Morocco does not view the war in Gaza from the same perspective as the United States

American perspectives on the war in Gaza are very much about complicated by a wave of domestic antisemitism that has revived terrifying memories of slaughter and oppression of Jews where they are tiny minority. Especially for those of us only indirectly exposed to this deep-rooted fear, empathy and morality demand an unequivocal intolerance for attacks against Jews and any other ethnic or religious minority in this country. When conflict arises, our hypocrisy when it comes to our own citizens — be they Jewish, Black, Japanese, Chinese, or Native American — is revealed beneath the crushing weight of white supremacy in our own country. I try to to remember, not always successfully, that I need to tread lightly as one of its beneficiaries not one who has felt its weight.

Much of the rest of the world is, at the very least, skeptical of our commitment to human rights in the international arena and sees the current conflict in Israel and Palestine as a continuation of centuries of bloody, Western exploitation, colonization, and extermination, and Westen civilization as guilty of history’s worst atrocities. Obviously, the particular history of Israel and Palestine, in which Israel was the only haven for Jews while Europe exterminated them and America excluded them, complicates any perspective on the region.

We should also recognize, however, that much of the rest of the world sees the conflict from a very different perspective, and the vicous attacks on Israelis — specifically because they are Jews — in places such as Dagostan, and the viciousness and brutality of Hamas, should not blind us to a world view in which the Palestinians, displaced under the auspices of of the British Empire and then repeatedly expelled or subjugated repeated wars of conquest, are also victims of European cruelty and indifference.

One explication of the skepticism of people outside of Europe and America regarding Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack is expressed by my friend friends Mohamed el Mokhtar in the Palestine Chronicle and Samir Bennis, in Morocco World News. I recommend them to anyone who wishes to understand the conflict from a global perspective.

A humble response to a friend who has decided to purge his Facebook following of the “filth” of “Zionist sympathizers”

Am I a “Zionist sympathizer”? I think not, but you can read my take below and decide for yourself.

However, how do you decide the case of people who were born in Israel? Admittedly, they choose where how they act, but not where they were born.

Despite the incredible courage of King Mohammed V in World War II, and despite Jewish advisors in high places, Jews in Morocco were not on an equal footing with Muslims, so they left for a better life. Are they possibly morally compromised for leaving to live on stolen land? Possibly, but then there is certainly debate over the situation of the Saharawi in the Sahara. Not to mention that all but a tiny fraction of the people who live in the United States are the beneficiaries of genocide and settler colonization.

What about people who have been deceived by a false version of history in the United States? What about the women and children who have been slaughtered on both sides? I guess it depends on definitions, but are these people all filth? Are the Jewish people in my family, whose views I do not necessarily agree with, filth for believing that the existence of Israel gives them a refuge their people never had before?

I condemn the war crimes of Israel, the seizure of stolen land, and the hellish conditions in Gaza, but I am not ready to abandon people such as those I describe above, and I guess of if I purged everyone I disagree with, even on pretty fundamental issues, I might find few people left.

I condemn the war crimes of Israel, the seizure of stolen land, and the hellish conditions in Gaza, but I am not ready to abandon people such as those I describe above, and I guess of if I purged everyone I disagree with, even on pretty fundamental issues, I might find few people left.

The Palestinians must have full and equal rights, in two states or one. I believe at this point that history will now dictate the latter.

I hope that viewing the situation today a a complicated and tragic one in which many people are torn and trapped, and in which the slaughter of innocents is indiscriminate, and morality is not always and obviously black and white, does not brand me as a sympathizer and filth. I leave you to judge, although I would regret it if you decided we must part ways.

However, whether or not you view my words as the sincere statement of a friend, I would humbly ask that you do three things 1) read my words below, 2) read the words of Martin Luther King about his enemies and oppressors — before they killed him — in his speech at Drew University, and 3) if you decide after all this that I am giving “aid and comfort” to your enemies, do me the courtesy of sending me a FB message (or I will not otherwise receive your words) explaining your decision, so that I may at least have an opportunity to see the error of my ways. I feel my heart can bleed both for the children in Gaza and the dead in Israel. With my sincere best wishes, Bill Day

Hearts of Lionesses

The phenomenal success of the Moroccan women’s football (soccer) team in the World Cup thrilled me even more than the historic victories of the men’s team in Qatar.

When I was a teacher in Morocco, I was equally concerned about every student, and I tried to give each student the help and attention they needed to success. Time, class size, and other distractions meant that I inevitably fell short, of course. I wanted every student to know that I cared about them. To those I helped, I am gratified, and to those whom I did not, I apologize.

One thing that encouraged me, however, was the number of young women in my class who were just as devoted to learning as the men and every bit as talented. Even then, I saw the potential for achievement by my young women as well as my young men, and it was important to me to encourage them.

Poignantly, I recently met a young Moroccan woman who asked if women would ever have equal rights in Morocco. I responded by asking whether women will ever achieve equal rights in America. Anyone who has seen the new Barbie movie would take my point.

Sport may not be my preferred way to put women on the map, but it is one way, and yet another way that women defy expectations. Congratulations to the Atlas Lionesses for putting Morocco on the World Cup map a second time.

Boulangerie Christophe arrives in Silver Spring

Cuisine française à la marocaine

Admittedly, I do not usually seek out local Moroccan businesses, but when I heard that a new French bakery and café — owned and managed by a Moroccan couple — had opened practically down the street, I could not resist paying a visit. Lunch at Boulangerie Christophe did not disappoint. The goat cheese and tomato quiche melted in my mouth. The cappuccino was strong and rich, and I had a delicious raspberry and blueberry crême fraiche tart.

Raspberry and blueberry crême fraiche tart, frothy cappuccino in a mug with blue flowers, and a purple flower in a blue bottle.
The perfect finish to the perfect lunch.

At the end of the meal, the manager came over to ask how I enjoyed my lunch. I was captivated the moment she said “merci” after I paid an appropriate compliment to the meal, and Lalla Mariam, who hails from Fes, and I had a lovely, brief conversation in French and Darija.

Without overlooking the fraught relationship between France and Morocco, this café represents a beautiful expression of Moroccan mastery of French cuisine, with some adaptations to American taste.

An endless variety of mouth watering pastries in a long glass case.
So much to taste, so little time.

I recommend taking a moment to peruse the menu and better yet paying a visit to taste the food, which goes well beyond pastries.

Rachid Taha, dead at 59.

I came to Rachid Taha pretty late; it is only a couple of years that I have spent listening to his music. The first thing I heard was his version of Rock the Casbah; who could resist? The Clash will never sound the same. So it is with genuine tristesse that I learned this evening that his voice has been silenced. He left us too soon, but he left us so much.

Compulsory Military Service in Morocco — Mistake or Masterstroke?

Morocco has moved forward with a plan to conscript both men and women for compulsory military service in a bill expected to be approved by the Parliament in October 2018 with mixed reactions from the public, with some news outlets suggesting widespread approval and others citing marked dissent on social media.

Although reinstatement of the draft in the United States following its abolition after the Vietnam War is periodically a topic of discussion, it is clear that for the time, at least, the world’s most formidable military power remains firmly committed to an all-volunteer force. Forced military service is not only generally unpopular with the public, but the all-volunteer force is also cited as producing a better trained, higher quality cadre of professional soldiers than short-term service based on a draft. Moreover, part of the unpopularity of the draft also dates back to the widespread exemptions during Vietnam that resulted in a highly unfair application of the system. In contrast, proponents of the draft assert that it would more evenly distribute the burden of service and discourage America’s persistent military adventurism.

However, perhaps the global military behemoth fielded by the United States is not the most suitable model for a nation of 37 million people like Morocco, which cannot deploy the same level of population, economic, and technological resources as the United States. More apt models might be countries of comparable size such as Israel (population 9 million) or Switzerland (population 9 million). Both nations generally seems to field an effective military with broad popular support for national service.

Perhaps equally noteworthy is that by at least one ranking, Moroccan military strength lags far behind its most likely military rival — Algeria, particularly with regard to military budget (3 to 1 in Algeria’s favor), external debt (4 to 1 in Algeria’s favor), and active military personnel (5 to 1 in Algeria’s favor). Algeria also appears to have a decisive advantage in quantity of military hardware. Quality is difficult to assess, although it is perhaps worth noting that Algeria is largely supplied by Russia, whereas Morocco appears to have greater access to weaponry made in the United States. It appears open to question how much difference this might make.

Happy Eid el Adha — to everyone! عيد الاضحى مبارك للجميع

Today is Eid el Adha, the most significant holiday in the Muslim calendar, traditionally marked by the slaughter of a sheep in honor of God’s first ordering the sacrifice of Ishmael and then sparing him and substituting a sheep. (Yes, that is correct. The Jewish/Christian version of the story in Genesis 22 refers to Isaac; the variation in the Qur’an refers to Ishmael.) It is also known as Eid el Kbir — the big holiday.

It is common, and I suppose customary, to wish a happy Eid to all Muslims, and I do wish a happy Eid to all those celebrating the holiday. One thing I noticed while I was in Morocco, however, is how inclusive the holiday was. I was always made to feel that I was part of the feast (outsider though I was) and pressed to eat more mutton than I could possibly consume, from the head to the hooves. In that spirit, I would like to wish a happy Eid to everyone, Muslim or not, meaning no disrespect.

I realize, of course, that the Eid is not without its critics, whether because of concerns for animal welfare or the financial burden that purchasing an animal to sacrifice places on the poor, who are nevertheless faced with enormous social pressure to participate in Muslim countries such as Morocco. And yet, and yet, it is hard to deny the fellow-feeling I experienced while I was there. We should always be mindful of the less fortunate — and come to their aid in their time of need — and yet it seems it would be a shame to abandon every festive occasion on account of its cost. (It is hard to imagine a more wasteful holiday than Christmas!) Or as Shakespeare put it, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Happy Eid, every one.