(September 21, 2020 / JNS) With U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that Bahrain will be joining the UAE in making peace with Israel, many observers of the Arab world are wondering: What Arab nation will be next? Certainly, President Trump’s unexpected role as a Middle East peacemaker—bringing two Muslim nations (the UAE and Bahrain) to embrace peace with Israel—bolster Trump’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Trump has now brokered more peace deals between Arab governments and Israel than any other U.S. president, or indeed, any other world leader. So, will he try to add Morocco to his pre-presidential election peace parade?
There are good reasons to believe that Morocco could be the next Arab land to make a formal peace agreement with the Jewish state. Its current king, Mohammed VI, ensured that the rights of Moroccan Jews (and other religious minorities) were safeguarded in the kingdom’s 2011 constitution. Jewish schools and synagogues operate freely. The king also personally pays for the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries, following the 1969 exodus of many Jews from Morocco, and publicly dines with Hollywood stars attending the Marrakech International Film Festival every year.
The king likes to point out that nearly one in five Israelis has a familial tie to his kingdom. Morocco, going back to the days of former King Hassan II, has called for peace and normalization of trade ties with Israel, following certain humanitarian guarantees for Palestinian Arabs. Finally, every nation after Egypt’s 1978 peace agreement with Israel (Jordan in 1994, UAE this past month and now Bahrain) is a monarchy; lands where leaders are less likely to face removal by taking unpopular stands such as making peace with Israel. Morocco is a moderate Arab nation, run by a constitutional monarch.
Yet a closer look at Morocco’s current elected leaders and the Western-funded non-governmental organizations that influence them reveals that Morocco will likely not follow its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members into making a peace deal with Israel. Indeed, this shows the dangers that American and European donors face when they fund groups with lofty-sounding goals tied to radical, even anti-Semitic, views.
Consider the Moroccan Democratic Network for Solidarity with Peoples, a national symposium that was held on Sept. 2 in Rabat. The organizations brought together student, cultural and human-rights groups alongside political and union organizations to map out, in the words of its official statement, the “ways of solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially with regard to anti-normalization with the Zionist entity.”
The official declaration, signed by a large cross-section of Islamist and progressive organizations, reads like an anti-Israel screed from the 1970s. The participants signed their names to certain affirmations, including that “Zionism is a form of racism,” that the modern-day settlement of the land of Israel “constituted a crime against the Palestinian people,” and that any peace or normalization “aims to undermine the spirit of solidarity that inhabits the conscience of the peoples, especially the peoples of our Arab and Maghreb regions, and annihilate the historical balance of the national liberation and democracy movement in the region in an attempt to write off the Palestinian cause and subjugate these peoples and to extend imperial and Zionist hegemony over them by means of tyrannical reactionary regimes.”
It calls the UAE’s peace efforts “a treacherous step,” and demands that Morocco cease any efforts to normalize relations with Israel. It even faults the Moroccan government’s official recognition of “the Hebrew component of the Moroccan identity” contained in the kingdom’s constitution. Jews, as well as Berbers with a Jewish identity, have lived in Morocco for nearly 1,000 years. This rejection of a shared history of Jews and Muslims in Morocco is both sweeping and shocking.
Finally, the declaration demands an economic boycott of any government body or business that advocates for peace with Israel.
Perhaps you think the declaration is just the pointless roar of activist groups, even if it does reveal an odd yet enduring alliance between the progressive left and Islamist parties in the moderate monarchy. Remember that, days after the conference, Morocco’s prime minister publicly condemned the UAE’s peace plan with Israel before later walking back his remarks. In Morocco, foreign policy is in the hands of the king, while the prime minister decides domestic, non-security matters. So the prime minister said he was speaking in his personal capacity, exercising his free-speech rights, not announcing a policy.
Let’s look at major personalities involved in the conference and their backgrounds:
- Rida Benotmane, aligned with the ruling Islamist party, has long opposed both the Moroccan monarchy and the existence of Israel. Previously, he had been sentenced to four years in prison for planning a terrorist act in Morocco.
- Maati Monjib, who runs a nonprofit that receives funds from Dutch and Danish foundations, is virulently opposed to Israel and rubs shoulders with radicals who have served time for plotting terrorist attacks.
- Mohamed Salmi is one of the prominent figures in Jamaat Al Adl Oua Al Ihsan, a radical Islamist organization that rivals the ruling Islamist party, the PGD, in influence and in financial supporters. That organization considers the PGD too moderate and takes an openly anti-American, anti-Israel line.
Others at the conference, which included observers from the ruling party of Morocco’s elected government, have been convicted of human trafficking or aiding terrorist organizations.
Morocco has thwarted more than 100 terror attacks in its own country in 2019, according to numbers compiled by the U.S. State Department. Unfortunately, however, Morocco will likely not be the next Arab monarchy to normalize relations with Israel—despite the kindly outlook of its king. A loud, and sometimes violent, minority makes peace almost impossible.
Incredibly, many of these extremists are among Morocco’s most-educated and highest-income professions. Many work in the bureaucracies, academia or the media. In short, they are not unlike the “woke” demonstrators associating with radicals in Portland or Kenosha.
Indeed, many of those Moroccan radicals receive funding and encouragement from their American and European counterparts, who in turn receive some funds from houses of worship across the U.S. If you want peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, start by asking where your church and synagogue donations go. The answers might surprise you.
Niger Innis is chairman of the Congress on Racial Equality. He has traveled extensively in the Arab world and in Africa.
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