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Moroccan activists condemn presence of Israel academic at Berber Culture festival

Amazigh Culture Festival in Morocco,
Amazigh Culture Festival in Morocco, 17 July 2019 [Halalincorp/Twitter]

A group of Moroccan activists condemned the presence of an Israeli academic at the Amazigh Culture Festival held in Fez last week, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported.

The activists, who speak out against the normalisation of ties with Israel and are called the Moroccan Observatory against Normalisation, revealed the presence of academic Bruce Maddy-Weitzman at the festival between 12-16 July, describing it as a “scandal”.

Maddy-Weitzman is a professor of Middle Eastern and African history at Tel Aviv University, specialising in the modern Maghreb, and a senior research fellow at the attached Moshe Dayan Centre for regional studies.

In the wake of the reveal, the Moroccan Observatory accused the festival of collaborating with Israel, by “smuggling” Maddy-Weitzman into the event.

Moroccan authorities, however, claimed there were no official relations between the festival and the Israeli academic and that Maddy-Weitzman’s presence must have been organised through informal ties with event organisers, the report added.

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Ahmed Wehman, head of the Observatory, told Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Maddy-Weitzman’s attendance was particularly scandalous because the festival organisers attempted to hide the Israeli academic’s provenance, listing him only as a “researcher and writer”.

The report also cited concerns Maddy-Weitzman’s presence at the festival could be linked to his 2011 book, “The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States”, which the article termed a “serious intelligence report”.

This year’s festival took place under the title, “Amazigh and Cultural Diversity in the Face of Extremism”, according to the report.

There are no official ties between Morocco and Israel and the north African state has never recognised the self-proclaimed Jewish state. However, some reports suggest secret relations between the two were maintained after 1948.

In January, Morocco received three Israeli reconnaissance drones as part of a military arms deal worth $48 million.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, an investigation by Amnesty International unearthed evidence Morocco had targeted outspoken Rabat-based journalist Omar Radi, using Israeli spy software.

READ: Morocco activists sue Spanish government for discrimination in COVID-19 evacuations

Despite Moroccan authorities terming the investigation a “smear campaign”, Amnesty claims it checked Radi’s phone, showing the Moroccan journalist was targeted and spied on by the software three times.

Morocco is not the only country to have reportedly used Israeli spyware against its citizens, however, as early as 2016, attempts to infect Emirati– and Qatari-owned phones with the software were unearthed during investigations.

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