Moroccan police disperse protest against normalization deal with Israel

Activists say decision to curb demonstration aimed at showing solidarity with Palestinians shows that deal with Israel is being imposed from above

A protester against the normalization deal between Morocco and Israel gestures, in Rabat, Morocco, December 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
A protester against the normalization deal between Morocco and Israel gestures, in Rabat, Morocco, December 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Moroccan authorities on Monday dispersed a group of activists who tried to hold a protest outside the parliament building in the capital to denounce the country’s recent decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Dozens of police officers in riot gear were mobilized to push protesters away from parliament in Rabat. Demonstrators wanted to show solidarity with Palestinians and reject the normalization of ties between Rabat and Jerusalem.

Morocco on Thursday announced a “resumption of relations” with Israel, shortly after US President Donald Trump tweeted that Rabat and the Jewish state had “agreed to full diplomatic relations.”

Sion Assidon, a Moroccan Jew and a human rights activist, told reporters while being escorted away by authorities that “whoever expresses disagreement must put duct tape on their mouths.”

Abdessamad Fathi, president of the Moroccan Instance for the Support of Ummah Affairs, a group affiliated with the outlawed Al Adl Wal Ihsane movement, said on Facebook that authorities’ decision to ban sit-in is an indication that normalizing relations with Israel is “imposed on Moroccans.”

Security forces stand guard to prevent a protest against the normalization deal between Morocco and Israel, in Rabat, Morocco, December 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

On Sunday, Moroccan authorities allowed a large gathering outside the Parliament building to support the recent deal that also included US recognition of Morocco’s claim over the long-disputed Western Sahara region.

Another large rally was organized on Sunday in the city of Laayoune in Western Sahara, where thousands of Moroccans had chanted slogans in support of the agreement.

The royal palace in Rabat said in a statement that King Mohammed VI had promised Trump he would facilitate direct flights to transport Jews of Moroccan origin and Israeli tourists to and from Morocco and reopen the liaison offices. The announcement was cheered by political parties and provoked despair among Islamist groups.

Israel and Morocco established low-level diplomatic relations during the 1990s following a thawing of ties between Israel and the Palestinians. Those contacts, however, were suspended in 2002 in response to the Second Intifada. Since then, however, the relationship has continued informally, with tens of thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco every year.

Morocco’s announcement makes it the fourth Arab country this year to unveil plans to normalize ties with Israel through a US-brokered deal, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

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