Morocco: protests back to the street to overthrow normalisation, opposition says Rabat eyed a ban

Morocco: protests back to the street to overthrow normalisation, opposition says Rabat eyed a ban
Opposition leader Abdelilah Benkirane claimed that Rabat was moving towards banning Pro-Palestine protests after the outbreak of Israel's war on Gaza.
4 min read
20 May, 2024
On Nakba Day, 15 May, local authorities reportedly banned a march in the capital Rabat over 'logistical issues.' [Getty]

In Morocco, thousands rallied Sunday against the normalisation accord with Israel, marking a strong comeback to the streets after a period of relative quiet after more than seven months since Israel's war on Gaza began.

In Casablanca, protestors, sporting keffiyeh scarves and the colours of the Palestinian flag chanted "Free Palestine", "If we don't speak out, who will?" and "No to normalisation." 

The protest was organised by a coalition of leftist parties and Islamist movements, who set aside their differences to advocate for the end of normalisation since the outbreak of the Gaza War last October. 

The North African kingdom established diplomatic ties with Israel in late 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which also included similar moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Under the deal, the US recognised Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Since the outbreak of the Gaza war, unprecedented large-scale demonstrations in Morocco have called for the abrogation of the normalisation accord.

"This rally is a people's referendum on normalisation. We have spoken, and now we are waiting for the state to respond to the people's demand and revoke normalisation," said Boubker Al-Ouankhari, a Moroccan pro-Palestine activist.

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Will Morocco Ban Pro-Palestine Protests?

On Nakba Day, 15 May, local authorities reportedly banned a march in the capital Rabat over 'logistical issues.'

The rally was set to start at 6 pm from the Poste building and end four hours later in front of the train station, two of the busiest buildings in the city on workdays.

"This ban is a backward authoritarian decision. It reflects the continued tyranny that imposes normalisation on the Moroccan people," commented Saied Hannaoui, a leading figure of the Moroccan group against normalisation.

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In reaction, hundreds protested in front of the parliament against the shrinking situation of freedoms in the country, reiterating their call to revoke all ties with Israel.

Abdelilah Benkirane, head of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), claimed that Rabat was moving towards banning marches and solidarity sit-ins with Palestine last October.

"Following the Israeli aggression on Gaza, the state was moving to ban them (protests) according to private information", said Benkirane on 15 May in a conference with his party's members. "It saw that the political outcome of the ban would be more negative than positive."

Benkirane also criticised the low "number of protesters in local sit-ins," arguing that if participation were higher, "the state would have been forced to halt normalisation with the Zionist entity."

On 15 October, Morocco witnessed its biggest pro-Palestine demonstration since the normalisation accord, with dozens travelling from around the country to take part in the "Million March." However, since then, the number of protesters has dropped to only a few dozen, who show up to the weekly sit-ins local activists organise.

In his speech, Benkirane argued that there's no place now for protest fatigue and that Moroccans should "be ashamed" as millions are taking to the streets in the US to support Palestine while the North African kingdom's streets remain empty.

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Benkirane's party signed the normalisation accord in 2020 while leading the Moroccan government. Commentators believe their involvement in the agreement was the final blow that led to their significant loss in the 2021 elections. Since then, they have tried to distance themselves from the Abraham Accords, admitting, "It was a mistake."

Rabat has officially denounced Israel's "flagrant violations of the provisions of international law" in its war against Hamas. However, a source from the Moroccan foreign ministry confirmed in March to Reuters Rabat's ongoing normalisation with Israel, emphasising its perks for advocating for the Palestinian people.

Israel's war in Gaza has killed more than 35,500 people, mostly civilians. The UN said there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the Israeli commission of the crime of genocide has been met.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages on 7 October, of whom 124 remain held in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli military says are dead.