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Sahrawis call for Palestinian solidarity after Israel’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty

Activists draw parallels between the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of people in Western Sahara
Displaced Sahrawis arrive to attend a Polisario congress at the refugee camp of Dakhla (AFP)
Displaced Sahrawis arrive to attend a Polisario congress at the refugee camp of Dakhla (AFP)

Activists in Western Sahara are calling for renewed solidarity from Palestinians after Israel recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday informed Moroccan King Mohammed VI of the decision in a letter and said Israel would register its decision with the United Nations and other international organisations. 

Drawing parallels between Israel's occupation of Palestine and the plight of Sahrawis, activists condemned the move and said they hope that this marks the start of increased solidarity with their cause. 

While links have been drawn between the two struggles for decades, the Palestinian leadership has remained close to the Moroccan government's stance.

Morocco signed a normalisation deal with Israel along with several Arab governments in 2020, when the US under President Donald Trump declared its support for Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The Biden administration has maintained the policy. 

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"Unfortunately, we have witnessed certain Palestinian parties seemingly supporting Morocco following [the normalisation deal] with Israel, regardless of Israel's continued expansionist policies," Ahmed Ettanji, a Western Saraha-based activist and journalist told Middle East Eye. 

'Similar struggles'

Ettanji said Palestinians and Sahrawis "have a lot to learn from each other".

"The Palestinians have a long history of resistance to occupation, while the Sahrawis have a strong sense of national identity. By working together, we can build a more just and equitable world," he added.

'Morocco relies on the same tools and methods as Israel in suppressing the Palestinians, occupying them, displacing them from their land'

Mohammed Elbaikam, activist

Other activists have highlighted how both the government of Israel and Morocco have used similar techniques in enforcing their control over the occupied population.

“There is a total similarity between what is happening in the Western Sahara and Palestine, the only difference is geography,” Mohammed Elbaikam, a Western Sahara-based activist told Middle East Eye. 

“Morocco relies on the same tools and methods as Israel in suppressing the Palestinians, occupying them, displacing them from their land, robbing them of their wealth and controlling them,” he added. 

Hugh Lovatt, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that, as occupying powers, both Israel and Morocco have illegally exploited the natural resources of lands in Palestine and Western Sahara.   

“In both contexts there are broader similarities, such as the recognised process of annexation. Morocco for decades has also enacted a number of policies to displace Sahrawis,” he said.

Israel recognises Morocco’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara
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Despite the close links between the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi national liberation movement, and Palestinian leftist groups, Morocco's previous public support for the Palestinian cause led many in the official leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to overlook the situation in Western Sahara.

Now, activists in the Western Sahara hope that Israel’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the region will bring more attention to their plight. 

Ibtihal Alaloul, a Palestinian NGO worker and activist based in Sweden, previously told MEE that it was disappointing that the Palestinian leadership had stood with Morocco over the question of Western Sahara for so long.

"If not Palestinians, then which other nation would understand this situation?" she said. 

"It's really unfortunate they have this kind of relation with regards to Morocco," she added, saying that it was important for Palestinians to realise that "we cannot be liberated without standing with other causes".

Israeli spyware and drones used by Morocco

Morocco has previously come under scrutiny for using Israeli spyware produced by the Israeli firm NSO Group. 

An investigation conducted by Amnesty International revealed that the Israeli spyware was used against prominent Moroccan journalists, activists and dissidents. 

Reports have also shown that Morocco purchased armed drones from Israel's state-owned aerospace manufacturer.

The drone, also referred to as a “suicide” drone, has a three-metre wingspan and has the capacity to fly for seven hours and up to 1,000 kilometres, while carrying 20kg of explosives. 

Experts believe that the weapons deals are helping Morocco solidify control over the Western Sahara.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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