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Friday, September 23, 2011

Moroccan university hosts Holocaust conference, sort of

From Ha'aretz:
The world's first colloquium in the Arab world for the study of the Holocaust took place this week, in large measure thanks to the groundwork laid by a program that seeks to educate American high school graduates about the history of cooperation between Jews and the other nations. The symposium, hosted by Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco and co-sponsored by the Israel gap-year program Kivunim, included three days of presentations and panels on the Nazi genocide, its repercussions for Morocco, and the historical relationships between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.

The only Holocaust conference held in the Muslim world prior to this took place in Tehran, Iran in December 2006, and was widely denounced by Jewish leaders as an attempt not to gain a greater understand of those events, but to cast doubt on their ever having taken place. The groundbreaking Ifrane conference received the support of local Jewish community leaders and was attended by mainstream historians of the Holocaust, coexistence facilitators, government representatives - including the American Ambassador and emissaries of the Moroccan king - and ordinary Moroccan Muslims and Jews.

The conference was originally the idea of a group of Muslim students at Al-Akhawayn University in the Atlas Mountains, who formed a "Mimouna Club" -- named for the post-Passover holiday of Jewish-Arab fraternity. The club shared their idea with students from the Kivunim program that they had met who were visiting the country to learn about Moroccan Jewish history. Kivunim Founding Director Peter Geffen, who accompanied the group, realized the historic importance of such an opportunity and agreed to help organize the event, bringing some of those same Kivunim students back to Morocco this week to attend the conference.

During World War Two, when Morocco was occupied by the French, who were in turn occupied by the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis, Moroccan King Mohammed V is said to have protected the Jews living in his domain from suffering the fate that befell the Jews of Europe. On March 18, 2009, his grandson, the ruling monarch Mohammed VI, honored that tradition of inter-religious solidarity when he publicly proclaimed that he and the Moroccan people perceive the Shoah "as a wound to the collective memory, which we know is engraved in one of the most painful chapters in the collective history of mankind."
I don't see anything about the Holocaust conference specifically on the website of the school. All I can find is that over the same three day period the Mimouna Club is celebrating "Jewish Days" where there are lectures, debates, visits to museums and kosher meals in Ifrane and Casablanca. The word "Holocaust" isn't mentioned in their program, but it must be the same one that Ha'aretz is reporting on.

Which means that this is not exactly a public conference on the Holocaust.