Rabat, Morocco 2/9/09: Last month in Morocco hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets waving Palestinian flags to show solidarity and demand action; many even brought their children to foster a deeper sense of solidarity with the more than 300 Gaza youth victims. Lahcen Haddad, a professor of Cultural Studies in Rabat, said he “had never seen anything like it in Morocco.” Although the second Intifada drew a million Moroccans to a single protest, last month’s response was a more channeled resistance to the war in Gaza. Much of this took the form of action over the net as petitions and letters circulated to charge involved Israeli officers for war crimes and to pressure action from world leaders.
Home to roughly 10% of the Arab-Muslim world, a long time host and friend to Jews the world over, and the Western most country in the Muslim world, Morocco’s internal response and subsequent mobilizations reflect a growing sense of concern in the region over the “Palestinian Question.” As new president Obama and the U.S. formulate policies aspirant of respect internationally, historically moderate Morocco’s internal response offers a case study of insight towards that goal.
It’s been interesting for me to compare American attitudes toward the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine with American attitudes toward our own politics. Domestically, we have a largely black and white political spectrum: either you’re conservative Republican or liberal Democrat. With respect to the Middle East either you’re pro-Israel and its right to assert its regional dominance or you’re pro-Palestine and anti-Israeli aggression.
In reality, just as with our own political parties, the situation is much more subtly nuanced. I hope that the position I’m about to advocate seems as obvious to you as it does to me.
Let’s start with Israel. At least four of its closest neighbors explicitly and repeatedly denounce its very right to exist, and advocate killing Israelis by virtue of their…existence. In 2006 the people of Gaza (not the West Bank) democratically elected a militant government whose stated aim is to annihilate Israel. Hamas makes good on its claim every day, launching dozens or hundreds of homemade rockets from residential neighborhoods into Israel. Though they rarely kill anyone, Israelis nonetheless have constantly to live with the sight and sound of rockets plummeting down on their homes. Continue reading
Thomas Abraham, my dad, was born and spent much of his life in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain, was a journalist for the small island nation’s newspaper for several years, and later focused on Middle Eastern issues while working in a humanitarian faith-based non-profit in New York City. When he went to Jerusalem many years ago, he got “Jerusalem sickness” the sudden, unexpected and almost apocalyptic depression and fear that occasionally assaults visitors to the hearth of the three great monotheistic faiths.
Thomas Friedman – that globalization theorist and New York Time Opinion Writer who is much loved-and-hated in the Macalester context – recently wrote an intriguing proposal in the New York Times. Putting aside the audacity he displayed by writing as Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the king of Saudi Arabia, he proposes a creative Five-State Solution, which, as implausible as it may seem, actually demonstrates some keen insight into the perverse and tangled political allegiances that could empower the Arab world to help solve the two-state crisis. We can argue about global flattening all we want, but thank goodness for some creativity, regardless of how hairbrained it may end up being, or how much we might wish to deny it as implausible.