Monday, January 25, 2021

State Department Excludes Jewish Religious or Ceremonial Objects from Moroccan Designated List, but More Coins, Even Rope Embargoed.

 On January 22, 2021, U.S. Customs announced new State Department import restrictions on Moroccan cultural goods.  The extensive designated list may be found here.

For the first time, the regulations include a statement that the designated list of ethnological objects does not include Jewish ceremonial or religious objects.  While this is good news, it does raise a few issues.  First, it contradicts prior State Department claims to Jewish groups and coin collectors that it is impossible to grant such “exemptions.”  Second, none of the other MENA import restrictions have such language and in fact several (the MOU with Egypt comes to mind) explicitly include Jewish items.  Finally, it is unclear whether this exemption will be applied elsewhere. Unlike most MENA  countries, Morocco has good relations with the Jewish community.  As much as they would like to hope this is a trend, Jewish groups probably cannot assume the same exemption will be applied to all new MOU's or renewals of current MENA MOU's, particularly where Jewish populations have been forcibly displaced.

There are exceptionally broard restrictions placed on everything else again including “rope.”  (Sort of an inside joke at this point).  The restrictions on coins appear exceptionally broad too:

10. Coins—This category includes

coins of Numidian, Mauretanian, Greek/

Punic, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and

Medieval Spanish types that circulated

primarily in Morocco, ranging in date

from the fifth century B.C. to A.D. 1750.

Coins were made in copper, bronze,

silver, and gold. Examples may be

square or round, have writing, and show

imagery of animals, buildings, symbols,

or royal figures.

Yet, they are also essentially meaningless; with a few possible exceptions, coins that circulated within Morocco "primarily circulated" not there, but elsewhere.  

Oddly, Spanish coins are also mentioned, though Spain occupies two ports, Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast.  Portugal first captured Ceuta in 1415. Spanish rule began in 1581 when the Portuguese kingdom merged with the Spanish Kingdom. Melilla has been Spanish since 1497. Perhaps, the Moroccans wish the Spanish were not there, but to recognize Moroccan rights to claim Spanish coins can only be viewed as the State Department Cultural Heritage Center and U.S. Customs treading in areas that should be reserved for other parts of the U.S. State Department.  

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