Morocco Bombings Shock Emigres

For most Parisian Jews with roots in Casablanca, the news that their home community had been targeted by Islamic terrorists came like a bolt from the blue.

"Sure, it’s happened in every other Arab country, in Egypt, even Tunisia, but we never thought it would happen in Morocco," Valerie Ben-Chimon exclaimed as she brought her children to school. "People there said they thought it was a gas explosion or an earthquake. Nobody ever imagined it was a bomb."

Ben-Chimon left Morocco for France in 1987, but her parents still live in Casablanca. They recently visited her in France for Passover.

Her father returned to Morocco just after the holiday, but Ben-Chimon’s mother returned May 18, two days after five suicide bombings in Casablanca — four of them aimed at Jewish targets — killed 29 people.

"Of course it’s worrying," she said, "but you know, there’s no security anywhere — not in France, not in Israel either."

Ben-Chimon and other Jews born in Casablanca felt more shock than anger after the attacks.

"People there have always had enormous faith in the king to protect the Jews," she said.

The head of Morocco’s 4,000-strong Jewish community, Serge Berdugo, was minister of tourism under Hassan II, father of the present monarch, Mohammed VI. One of Mohammed’s most trusted advisers, Andre Azoulay, is a Jewish banker.

"We are deeply shocked, but we are not afraid," Berdugo said. "People here know it is a global fight against the terrorists, the same for Muslims as for Jews. There were no victims from our own community, but this has come like a bolt from the blue."

Even in Paris, there was a sense of disbelief. One man, who described himself as "50-50" — half-Moroccan, half-Tunisian — said "they can’t have been Moroccans, they must have been Islamists from outside the country."

But Ben-Chimon corrected him, saying sadly, "They were Moroccans."

According to Simon Attias, president of the Society of Former Moroccan Jews, the king’s visit to the scene of the attacks was important "to send the right message" to the Moroccan people.

"But why didn’t he do anything before the attacks?" Attias asked.

Morocco is "a tolerant country," he said, and the terrorists were "as much against Moroccan Muslims as Jews."

Asked about the community’s future, Attias said things had been going downhill steadily since Morocco ceased to be a French protectorate in the 1950s.

"There’s no future for the Jews there," he said. "Virtually everyone has left for Israel, France or Canada."

Nevertheless, for many of those who left Casablanca — the site of Morocco’s largest Jewish community — the feelings toward Morocco remain strong.

"The king sent soldiers to protect us in Casablanca during the" 1991 Persian Gulf War, "and I remember how he spoke on television during the Six-Day War" in 1967, said Solange Rumi, who still has family in Casablanca. "He said that the Jews were Moroccan citizens, just like everybody else, and no Jew was touched."

"My brother said they congratulated King Mohammed on the birth of his son when he visited the Cercle d’Alliance after the bombing," Rumi said.

The targeting of the Cercle d’Alliance showed that the aim was to kill as many Jews as possible, Ben-Chimon said.

"This is a community where everyone knows everyone else, and everyone goes to the cercle," she said. "It’s a miracle. If they had bombed the Cercle d’Alliance on any day other than Shabbat, many more people would have been killed."

The same is true for Casablanca’s Safir Hotel, another target.

"There are lots of Moroccan Jews living in Israel who go there for the hilula," Ben Chimon said, referring to the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, which is marked on Lag B’Omer. "But they hit the hotel too late, because they come for only about two days or so to Casablanca, then head off for Marrakech to celebrate the hilula."

Ben-Chimon said her parents would stay in Casablanca, adding, "We have always been treated well there. It’s very special, really, ‘la belle vie.’"

Ninth Circuit Misses on Iran

I once appeared in court to ask that three additional defendants be held liable on a judgment.

The judge was skeptical — until I showed him that the additional defendants had forged both a set of articles of incorporation and a doctor’s business license.

The judge looked at the forged documents. He looked at the evidence that proved the documents were forged. Then, he exploded.

He gestured and yelled: "I don’t like it when people play fast and loose with the law." And with a stroke of a pen, he held the additional defendants liable.

I wonder what that judge thinks of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal last week to allow a terrorist victim’s family to hold an Iranian national bank in California liable on a judgment against Iran.

In Flatow v. Bank Saderat Iran the 9th Circuit decided whether heirs of American Alisa Flatow ("Flatow"), a New Jersey native who was murdered when the bus she was riding on in Israel in 1995 was bombed, could enforce their judgment against property owned by Bank Saderat Iran in Carlsbad.

Flatow had already won a judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran: Iran had provided material support and resources to the terrorists. The sole question was whether the property held by an Iranian national bank could be used to satisfy the judgment.

The 9th Circuit relied upon a 1983 case where Citibank recovered assets from a Cuban national bank as a setoff against property seized by Cuba.

In the case, the court had found a nationalized Cuban bank to be wholly owned by Cuba, but would only hold the bank liable on the Cuban regime’s debts if the claimant could show either that the bank was acting as an agent of the Cuban government, or that the claimant was entitled to recover the money to prevent fraud and injustice.

In Flatow, the 9th Circuit found the Iranian bank to be wholly owned by the government — it was nationalized in 1979 — but rejected the contention that the Iranian national bank was a principle-agent of the Iranian government, or that justice required payment to Flatow.

I have some sympathy for the 9th Circuit. It, like many Western legal and government institutions, is now struggling to address the right to recover from Islamic terrorists within the Western framework of jurisprudence.

But the apology the court makes to Flatow at the end of the opinion "expressing regret" that the holding "forestalls" recovery is an admission of the court’s mistake.

The court’s own opinion shows that the Iranian national bank in question was supervised entirely by government ministers on various committees. In addition, the Iranian constitution mandates central control of the banking industry as part of the state sector of the economy.

Just like the former Soviet Union, where the state pushed every industry into the struggle against the West, terrorist states like Iran

utilize every component of society in support of jihad.

Other terrorist states similarly use their national institutions for terror. For example, recovery of Palestinian Authority documents by Israel over the past several months shows an entire state apparatus aiding and abetting terror. The Iraqi regime also uses various government entities to advance its nefarious goals.

In sponsoring worldwide terrorist attacks, Iran has done more than just "play fast and loose with the law." Iran has murdered and maimed innocent people.

This is not a case about two forged documents; it’s a case about continuing Islamic terror.

And since the Iranian regime has assets, the victims should be compensated.

At this point, Flatow’s case is not over; Flatow may ask for a rehearing of the 9th Circuit’s decision to a wider panel of 11 judges in the 9th Circuit.

The 9th Circuit made a mistake by not taking the Islamic Republic of Iran at its word and deed, namely, that the Islamic state directs both terrorist operations and the banking industry.

The 9th Circuit should reverse its initial decision, recognize Iran as a terrorist entity and order full recovery from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nationalized bank.

Nathan D. Wirtschafter is a co-chair of the Israel Speaker’s Bureau for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.