A comment by Kal
Well, to take Israel, you have the fact that the Druze and “Bedouin” communities outrightly joined the Israeli side after 1948. You can, as Saharawi Citizen says, traitors in any movement. Benedict Arnold? The Algerian independence movement had more than one defector and collaborator.
Arab Israelis are said (by Israelis) to have equal rights to Jewish Israelis; though there are Israelis who challenge that. It really doesn’t matter much if the Sahara is wealthy or poor. The legal status is contested for wholly legitimate reasons. Now to say that Saharawis have equal rights with Moroccans, which as you write are limited in the first place, I think, remains problematic. And if a Saharawi who has defected (and we know that many of these defectors are not Saharawis at all but Mauritanians or related Moors from southern Morocco proper) wants to re-defect back to his original position? Or asks real questions about the status of the so-called “province” he lives in? He gets an answer from a baton. So would Moroccans, but the ultimate fact is that his country is occupied illegally, regardless of how many settlers are there or how well the natives live; the territory is illegally occupied. Sure a number of Saharawis in the occupied territories might better off materially than those round Tindouf, but then again, aren’t we also told that Arab Israelis are better off and have more rights than Arabs in Egypt, Syria, Morocco or Algeria and that black South Africans lived better under apartheid than blacks under majority rule elsewhere in Africa? That line of thinking doesn’t really address the question at hand. If irredentism and occupation are wrong in Israel and Palestine, it is wrong in Morocco. If Israel should set and accept its borders with the Arabs, Morocco should set and accept its borders with its neighbors.
The real difference between Israel in Morocco in this sense is that one can find Israelis that at least partially empathize with the Palestinians. It is harder to find Moroccans that are willing to buck “consensus” to see things from the other side of the berm.
Firstly, I will say the comparison is not perfect and that analogy is not especially useful. Nobody is saying there is a one to one parallel. But since the Sahara is treated by Morocco as legally a part of Morocco it is not akin per se to the occupied territories, but rather to Israel proper and the Saharawis there are more akin to Arab Israelis.
As for defectors: the circumstance in the Sahara is different from that in Israel, yes. It is therefore possible for different kinds of defection. There is a logical position one can take for unification on multiple lines. In the case of Israel, it is ridiculous for an Arab to pick up the Likud line (though there are Arab members of the party).
As for the « true Saharawi » issue; that’s not quite it. These are people with Mauritanian passports, Moroccan passports and who are not from the territory. It’s not « I would be Saharawi but I’d ike to be Moroccan »; it’s more « I’m actually a Moroccan/Mauritanian but I’m claiming to be Saharawi ». There is certainly a fluidity of political identity, but that really doesn’t justify the Moroccan claim; « the identity is fluid, therefore one view of that identity should imposed upon the population » is what that amounts to. The Moroccan presence is not the result of identity or historical claims. It’s because Morocco has always wanted the resources in the Sahara, be they phosphates or iron ore.
I also think that the comparison is not simply about the status of Saharawis; there is a similarity in world view and conduct between Israel and Morocco. Both countries have an anxiety about their territorial integrity as a result of aggressive political ideology and the acquisition of territory by force, all followed up by denying a people their fundamental right to determine their own status. Oh, and the exploitation of its resources by outsiders. The similarity in conduct is imperfect, as you might mention; Israel was, after all, attacked by its neighbors at least once. Morocco has been a rather committed aggressor in every one of its modern conflicts.
« If Laayoune is Gaza then the fact that poverty there is lower than in Rabat is perhaps a troubling fact for those who are in a position to compare Gaza to Tel Aviv »
I wouldn’t call Laayoune Gaza. But both are occupied territories. It is irrelevant as to whether Moroccans feed Saharawis yummy taguines or not. What is important is that this is a piece of territory taken by force and filled up with Moroccan colonists. It more like one of the old Arab towns in northern Israel or the Sinai was, perhaps even the Golan (though admittedly it isn’t a part of another country). What you mention tells us that the Moroccans have worked rather hard to absorb the Sahara into Morocco proper, before any legal process could take place. Its all part of the claim, Morocco wants to take over the territory as easily as possible. The Israelis have messier projects to do this, being that the people they’re trying to displace are rather different from them. The two circumstance are, as you say, very different. (I’ll say again, I don’t like analogies).
But in any case, Morocco hasn’t got official apartheid legislation, it only has settlers, an expansionist ideology, illegally held territory, semi-defined borders with its neighbors and a lot of yummy food. I can’t wait to see MoVI dressed up in those wonderful Saharawi robes. I might then go off and join the irredentist movement in Morocco; the Aures are Saharan, right?
This comment has been imported from Maghreb Arab Review