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Israel’s normalisation efforts soar against the public’s wishes

A supporter of the centre-left Zionist Union wears a T-shirt showing Isaac Herzog, one of the party’s leaders, outside a polling station in Tel Aviv in 2015 [Baz Ratner/Reuters]
A supporter of the centre-left Zionist Union wears a T-shirt showing Isaac Herzog, one of the party’s leaders, outside a polling station in Tel Aviv in 2015 [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

With the Arab Spring backlash, regional powers which support the Palestinians, especially the resistance groups, are busy solving their domestic concerns. While Turkey is still coming to grips with the aftermath of last year’s failed coup, Qatar is wounded by its isolation by other Gulf countries. Aside from this, the Egyptians are crippled by the 2013 military coup whose leaders bow down to Washington by serving Israel. Meanwhile, Iran flexes its muscles in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq, while troubled by the potential repercussions of the recent Kurdish referendum in the latter. The resultant political fragility exposes the region to another wave of Israeli opportunism.

Thus, the Zionists rush to gain every possible ground before circumstances change to their detriment. They — or those in the international community who back them unconditionally — support dictatorial leaders, both to keep a tight rein on those same undemocratic leaders and to stifle their people’s yearning for freedom and genuine development. Moreover, they support counter-revolutions that destroy infrastructure, dismantle social cohesion or pave the way for the proliferation of rogue states.

In more stable experiences, the psychological effect of democratic regression is exploited to normalise relations with Israel. For instance, North African countries have been coerced continuously to accept normalisation activities. In Tunisia, Mounir Baatour, president of the Tunisian Liberal Party, called for an open-door policy with Israel last July. Besides being apologetic to Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians, Baatour neglects the fact that such a step would simply further weaken the sovereignty of his own state. In December 2016, Israeli intelligence infiltrated Tunisia to assassinate Mohamed Zouari. Though the aviation engineer was murdered on Tunisian soil, the government response was tepid.

OPINION: Israel’s diplomatic expansion in the face of Arab retraction

Contrariwise, civil society expressed more anger, showing a freer take on regional circumstances and political obstacles. Sit-ins were staged to condemn the murder of the drone expert. In addition, lawyers have filed a complaint against Baatour, accusing him of exchanging intelligence with a foreign country and being an apologist for terrorism. Moreover, when the “Wonder Woman” movie was planned to show in Tunisian cinemas, grassroots action had the plans suspended, because the star is an ex-Israel Defence Forces soldier who praised Israel’s 2014 military offensive against the civilians in Gaza.

Similarly, Zionists try hard to infiltrate cultural and political events in Morocco. In different cases, their names are sneaked onto participant lists, before the media and civil society mobilise to have them banned.

Among numerous similar attempts at doing this, the annual Tanjazz music festival in Morocco’s northern city of Tangier hosted Noam Vazana, an ex-IDF recruit who had extolled her military roles against the Palestinians. Sit-in protests were organised in Tangier and Rabat against her participation in the festival, and three protesters were arrested for raising Palestinian flags during her empty jazz concert.

#OccupiedPalestine

True, civil action managed to raise awareness of Vazana’s past, since her audience was so small. However, the Tanjazz organisers stood the test of civil activism. Their perseverance indicates an understanding that the current political circumstances in the region favour the promotion of Zionist normalisation efforts, unlike when civil associations and lawyers managed to ban a Shimon Peres visit to inaugurate a Clinton Foundation conference in Marrakech in 2013, prior to the US presidential elections. The difference is huge between Hillary Clinton’s expectations from Peres’s presence and Tanjazz organisers’ expectations from Vazana’s participation. Nevertheless, the current political fragility eases pro-normalisation perseverance.

Possibly the gravest case recently is Amir Peretz’s visit to the Moroccan parliament on 8 October. The ex-Minister of Defence — believed to be responsible for war crimes and killing children in the process — heads a delegation of Israeli parliamentarians at a conference that the World Trade Organisation and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean have organised in the Moroccan parliament. The international conference deals with “boosting investment” in Africa and the Mediterranean region, but seems to have no shame about promoting development under occupation, oppression, dictatorship or bloodshed. Both the organisers and hosting officials overlook previous lawsuits against Peretz as a holder of Moroccan nationality.

Reactions from MPs took two forms; groups of MPs boycotted the event and openly condemned not only Peretz’s participation but also the secret measures that parliamentary speakers have taken to ease his presence. Secondly, and more efficiently, some MPs protested against the conference on site. In tandem with sit-ins in front of the parliament and wide condemnation on social media, they managed to have Peretz’s intervention cancelled, describing him as a war criminal and his reception as a shame.

Read: Israel’s diplomatic expansion in the face of Arab retraction

Civil action may not succeed in banning all Zionist participation in the current circumstances, but grassroots mobility can raise awareness of human rights abuses in Palestine and Zionist infiltration attempts in Morocco. In this sense, civil action serves at least two key purposes.

First, it shows that despite being swamped by local developments, people still view Israel as an occupier. When NGOs mobilise against normalisation activities, they indicate their rejection of Zionist war crimes as well as a wariness about the potential destruction of their own state sovereignty. Second, grassroots action relieves political leaders from the embarrassment of resisting normalisation efforts in a time of regression if they dare to defy pressure from Israel’s allies in the international community.

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