This week, Moroccan citizens will vote in one of the first open parliamentary elections in years. One of the 7,000 candidates running for office is a Jewish woman named Marie-Yvonne Kakon.
Kakon is a 57 year old mother of four works as a real-estate consultant as well as being a renowned author who has written several books about Jewish culture in Morocco. She is a member of the Social Centre Party, a moderate party which in her words is “innovative”. She is the only Jew running for a seat in parliament and is a novelty because she is Jewish and a woman. In 2007, Kakon received 300,000 votes and is currently still popular amongst all population groups in Morocco, especially amongst the Jewish and Berber communities.
Kakon attracted attention because she is a Jew and a woman and such politicians are rare in the Arab world. The last Jewish politician in Morocco was Serge Berdugo, who served as the Minister of Tourism in the 1990s. The most well-known Jewish politician, however, is Andre Azoulay, who is the advisor of King Muhammad VI and was advisor to the monarch’s father Hassan II.
Jewish politicians are a novelty in the Arab world. However, it is not surprising in Morocco which is the most western of the Arab World and has a history of protecting Jews such as the country’s actions in WWII by refusing to allow the deportation of Jews to Nazi extermination camps in Europe. In addition, the country recently hosted a Holocaust conference at Al-Akhawayn University during which Muhammad VI condemned the Nazis and called the Holocaust Era “a wound to the collective memory of mankind”.
Currently, Jews visit Morocco frequently to visit their relatives who still live in the country as well as visit the burial sites of the hundreds of Jewish leaders who resided in Morocco. While the country at one point had close to 300,000 Jews, the community no numbers only about 2,500 people. However, the two countries have not had any diplomatic relations since the Second Intifada began in 2000.