In Morocco, the streets continue to mobilize for Gaza despite the rapprochement between Rabat and Tel Aviv

In Morocco, hardly a day goes by without a rally for Palestine

In Morocco, the streets continue to mobilize for Gaza despite the rapprochement between Rabat and Tel Aviv

In Morocco, hardly a day goes by without a rally for Palestine. The Israeli response to the Hamas offensive and the devastation it causes in the Gaza Strip have sparked a wave of anger in the kingdom, recalling how Moroccans are attached to the Palestinian cause despite the rapprochement made by Morocco and Israel since 2020.

Since the great national march of October 15 in Rabat, the mobilization has continued to expand in many cities at the call of coalitions bringing together left-wing parties, unions, associations and Islamist organizations. Three slogans united the demonstrators: support for the people and the Palestinian “resistance”; the denunciation of “Western complicity” with Israeli actions; and the questioning of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel established in December 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords – an agreement between the Jewish state and several Arab countries negotiated by the United States. Never before have criticisms of this official rapprochement been heard with such force.

On October 17, hundreds of Moroccans spontaneously took to the streets in Tangier, Fez, Casablanca and Rabat, in reaction to the bombing of a hospital in Gaza. On the 18th, a rally was organized in front of the United States consulate in Casablanca, then the next day in front of the United Nations representation in Rabat. The protest also spread to universities, blocked on October 18 by the National Union of Students of Morocco which had declared a strike, while on the 20th the Democratic Confederation of Labor called on employees to stop working for one hour.

On Tuesday, October 24, a rally took place near the French consulate in Casablanca against Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Israel. Kept at a distance by the police, who had closed the adjacent streets, the demonstrators denounced “the criminal position of the French government which supports the genocide in Gaza”.

“Standardization makes us collaborators”

And it doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. “The objective now is to obtain the closure of Israel’s liaison office in Rabat, because normalization makes us collaborators,” maintains Saadia Elouallous, member of the Moroccan Front in Support of Palestine and Against Normalization. This is in fact clearly contested in the rallies, where demonstrators chant: “The people want the end of normalization. »

“With all the images we see from Gaza, it will no longer be acceptable for a Zionist to set foot in Morocco,” said Safaa, a law student in Casablanca who has been attending sit-ins for a week. “At the beginning,” she explains, “I was not totally opposed to normalization, because it concerned the territorial integrity of my country. » In exchange for the formalization of its relations with Israel, Morocco has in fact obtained “recognition” by Washington of its sovereignty over Western Sahara – a sacred patriotic cause in the kingdom. “But now, there is no longer any question of accepting either a political relationship or an economic exchange,” says Safaa.

For now, these calls for a break with the Jewish state have not been successful. Staff at Israel’s liaison office in Rabat were evacuated on October 18 but only temporarily for security reasons. Israeli diplomat Lior Ben Dor assured Moroccans through the press that “relations between Tel Aviv and Rabat are based on solid and lasting foundations, and [that Israel] will not allow anyone to compromise them.”

For its part, Morocco is keeping its diplomatic line drawn from the beginning: maintaining its relations with Israel, while calling for de-escalation and the protection of civilians, as Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita reiterated during of the peace summit on Saturday October 21 in Egypt.

A policy of rapprochement undermined

While the two allies have accelerated their cooperation – essentially military, security, commercial and tourist – since normalization, the kingdom regularly reaffirms its commitment to the Palestinian cause under the leadership of King Mohammed VI who chairs the Al-Quds committee, responsible for guarding the holy sites of Jerusalem, and a two-state solution. A position of balance which was not enough to convince.

“Even if the mobilization had faded in recent years due to the decline in public freedoms and the weakening of political parties, unions and social relays, the Palestinian cause remains among those historically defended by Moroccans as a people Arab and Muslim,” underlines political scientist Abdelmoughit Benmessaoud Tredano.

Since the Abraham Accords, eleven days of mobilization had been organized by the Palestine Support Front. “They were barely tolerated and in some cases scattered,” reports Sion Assidon, one of its members. While under the terms of the Constitution, the orientation of Morocco's foreign policy is a prerogative of the monarch, "any political party which defended a line different [from that decreed by the palace] was invited to remain silent", adds the activist.

In March, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) was restructured by the royal cabinet when it deplored the pro-Israeli inclination of Moroccan diplomacy. During the summer, an Internet user was sentenced to five years in prison for insulting the monarchy after criticizing normalization on Facebook. Now, the gatherings are “tolerated but with a desire to minimize and co-opt them, since they are presented as being in harmony with the official position, ignoring one of their main demands: the end of normalization”, believes Mr. Assidon.

However, the policy of rapprochement is being undermined. Moroccan diplomacy had been preparing for many months to organize the second Negev forum, bringing together the signatory countries of the Abraham Accords; a perspective that has vanished. There was also talk of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the kingdom, which now seems politically impossible. On October 17, Morocco condemned in the strongest terms the bombing of a Gaza hospital, responsibility for which is disputed, identifying Israel as the originator of the strike.

“Morocco cannot ignore the unanimous disapproval of its people in the face of the ongoing disaster in Gaza and it will have no other choice than to put the normalization process on hold,” underlines political scientist Mohamed Tozy. But relations between Morocco and Israel pre-existed normalization, for several decades, without being displayed in broad daylight. They are not just a state-to-state relationship but a community-to-community relationship. Although standardization will undoubtedly be suspended, there is little chance that it will be called into question. »