Moroccan university shuts its gates to prevent pro-Palestine conference

Moroccan university shuts its gates to prevent pro-Palestine conference
Since normalising ties with Israel in 2020, Moroccan authorities have tightly clamped down on pro-Palestinian events, often justified as part of its policy of ensuring "precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic."
3 min read
14 April, 2022
"They want to force Zionism on us," said a Moroccan student. [Getty]

A Moroccan university announced on Tuesday that it will shut its doors for three days to stop a conference that sought to criticise Rabat's normalisation with Israel. 

The students union of Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra (a small city near Rabat) organises an annual event called, the Jerusalem conference, which is a pro-Palestine endeavour that hosts key figures from anti-Zionism movements to shed light on the ongoing struggle of the people of Palestine. 

This year's event, titled "For the nation, for Palestine, all against normalisation," was scheduled to be held from 12 to 14 April.

A day before the conference was to be held, the university announced a suspension of all its activities for the span of three days to prevent the event, arguing that the conference was organised by a "non-students organisation."

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The conference is managed by the National Union of Students, the official union of students in Morocco. The Moroccan Commission for the Support of the Nation's Issues, a pro-Palestinian NGO, also co-organised the event. 

The university has also justified its decision by pointing to "the epidemiological situation of the country and the state of a health emergency." Morocco has been under a state of emergency state since March 2020.

On Tuesday, the first day of the planned conference, police forces violently dispersed several students who gathered together to challenge the university's decision, with more than 20 students arrested and one injured. The detained were immediately released, according to the National Union of Students.

"They [policemen] did not manage to arrest me but they beat me and many other students who were there. (...) Sadly, we do not have the right even to voice our opinion about the Palestinian cause. They want to force Zionism on us," Mohammed, a student who witnessed the protest, told The New Arab.

The Islamist Justice and Charity Group, which is officially banned by the Moroccan state, and Attajdid Attolabi, the Justice and Development party's youth wing, condemned the incident, accusing the university of "serving the Zionist agenda with crooked methods and wrong decisions."

The Moroccan Front in Support of Palestine and Against Normalisation also denounced the university's decision, condemning it as a "shameful level reached by the state in its defence of Zionism and its hostility to the supporters of the Palestinian cause in the country."

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Last month, the protests held by the group against an Israeli musical event in Casablanca were also violently dispersed by the Moroccan security forces.

Last year, authorities banned protests commemorating the Palestinian Land Day, justifying the ban as part of a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since normalising ties with Israel in late 2020, Moroccan authorities have tightly clamped down on pro-Palestinian events, often justifying policy within the "precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic." 

However, as the state of emergency is excepted to end soon, with Morocco returning to normal life, the restrictions against anti-Israel events are, apparently, far from over.