Wide Angle

Have Moroccan universities followed suit of European universities in ending ties with Israel?

While many universities in Europe and the United States have decided to cut ties with Israeli universities in protest of Tel Aviv's ongoing war on Gaza, Moroccan universities that have agreements with Hebrew universities remain silent.

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Many universities in the United States and Europe have seen protests erupt in response to the war on Gaza, which killed 30,000 people, most of whom are women and children.

In Belgium, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel announced the end of its collaboration with two Israeli institutions in an artificial intelligence research project, citing student pressure. A press release stated the university «has no bilateral cooperation with Israel and is determined to continue its partnerships with Palestinian institutions».

Similarly, Ireland’ Trinity College decided to divest from Israeli companies following student calls in support of Palestine.

In the United States, Johns Hopkins University administration reached an agreement with students to end their sit-in supporting Gaza in exchange for cutting ties with Israeli institutions.

The council of Spanish universities (CRUE) condemned the violence and expressed support for Palestinian demonstrations. They stated a willingness to suspend cooperation with Israeli universities that don't show a «clear commitment to peace».

Moroccan universities keeping silent

Following the normalization of relations with Israel in December 2020, under American auspices, many government sectors have participated in the process, including the Ministry of Higher Education. Minister Abdellatif Miraoui met with Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation, Issawi Frej, in July 2022.

This normalization has impacted Moroccan universities. In August 2021, Mohammed VI Polydisciplinary University signed a cooperation agreement with Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University of the Negev to exchange expertise and research projects.

Similar agreements were signed between Abdelmalek Essaâdi University and Haifa University (September 2022), and between the International University of Rabat and Ben-Gurion University (November 2022). In March 2023, the Euro-Mediterranean University in Fez and Hebrew University of Jerusalem signed a cooperation agreement in research training and innovation.

Despite student protests in support of Palestinians, Moroccan universities have not commented on the recent war on Gaza or expressed any intention to review their agreements with Israeli universities.

Higher Education Union reacting

The regional office of the Moroccan Union of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Tetouan joined the student movement calling for severed ties with Israeli universities. They demanded the termination of the partnership between Abdelmalek Essaâdi University and the University of Haifa.

A press release stated their rejection of the partnership «due to the ongoing Israeli actions since last October, condemned by all components of the Moroccan people». They called for the cancellation of the agreement «given the negative consequences it could entail».

The office urged all teachers and unions to work together to immediately cancel the partnership «to protect the historical symbolism of our university». They further called on educators to oppose «all normalization initiatives aimed at infiltrating higher education institutions».

Diplomatic stagnation

The Israeli war on Gaza has led to a stagnation in Moroccan-Israeli relations, with the exception of military cooperation. Visits by Israeli officials to Morocco have been suspended, and Benjamin Netanyahu's planned visit is no longer on the agenda.

Flights between the two countries have also been halted, and the staff of the Israeli liaison office in Rabat has departed. Public demonstrations and gatherings in support of Palestinians have increased in Moroccan cities, with growing calls to sever ties with Israel.

Officially, the tone of Moroccan diplomacy has changed since October and appears firmer in response to the ongoing Israeli aggressions, as evidenced during various regional and international meetings.

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