In Morocco, crowds are angrier after reports of dead Moroccans in Gaza

In Morocco, crowds are angrier after reports of dead Moroccans in Gaza
Palestinian solidarity has brought together the Moroccan people and seems to have temporarily halted Islamist-socialists' enmity. Bur Rabat's ongoing silence over Israel's war on Gaza might further erode the link between the state and the population.
4 min read
20 November, 2023
Morocco's opposition has deemed Israel's war on Gaza a "genocide" and "state terrorism". [Getty] 

In Morocco, Rabat's silence over mounting atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza is bringing more and more enraged crowds to the streets, all unified under one dead: end normalisation with Israel

From Rabat to Tangier, thousands of Moroccans took to the streets over the weekend brandishing Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyehs while chanting in support for the liberation of Palestine - a once rare sight in Morocco's streets, but now has become a regular since 7 October.

"The resistance in Palestine liberated us from our fear. Now we are never leaving the streets until they publicly announce the fall of the shameful normalisation with the Zionist entity," said Khaled, a protester in Kenitra city, near Rabat, which witnessed 15,000 demonstrators rallying in its streets, according to the Moroccan Front Against Normalisation, one of the organising local pro-Palestine movements.

On Sunday, 19 November, the chants grew more furious as local media reported on the alleged death of four Moroccan citizens in Gaza, with dozens living in constant fear and pledging for Rabat's interference to evacuate them from the strip. Rabat has yet to confirm the death reports.

According to the organisers, authorities used force to disperse protests in Casablanca and Meknes.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan Embassy in Ramallah has said that the total number of Moroccans wishing to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip is set at 614 people.

Last week, the embassy managed to evacuate 112 Moroccan citizens from the Gaza Strip to Egypt, promising the evacuation of the rest in the coming days.

While many Moroccans see themselves as Moroccans Palestinians - in a society where the identification with the Palestinian cause emerged to become part of the national Moroccan identity - activists expected Rabat's reaction to the alleged killing and threats facing its nationals to be clear and firm.

However, Rabat has yet to comment on the reports. Last month, Rabat called for the end of violence on both sides - a position deemed 'shallow' by several pro-Palestine activists in the North African kingdom.

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Rabat has yet to comment on the current status of its ties with Tel Aviv. The two states are set to celebrate their third normalisation anniversary in December.

World Politics Review, a US-based publication, argues that given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, normalisation between Morocco and Israel seems set to be frozen, if not reversed altogether.

"But a long conflict and a weak response by Rabat risks eroding the link between the Moroccan state and its population," added the media in an article published on 16 November.

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Moroccan Islamists and socialists come together for Palestine

On Sunday, the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) organised a political festival to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and an official condemnation from Rabat.

The PJD, which has been trying to redeem its reputation since signing the normalisation deal with Israel in 2020, has retreated its apology and regret.

"The normalisation was a mistake we made. But we say it: we were always, and we will always be, against the normalisation," said the head of PJD, Abdelillah Benkiran, before he broke out in tears over the death toll in Gaza. Israel has killed at least 13,000 people, primarily women and children, in Gaza since 7 October. 

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To the pro-Palestine festival, the Islamist leader invited his arch-enemy: the head of the socialist party in Morocco, Mohammed Nabil Ben Abdellah.

The two leaders might not see eye to eye when it comes to personal freedoms and social rights, but they have longly made the Palestinian cause a brand of their parties.

Ben Abdallah deemed Israel's war on Gaza a genocide and state terrorism that targets innocent civilians. 

Meanwhile, Palestine's ambassador in Morocco, Jamal Al-Shoubak, a key speaker at the festival, called on the Moroccan King "to use his influence to mediate a ceasefire in Gaza."

The Israeli air and ground assault on Gaza followed a surprise attack on southern Israel by Palestinian group Hamas on 7 October that killed 1,200 Israelis. Hamas also took more than 200 people hostage.

Israeli tanks surrounded the Indonesian Hospital on Sunday, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens of others as Israel intensified its ground operations in northern Gaza. The death toll has reached 13,000 in Gaza.

Israel has aimed at several churches and hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including by besieging the Al-Shifa hospital for over a week. More than 30 premature babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa on Sunday.