Moroccans and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Education or normalization?

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By Karima Rhanem

Morocco World News

Rabat, June 22, 2013

You call it normalization, I call it education. That was a blog post written by a Moroccan student about an educational trip he did with 15 other students to Jerusalem. He described how remarkable the experience was, and more specifically how important to have a different perspective of the conflict that one only see in the media. Arabs and Israelis have vast stereotypes and huge misconceptions of one another. Israel is a taboo subject in the Arab world and if you talk about it, you will be immediately accused of normalization and million other accusations, that if you don’t have secret services running after you.

Media covering the Arab Israeli conflict from both sides is biased, and you only see what they want you to see or believe. Yet, with the increase usage of social media, dialogue over the issue has changed. On Facebook, I followed several discussions on the subject on one of the largest regional peace initiative by young leaders from the MENA region called Yala Young Leaders, which currently attracts more than 300,000 youth. I saw young people in the region working together as a group fighting for right and just values.

For years, generations have been inheriting conflict, and public discourse has disavowed dialogue and coexistence. But the truth is that those who perpetuate the conflict and disavow dialogue are those who profit from the status quo: it is not the peoples themselves, but corrupt and detached interests. Youth must be given space for dialogue, difficult and brave as it must be, because they are those who still have the ability to be brave, to transcend historical strife and to work for the only goal worth working for: an actual better life for people rid of violence and bloodshed. This can only be achieved between people who have trust between them, and trust requires dialogue.

I completely understand that both Israelis and Arabs have been educated in a way to hate one another due to the ever-lasting over 40 years of a complex conflict. You can feel this mistrust and hatred in books, media, and everyday life. And each time you see the conflict on Television you begin to ask yourself a question, is this religious, ideological or geopolitical conflict, or is it a war for survival, for water and gas?

As a person who refuses all kinds of violence and occupation, I have been and still one of the million people around the world who support Palestine’s right to have their own state. I took to the streets in the beginning of 2000, as thousands of Moroccans condemning the barbaric acts of Israel against Palestinians during the two Intifadas and the war on Gaza. I jumped from joy when I recently saw the Palestinian flag in the UN. But, still regardless of all the peace initiatives, the daily lives of both Palestinians and is Israelis are status quo.

As I have seen on TV Israeli soldiers killing innocent women and children, I saw Palestinian Hamas group killing their own people, I read about their long standing conflict with Fath and the several cases of corruption going on out there. Who pays the price, it is the innocent Palestinians and the millions refugees who ought to flee Palestine.

But I asked myself a fundamental question: is it a crime or a thinking violation to say that not all Israelis and Jews are bad people? Can I differentiate between the people and the state? Do I have the right to say so without bombarding me with million conspiracy theories? Do I have the freedom to challenge this thinking without be accused of being pro whatever even the devil? If I followed the first logic that all Israelis and Jews are bad, then I should accept that many others around them who see only one reality believe that all Muslims are terrorists. Of course I will be told you can’t compare the two cases.

And those who tell you so have relations if not trade and business with Israel, but for their political agendas, they will say a different story. They made us believe that our sole enemy is Israel. Yet, our enemy is poverty, lack of education, economic crisis, rise of unemployment, human development, poor health care, etc.

As I have seen Palestinians who work closely and jointly with Israelis, I have seen left-wing Israelis protesting against their government and calling for peace with Palestine. Of course you will never see those images on traditional media.

Recently, I heard about Kamal Hachkar’s film, a French film maker of Moroccan origin who was born in Tinghir, south of Morocco. He produced a film called Tinghir Jerusalem which recounts stories of Moroccan Jews who immigrated from Tinghir to Israel in the 1950. I heard a lot of noise about the film, protests, calls for boycotts and even accusations of normalization with Israel. It made me crazy that many of those who protested against the film confessed on public Television that they have never seen the film.

I decided to watch the complete version of the film, which I found very interesting. The nostalgia I saw in the eyes of the Jewish ladies who identified themselves as Moroccans and Berbers in the film is not something new to the Moroccan Jewish diaspora across the world. In several occasions, when I meet someone in an international conference, as soon as they know I am Moroccan, they immediately expressed their love and gratitude to Morocco and the people of Morocco for living in peace and coexistence for many years.

In Morocco, I hardly recognize Moroccan Jews unless they say so, because for me they are the same, they enjoy the same rights, they are Moroccans. The only difference is their religion which I do respect.Our new constitution even recognizes the different communities that make up the population, including the Jewish community.

Though the politics around the Arab-Israeli conflict has changed people’s attitudes today, yet, Moroccans are still living in peace with Moroccan Jews. I strongly believe and defend Palestine’s right to have their own state and we will continue to do so. I want a world free of conflict, war and occupation and will continue fighting for dialogue and peace as the only solution to ending conflict though complex and difficult.

I know I may be far away from the conflict zone area, but I put myself in the shoes of others and do not foresee more violence, war or any form of occupation and settlement as a solution to ending this conflict. We may have a two-state solution, yet we will not bring back the over 40 years of suffering to the people in conflict. And if we don’t educate our new generation about peace, tolerance, the hatred that has been growing with us, we will never end the conflict.

As French-Moroccan Sahar Amarir, a student of law and political science in Paris said “those accusing Kamal Hachkar’s film of normalization first need to explain to us in which ways displaying a part of 2000 years of Moroccan history- which existed way before the establishment of Israel- or any part of recorded history for that matter, can be seen as “normalization.” Does that mean anti-normalization consists in denying factual history and modern realities?

I believe Kamal’s film is a very good educational tool to teach young generations about the diversity, multicultural aspect of the Moroccan society and a good basis for re-opening dialogue about the Moroccan identity and pluralism. I also believe that we need to educate ourselves about the conflict from different sources and viewpoints and avoid media biased messages from both sides. Only a better educated young generation can change the phase of the conflict.

Karima Rhanem is a Moroccan Communications and social media Specialist, journalist, photographer and a social activist with over 12 years of experience in civil society & youth policies. She is former president of the Moroccan Association for Development and Parallel Diplomacy. Ms Rhanem holds a BA in communications & Leadership studies, and an MA in Governance and Public policy.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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Categories: Op-ED

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