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

Is the Rif Rising?

The Rif is not the Morocco I know. Al Hoceima was a sleepy beach resort when I stopped by for a couple of days, and I spent an overnight in Chefchauen, but I never got to know the people. The time I spent among the Amazigh was in the Middle Atlas, and even then I learned only three words of Tamazight – aghram (bread), aman (water), and tarbet (girl). The guys would tell me that these were the essentials of life. The language I learned was colloquial Arabic,and my acquaintance with Shilha culture was incidental.

Al Hoceima

The Rif, however, was legendary. The Roueffa were “wayr” — tough, and people would ask me whether I knew about Abdelkrim El Khattabi and the revolt against the Spanish. It was well-known that the Rif was one of the largest cannabis growing and hashish — kif — producing regions in the world, and we were warned against venturing into the mountains lest we be kidnapped and held for ransom. The Rif had a mystique and a mystery.

Those of us acquainted with the history of the Rif in even a cursory sense are aware that the Rif was isolated and neglected by the late King, Hassan II; the regime was wary of the region’s intransigence, which had served it well as successive waves of invaders broke on the mountains over the centuries. The Rif was to Morocco as Scotland had been to England, with the exception that the independent spirit of the Rif had survived far more intact than a broken Scotland after the infamous Highland Clearances.

As a result, it is with both fascination and concern that I see the growing protest in the Rif, ignited by the gruesome death of a street vendor crushed by a garbage truck after the police threw in his meager stock. Coverage in the American press has been sporadic, but a recent article in the Nation magazine chronicles both growing unrest and a ham-handed and counterproductive response by the regime, consisting of propaganda through the mosques and arrests of the leadership, who are reported to have been beaten by the state police, on dubious charges. The trial of protest leader Nasser Zefzafi is shortly set to begin, and the world will be watching.

I would think a more constructive approach would be a mix of engagement, conciliation, dialogue, development, and further liberalization of the regime’s attitude toward Amazigh culture, which is not what is being reported. When one is dealing with a keg of dynamite, it makes sense to defuse it. After we have seen one Arab government after another swept away by popular resentment and their country’s convulse in the aftermath, I don’t think anyone would want to see Morocco thrown into chaos by its own delayed Arab Spring, despite the hopeful example set by its neighbor in the Maghreb, Tunisia.

At least among many of my friends, there has long been a consensus that the way for the monarchy to survive ultimately is to devolve power to the Parliament along the lines of the British constitutional monarchy. Whether a government characterized by dictatorial power, concentration of wealth, and widespread corruption can achieve such a transition remains an open question, but current events in the Rif would appear to lend a certain urgency to finding an answer.

Sahara Back on the International Front Burner

There are few more volatile flashpoints in Moroccan political discourse, in my experience, than the status of the Sahara, known in my day as a “red line.” Depending on one’s point of view, Morocco has either reasserted sovereignty over its Southern Provinces following the Green March in 1975, celebrated in Morocco as a national holiday, or an oppressive occupation denying the rights of the indigenous Sahrawi people to self-determination.

As the United Nations Security Council endorses renewed negotiations after a recent flare up of the conflict in the southern village of Guerguerat, the Washington Post reports that there may be some hope for a negotiated regional autonomy plan floated by Morocco and supported by France, although the Polisario Front guerrilla opposition continues to hold out for “self-determination through a referendum for the local population, which it estimates at between 350,000 and 500,000.” Wash. Post.

After 40 years under Moroccan administration and a frozen status quo since a cease-fire in 1991, one could be pardoned for being skeptical about the prospect of resolving the conflict in the near future; however the fact that the issue is once again on the international front burner is probably healthy.

Death of a “Mule Woman”

The ugly side of the Spanish enclaves in Morocco has surfaced once again. The two enclaves — Ceuta and Melilla — are the focus of a host of social ills, notable among them the cross-border duty-free manual portage of goods by desperate and impoverished women. The women — colloquially known as porteadoras or “Melilla mules” — carry hundred pound packs on their backs into Morocco for a few euros a day. So long as the woman are able to carry the goods on their backs, they are classified as “personal items” and therefore are not subject to customs. The authorities justify this barbaric arrangement as an economic benefit to the community. The trade is hugely profitable; the BBC estimates that it brings in at least $300 million euros a year to Melilla alone, and perhaps double that.

The issue received a flicker of attention yesterday when the Middle East Monitor reported
that the crowd crossing the border crushed a woman to death, another anonymous casualty of the cross-border trade. Michael Kinsley once said that the scandal is not what is illegal, it is what is legal. He might have been thinking of Ceuta and Melilla.