Israel protest in Rabat halted


Moroccan authorities on Monday prevented a protest in the capital Rabat against the kingdom’s move to normalise ties with Israel following a deal brokered by US President Donald Trump.

A heavy police presence backed by water cannons and anti-riot forces deployed in the main avenue leading to Parliament square, where pro-Palestinian rights organisations planned a sit-in.

Police prevented demonstrators reaching the square.

Prominent activists, Sion Assidon, Morocco co-ordinator for the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and lawyer Abderrahman Ben Amrou, were escorted by authorities and asked to leave the area.

“Unfortunately, political normalisation comes after a long process of economic, agricultural, tourism and academic ties,” Assidon, a Moroccan Jew, told Reuters. BDS calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land.

There are nearly a million Jews from Morocco in Israel and last year 70 000 visited the kingdom, which recognises the Jewish community as a constituent of its national identity.

A local authority source said the protest was not authorised, citing a COVID-19 emergency decree.

Hassan Bennajeh, a leading member of the outlawed Adl Wal Ihssane, one of several organisations which called for the protest, said the ban reflected a “weak political position”, saying authorities allowed a gathering in support of the deal in the same place previously.

A core element of the deal was US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. A decades-old dispute over the territory pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which seeks to establish an independent state.

A rally on Saturday in Western Sahara’s largest city Laayoune by opposition Istiqlal party brought together some 30 000 people in support of the deal.

The main political parties in Morocco welcomed the deal with Israel and US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty. Islamist groups reject normalisation.