccan Jewry, the researchers said. They were victimized primarily by being forced out of their jobs and suffered economic hardships, for which there are no compensation agreements.
As a result, the three wrote in a letter to Claims Conference director Chen Yurista, few Moroccan Jews will get anything.
"Why did the German government agree to recognize this criterion, rather than criteria that more accurately reflect reality?" the three wrote. "Why are numerous organizations, encouraged by the Claims Conference, urging Moroccan Jews to file claims even though it's known that based on this arbitrary criterion very few will qualify for compensation?"
Added Bin-Nun: "They are selling people illusions, making them hysterical and at the end they'll be hugely disappointed."
A Claims Conference spokesman insisted the criterion is indeed relevant. "For example, under this clarification anyone who was not allowed to live outside the Jewish quarter in the city in which they lived because of an order issued by the king of Morocco would be eligible.
"The other types of damage Moroccan Jews suffered during the Holocaust period are well known to the Claims Conference for many years, but unfortunately the German government has yet to recognize these reasons for the purpose of individual or group compensation."
The spokesman noted that since the agreement was announced, thousands of claims have been filed by Moroccan Jews all over the world, "and from a quick preliminary examination of them we believe they will meet the criteria of the German government and thousands will get the grant."