Wide Angle

History : When Morocco’s communist party backed the creation of Israel

After David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel, the Soviet Union was quick to recognize the entity as a new nation. This decision influenced communist parties in the Arab world, including the Moroccan communist party.

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When the State of Israel was established on May the 14th, 1948, Arab countries rushed into declaring war against Zionist militias present in Palestine. Arab communities were defeated later in the war that was called the Nakba or the Catastrophe.

Three days after the head of the Jewish Agency David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel, the Soviet Union was the first state to fully recognize the «nation». A group of countries that were under the control of the Socialist Republic did the same.

Moroccan communists and the creation of Israel

When the Israeli Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, Morocco was still colonized by the French. The situation in the Kingdom, however, did not prevent the national movement from quickly declaring that it standed with Palestinians. 

According to El Mostafa El Ktiri, High Commissioner for the Liberation Army members, the Moroccan National Movement had kept an eye on the topic, defending the Palestinian interests at the United Nations.

On the 21st of December 1947, the Independence Party (Istiqlal) led by Moroccan politician Allal El Fassi held an extraordinary session to discuss Resolution 181. After the meeting, the party issued a statement addressed to the Moroccan people, Muslims and Jews, El Ktiri said.

Istiqlal’s efforts were backed later by Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef’s intervention. The leader known for his bold stances in the past when defending Moroccan Jews had reacted to the creation of the «Israeli state» and the tragic events that followed the decision.

In a statement issued on the 23rd of May, 1948, the Sultan urged Moroccans to remain calm and peaceful :

«… A few days ago, the flames of a war erupted in the Holy land of Palestine after Arabs grew exhausted, attempting to convince Zionists of abandoning the idea of taking over the Palestinians' land … We support and stand with other Arab countries and leaders who suggested that we shouldn’t harm Jews».

Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef

Protesting against the creation of the State of Israel, an outraged group of people in Jerada and Oujda surrounded the Jewish population of the two cities killing 42 individuals and injuring 29 others on the 7th and 8th of June 1948.

Five Moroccan Jews were savagely murdered in Oujda and 37 others were beaten to death by the population of Jerada.

The Moroccan Communist party's position

Surprisingly, anger did not make its way to the Moroccan Communist party. Founded in November 1943, the party preferred to focus on national issues.

Two weeks after the creation of Israel, French-language newspaper «Espoir», which belonged to the party, wrote that Morocco must «focus on the miserable situation of its farmers, who are being held in prisons», stressing that this would help Arabs and Jews in Palestine because it is «a fight against our common enemies».

Before that, the same newspaper wrote that the «Palestinian cause is not the main issue of Moroccans and those who are trying to make it look like that are trying deviate Moroccans from defending their own cause».

In his book «The Moroccan National Movement and the National Question», Abdelilah Belkeziz referred to four main factors that dominated the position of the Communist Party on the Palestinian cause.

The first aspect is the fact that the party had European and Jewish members and was affiliated to the French Communist Party. The second factor was its relationship with the French Communist Party, which did not allow the party to have an independent policy.

The third factor was mainly related to the connection between the Moroccan party and the Soviet Union. The latter was the first country to de jure recognise the State of Israel, which pushed the Communist party in Morocco and in a number of Arab countries to adopt an independent political approach regarding the situation in Palestine.

This was explained by the Communist newspaper «Espoir» which wrote : «Yes, the Soviet Union has the right to recognize the State of Israel, as it would have recognized the Palestinian state if established in accordance with the UN resolution».

This explains, according to Belkeziz, the fourth factor that elaborates the Communist Party’s position on the Palestinian cause. The article on «Espoir» shows that the formation did not fully understand the Zionist colonial project.

Changing positions

Since the establishment of the Communist Party, the Moroccan left-wing formation has been under the influence of the Soviet Union, which made it reproduce Moscow's positions on many issues.

The Soviet Union believed that the establishment of a new state in the Middle East could be part of the Eastern camp, especially since many of the leaders of Israel at the time were of Russian or Polish origin. The Soviet Union was encouraged to extend its hand to Israel as soon as it was declared. It had no relations with most Arab countries, except with its communist parties, which were generally banned.

But a few years later it became clear to the Soviet Union that betting on Israel was not a valid choice. Moscow cut ties with Tel Aviv in 1953 and then did the same thing with Israel in 1967.

The Soviet position had a great influence on the countries belonging to the socialist camp and had an impact on left-wing parties, including the Moroccan ones, which re-examined their position on the Palestinian issue.

With the emergence of Marxist-Leninist movements in Morocco in the early 1970s, the equation changed dramatically. These currents strongly criticized the position of the Soviet Union on the establishment of the State of Israel.

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