Plan to open sites for Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems in Casablanca faces opposition from Moroccan anti-normalization activists

Plan to open sites for Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems in Casablanca faces opposition from Moroccan anti-normalization activists
Moroccan anti-normalization activists vow to protest Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems' planned presence in the country, as military ties between Tel Aviv and Rabat intensify despite public opposition
3 min read
13 June, 2023
The company has sites in the US, Israel and the UK. In 2021, it established a subsidiary in the UAE. (Getty)

Moroccan anti-normalisation activists have vowed to protest plans to establish a presence for Israeli arms manufacturers in their country as military tires between Tel Aviv and Rabat reaches unprecedented levels of cooperation despite public opposition. 

This comes in the wake of announcements by Israeli officials that controversial Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems, is set to open two plants in the kingdom.

On Friday, Shai Cohen, the head of the Israeli Liaison Office in Morocco, announced the plans in a press conference on the future projects the two states are set to launch three years into their public normalization.

One of the two sites will open in Casablanca. No further details were revealed about the budget of the first Elbit site in North Africa.

The Moroccan Front against Normalization, a group of pro-Palestine activists established in 2021, is preparing to take to the streets in the coming days to protest the Elbit project and decry the "shameful Moroccan relationship with Israel," according to a source in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In December 2020, Morocco signed a normalization deal with Israel in exchange for the US recognition of Rabat's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

State media framed the deal at the time as a pragmatic diplomatic move Rabat took to lobby more support for its control over the disputed territory - a key national case in the North African Kingdom.

A year later, Morocco and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding regarding military and security cooperation. Arms sales and military training became the hallmark of the two states' out-of-the-closet relationship.

Militarised normalization

The loudest voice against Rabat's normalization is the moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD).

However, on March 13, the royal cabinet castigated, in an unprecedented move, the "irresponsible" behavior of the PJD, which recently accused Moroccan diplomacy of a pro-Israeli bias.

"Morocco's position towards the Palestinian question is irreversible. (...) The foreign policy of the kingdom is a prerogative of His Majesty under the Constitution," added the press release from the royal palace.

Since then, the PJD has refrained from speaking on the issue. The party has yet to comment on Elbit's controversy.

Rabat's ties with Elbit, Israel's biggest military and arms company, go back to 2022 when the arms company secured a $70 million contract to supply Morocco's Royal Armed Forces with an Alinet Electronic Warfare Solutions system.

Elbit has a tightly-knit relationship with the Israeli security apparatus, for whom it provides services and develops extensive technology, equipment, and platforms deployed in varying fields.

It is primarily known for its military drones, namely the Hermes, which have been used repeatedly in Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli company also produces components for the illegal separation wall in the occupied West Bank.

The company has sites in the US, Israel, and the UK. In 2021, it established a subsidiary in the UAE.

Elbit sites in the UK have been targeted by pro-Palestine activists who accuse the company of complicity in enforcing Israel's violent occupation in Palestine. Organized by Palestine Action, the siege campaign pushed Elbit to abandon its London office in Kingsway and sell its factory in Oldham, Manchester, at a loss. However, Elbit continues to operate facilities further afield in Britain.

Drawing inspiration from the British pro-Palestine movement, numerous anti-normalization Moroccans have pledged to subject Elbit's newly established site in Casablanca to similar actions.

"I would not hesitate to jeopardize my own future for this cause (laying siege against Elbit). We simply require a catalyst to mobilize us. The transformation of this so-called guise of nationalist normalization into a military partnership is highly concerning," said Oussama, a Moroccan pro-Palestine activist in an interview with the TNA.