Moroccans protest Israeli military chief’s visit and deepening of Morocco–Israel ties

Activists demonstrated against Israeli military chief of staff Aviv Kochavi’s visit, which comes a month after Israeli military observers participated in a US-led exercise in Morocco

July 25, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 (December 2019)

Moroccan human rights activists and civil society members protested the visit of the Israeli Military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi last week, decrying the deepening of Morocco–Israel ties following normalization of relations under the Abraham Accords. Kochavi’s visit, which was facilitated by Moroccan Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi and Lieutenant General Belkbhir El-Farouk, was the first time a high-ranking Israeli military official publicly visited the kingdom. 

Groups of protesters led by the National Action Group for Palestine staged a demonstration outside of the parliament building in Rabat on Tuesday, July 19, denouncing the country’s decision to welcome the military leader. In a statement, the group declared that “the day of Kohavi’s visit is a disgrace, shame, and calamity, which is recorded with ink of insult to the history of Morocco and betrayal of the positions of the Moroccan people.” 

Referring to the visit as the institutionalization of Zionism, activists held up banners with the message “to receive the Zionist war criminal Aviv Kochavi is a major crime against the Morocco people, the Palestinian people, and the people of the Umma (wider Islamic community).” The head of the Moroccan Observatory Against Normalization, Ahmed Wehman, told Anadolu News Agency that Kochavi had “shed the blood of thousands of Lebanese and Arab Palestinians,” and that he should be punished in court for his crimes. 

Morocco and Israel established full diplomatic relations in December 2020, in a deal facilitated by the United States under the Abraham Accords. The deal also provided US recognition for Moroccan control over the Western Sahara, a disputed region which the Moroccan military occupies while suppressing the Saharawi people who demand independence. 

Kochavi’s visit, which is predicted to accelerate bilateral collaboration between the two countries on the military and intelligence fronts, only makes public a relationship that has existed long before normalization. Morocco has reportedly bought drones and and missile defense weapons from Israel for decades, and was also a recipient of Pegasus spyware, which was used by the state to target journalists and human rights activists, according to Amnesty International

In March 2022, Morocco and Israel established direct military ties. Kochavi’s landmark visit came just a month after three Israeli military observers took part in the US-led African Lion 2022 military exercise. The drill, which was praised by the Israeli Defense Ministry as “an additional step in strengthening security relations between the countries”, marked the first time that Israel took part in a military exercise in Morocco.