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When anti-normalisation in Morocco could lead to imprisonment

May 10, 2024 at 1:53 pm

People, carrying Palestinian flags, gather to stage a demonstration against Israeli attacks on Gaza and march towards Mohammed V Street, where the parliament building is located, in Rabat, Morocco on February 11, 2024 [Abu Adem Muhammed – Anadolu Agency]

Away from the spotlight of the major media outlets, Morocco is going through an unusual period of turmoil due to the events in Gaza. The more the Zionist aggression increases, the more anger rises on the Moroccan street, and the more the embarrassment of the Moroccan authority, which continues to cling to its relations with Israel, increases, creating a gap that grows larger over time between the authority and the angry street due to the authority’s position on the ongoing Israeli attack against the Palestinians. The reality is that the majority of the Moroccan people, who have traditionally sympathised with the Palestinian people, have continuously and repeatedly expressed their anger on the streets for many months through protests and demonstrations that the authorities are working to contain.

The concern lies in the widening gap between the feelings of the majority of the people and the ambiguous position of the authorities that forced, by a unilateral decision and from the highest authority in the country, the government, the parliament and the people to establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. To contain this gap, a few days ago, an official Moroccan position, considered the most clear and strict in criticising the Israeli aggression, was issued by Moroccan King Mohammed VI in his capacity as Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, on the occasion of the 15 summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held on 4 and 5 May in the Gambian capital, Banjul. This is the first time he described the Israeli war on the Palestinians as an “unprecedented, brutal aggression”. He also described what was happening in Gaza as “forced displacement, collective punishment, and acts of revenge” against the Palestinians, in contrast to the statements of the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, which were talking about “attacks” and “acts of violence” which equate the victim with the executioner.

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However, with the continuation of the Israeli aggressive war on Gaza, the Moroccan authority continues to find itself in a very precarious and unenviable position, between maintaining its relations with the Zionist enemy with which it has had normalisation agreements since 2020, and being considerate of the feelings of the majority of the Moroccan people, who have historically been supportive of the Palestinian cause and constantly organise popular marches demanding that the Moroccan state stop all forms of normalisation with Israel. The longer the war on Gaza lasts, and the higher the death toll among Palestinians becomes, the more intense the pressure on the Moroccan authority will be from the street.

The Moroccan public has not stopped demonstrating, despite the weakening popular mobilisation compared to the early days of the war, although this does not mean there is a decline in the great momentum of popular sympathy that has emerged. Moroccans have a passion for the Palestinian issue, and the Moroccan authorities are aware of this and are trying to contain it by taking timid political initiatives, such as statements denouncing Israeli crimes or providing limited aid to the residents of Gaza. On the other hand, the authorities themselves are showing firmness, based on what their interests dictate, to send clear messages to the opponents of the normalisation agreements with Israel that they will continue to normalise them, whatever the cost, with a kind of inexplicable stubbornness and insistence. This prompts many observers to wonder whether there are undisclosed agreements or commitments between the Moroccan authorities and the Zionist entity that make them unable to undo those ill-fated agreements that the palace imposed on the people without taking into account the feelings of the majority of Moroccans who are going out today in massive demonstrations, representing popular referendums in more than one Moroccan city to express their rejection.

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In the context of the conflicting positions of the Moroccan authorities between their efforts to contain street anger and, at the same time, allowing the demonstrations to avoid explosion, we find that any action against normalisation becomes fraught with many risks that may expose its perpetrator to being banned or lead to them being imprisoned. This was the case with the blogger, Saeed Boukyoud, who was sentenced to five years in prison for Facebook posts criticising the normalisation of relations with Israel. His fellow blogger, Abdel Rahman Zankad, was also sentenced to the same also for posts criticising normalisation. Another anti-normalisation activist, Mustafa Dakar, is currently detained due to posts criticising normalisation. All three men are members of the Justice and Kindness group, which is the largest Islamic group in Morocco, and is behind the large demonstrations that take place constantly in many Moroccan cities to denounce the war on Gaza. Therefore, many people see these trails as messages from the Moroccan authorities to the group and to all those who oppose normalisation, in order to silence the voices that reject continued normalisation. This also includes voices affiliated with the left-wing or independent movements, whether through the ban imposed on some activities or the trials faced by 13 left-wing and independent activists who are detained for their participation in an event against economic normalisation with the Zionist entity.

Like their counterparts in many Arab countries, the Moroccan authorities do not hide their fear of the developments of the war on Gaza and its repercussions on the situation in their countries. Many of the governments in these countries, including the Moroccan government, express their fear of the major changes that this war causes on a daily basis in the popular international public opinion, along with waves of anger escalating among Western youth in universities and spread within Western societies. In Arab cases, the fear is double, because governments realise that the war in Gaza, with all its repercussions, has revived the project of political Islam that the counter-revolutions tried to abort during the Arab Spring. This was previously revealed at the beginning of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, by the former American diplomat, Dennis Ross, who said that the desire of the Arab leaders he met was to destroy the Hamas Movement, because any victory for it, even moral, would fuel the ideology of rejection within their countries. This is the same position that was recently revealed by Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, who said that every Arab leader he spoke to, told him to destroy Hamas. Between attempts to contain the feelings of their people and preserve their interests, Arab regimes are living their most miserable days, their hearts are with their thrones and swords are against everything that threatens them, even if it is a moral victory for a Resistance movement that could revive hope in the will of the people when they want to decide their fate for themselves.

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This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby on 8 May, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.