Israeli flag raised in Morocco

Israel’s flag was raised in Morocco last Sunday at the Marrakech Judo Grand Prix.

Two of the 10 Israeli competitors won bronze medals and their flag was displayed during the ceremony.

This video shows Israeli judo athlete Timna Nelson Levy’s match in Morocco, which earned her the bronze medal:

Two Algerian fighters withdrew from the tournament after they were paired with Israeli opponents.

Kawther Boussena and Sonia Asselah were scheduled to compete with Israeli judokas Raz Hershko and Omri Kenyon, respectively.

An unnamed source from the Algerian Judo Federation told The New Arab that the Algerian judokas withdrew to reject normalization with Israel.

The source added that championship officials were told the Algerian judokas withdrew due to injuries, not a political stance, so as to avoid a penalty.

While Israel often argues that sports should be left out of politics, its officials celebrate the display of their country’s symbols during international competitions as political victories.

Israel’s Arabic-language propaganda Twitter account and Israeli government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman lauded the display of the flag in Morocco.

The Israeli coach said he was “proud the Israeli flag was raised.”

A Moroccan anti-normalization group called the Israeli participation a “new normalization crime.”

“Israeli participation and raising the flag has been condemned by many organizations in Morocco,” the Moroccan Observatory for Anti- Normalization stated.

Normalization through judo

The events in Morocco reflect a trend of Arab states normalizing ties with Israel through sports.

Israel’s flag was raised in the United Arab Emirates last October at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo competition, after two Israeli competitors won gold medals.

Israel’s sports and culture minister Miri Regev, who was in the Emirates with her country’s team, cried with emotion as the Israeli anthem was played.

Weeks before the Abu Dhabi competition, the United Arab Emirates judo federation capitulated to Israel’s demands to exhibit its symbols at the Abu Dhabi competition after Regev lobbied the president of the International Judo Federation to cancel the Abu Dhabi event, along with one in Tunisia, after the two countries refused to normalize Israeli participation.

While Regev celebrated in the United Arab Emirates, another Israeli-government backed delegation, the country’s gymnastics team, was competing in in Qatar.

Israeli delegation flies to UAE

Another Israeli sports delegation arrived in the United Arab Emirates this week to participate in the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi, between 14 and 21 March.

Israel is fielding 27 athletes who will compete in basketball, bowling, judo and swimming.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met the athletes before they headed to Abu Dhabi, telling them, “go in peace, and come back with gold, silver and bronze medals.”

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who attended one of the opening events, has nurtured close ties with Israel for years.

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, celebrated on Twitter the UAE’s decision to host the Israeli delegation, calling it an “inclusive approach.”

While Israeli athletes are receiving warm welcomes in Arab states, Palestinian athletes, especially from Gaza, are routinely denied the opportunity to compete in international contests due to Israeli restrictions.

Morocco’s cozying up to Israel

Moroccan security services arrested 10 individuals last week in relation to a network that allegedly forges Moroccan documents and passports for Israelis to use in criminal activities, the newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi revealed.

Those arrested include police officers and state officials.

Israelis also use the documents to conduct spying in other Arab countries, according to unnamed Moroccan sources in the newspaper.

The Moroccan passport is valuable because it allows holders access to certain visa-free destinations, such as Tunisia, Algeria and other Arab and African countries, another security source told the newspaper.

“The naturalization of Israeli Zionists of non-Moroccan origin with Moroccan nationalities is a very dangerous precedent,” which threatens the national security of Morocco and a number of Arab and African countries, the Moroccan Observatory for Anti-Normalization stated.

The newspaper added that covert relations between Israel and Morocco go back to 2000.

But they actually extend much further back; King Hasan II, the father of the current Moroccan monarch, reportedly received Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres for secret talks at one of his palaces in 1986.

More recently, Netanyahu secretly met with Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita in New York in September during the UN General Assembly, according to a report by Barak Ravid for Israel’s Channel 10.

Netanyahu told Bourita he wants to normalize relations between the two countries, and expressed interest in publicly visiting Morocco.

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Very sad news. My grandparents agreed to create the Palestinian nation within the Arab nation per request by other Arab states. Now they abandon us. Was it worth it? If we simply stayed Arabs, they had no excuse.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.