Middle East Eye / December 11, 2020
Using the hashtag ‘Moroccans Against Normalisation’, many have blasted the deal as a loss for Sahrawis and Palestinians alike.
Moroccan and Arab activists have launched an online campaign against the Moroccan government’s decision to normalise ties with Israel, after outgoing US President Donald Trump announced the news on Thursday.
Trump also announced that the United States was to recognise the contested Western Sahara region as part of the North African kingdom.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, confirmed that recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara is linked to the kingdom’s normalisation with Israel.
Many Moroccans took to Twitter to reject the deal and to reiterate their support for the Palestinian people, after Morocco became the sixth Arab state to officially recognise Israel.
Morocco follows the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, who all signed normalisation deals with Israel earlier this year.
Using the hashtag “Moroccans Against Normalisation”, many people online blasted the deal as a loss for Sahrawis – the inhabitants of Western Sahara – and Palestinians alike.
The US recognition of the Western Sahara as a Moroccan territory has been viewed as a blow to autonomy for those in the former Spanish colony, where Sahrawis have been fighting for independence and continuously calling for a referendum, promised by the UN in 1991, on the territory’s future.
Struggle for autonomy ‘will continue’
The Polisario Front, the Sahrawi independence movement, blasted the US decision in an official statement, stating that its struggle for autonomy “will continue”.
“The stance… is a blatant violation of the United Nations charter and the resolutions of international legitimacy,” the group said.
Translation Tweet : I am Moroccan. I am against normalisation. Every free Moroccan must share this hashtag so that the traffickers know the issues of our nation and its sanctities, that we do not and will not recognise the Zionist entity that lives on the land and blood of our brothers.
Translation Tweet : We will remain with Palestine, and Jerusalem will remain our first and last issue no matter what happens. Damn every Arab country that normalised with the Zionist enemy.
The White House said Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI had agreed that Morocco would “resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and expand economic and cultural cooperation to advance regional stability”.
Israel and Morocco will restore diplomatic ties, reopen liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat, and eventually open embassies and joint overflight rights for their national airlines.
Move contrary to international law
In October, the US commended the UN Security Council for affirming its support for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara mandate renewal.
However, for many observers, the move by Trump, whose presidency ends in January, was contrary to international law.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the Israel-Morocco agreement but did not comment on the Western Sahara.
In the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “This is a sin and it doesn’t serve the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation uses every new normalisation to increase its aggression against the Palestinian people and increase its settlement expansion.”
Hanan Ashrawi, an outgoing member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, branded the deal “sinister and ugly”.
Former Algerian communications minister Abdelaziz Rahabi meanwhile expressed concern at a “strategy” of “permanent tension” developed by certain circles close to Morocco, “aimed at forcing Algeria to change its priorities”.
While the Algerian government has said that it is not a party to the conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco, its main position is to support the independence and self-determination of the Sahrawis. It is also the primary financial backer of the Western Saharan government-in-exile, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and has hosted Sahrawi refugees over the last three decades.
The Algerian military’s official publication, El Djeich, wrote this week: “Algerians must stand ready to face the threat which certain enemy parties pose to the security of the region.”
Translation tweet : It’s a big humiliation for Algeria. Israel settles at the borders and the Sahara becomes Moroccan. The military dictatorship, instead of spending its time imprisoning young demonstrators, should have built a democratic and strong state. Algeria is worth nothing.
‘The Moroccan regime doesn’t represent me’
Some people online took the opportunity to remind the world that the decision of the government was not representative of ordinary Moroccans.
Other online users took exception with the way the deal was being presented as a “peace” deal, despite Morocco never having been at war with Israel.
Israel’s Jews of Moroccan descent
Large numbers of Jews once lived in Morocco, descended from Jews who migrated to North Africa from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition. Many migrated to Israel after it was established as a state in 1948. Now, Jews of Moroccan descent constitute a significant ethnic groups in Israel.
In 1993, Morocco and Israel shared a degree of diplomatic ties, following the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestinian leadership and Israel. But Rabat suspended relations following the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.
Despite Morocco only just having officially normalised relations with Israel, both countries have shared nearly six decades of close cooperation on intelligence and military matters in secret, despite not officially acknowledging each other.
Former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned Trump’s recognition of Morocco’s “illegal occupation of Western Sahara” and called on “the UK and all governments to support a meaningful UN-backed peace process and the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people”.
Mark Williams, former British MP and former chair of the UK parliament’s Western Sahara Campaign, tweeted how “appalled” he was by the decision and how human rights in the region continue to be “violated”.
Some people tried to inject humour by questioning if US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara extended to couscous, the dish of the Maghreb region, which cooks want to see added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
In August, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine el-Othmani told his Justice and Development Party that Morocco would reject any form of normalisation with “the Zionist entity because this will embolden it to further breach the rights of the Palestinian people”.
He reiterated that the Moroccan king, government and people would always defend the rights of the Palestinian people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.
Yasmina Allouche is a freelance journalist with a specialty on sociopolitics of the MENA with a focus on Algeria