This video circulated widely on social media shows Amir Peretz, Israel’s former defense minister, being protested in the Moroccan parliament on Sunday during a visit to his country of birth.
In the video, Peretz can be seen standing as a man wearing a scarf with Palestinian colors around his neck repeatedly calls out “He is a war criminal” and says that those who invited the Israeli ought to be ashamed.
Some media reports identified the man as a member of parliament.
Another member of the Israeli delegation, former lawmaker for Israel’s ruling Likud Party Majalli Wahabi, defended Peretz and attacked the protesting man as representing “radical Islam.”
Peretz’s visit has stirred outrage in Morocco, where the Palestinian liberation struggle enjoys strong public support.
Peretz was reportedly in Rabat for a conference organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean and the World Trade Organization.
Reacting to the anger, Hakim Benchamach, the president of Morocco’s upper house of parliament, said permission had been granted for the conference to use a room in the parliament building without explicitly inviting the Israeli delegation or delegations from any other countries.
Benchamach said United Nations norms prohibited the parliament from excluding individual delegations from a conference sponsored by an organization that has observer status in the world body.
But this has not satisfied critics.
The Justice and Development Party, an Islamist grouping which holds the largest number of seats in parliament, joined other political and labor groups in condemning the presence of a “war criminal” in violation of the Arab League call to boycott Israel.
A group of Moroccan lawyers requested their country’s judiciary to order Peretz arrested during his visit, on war crimes accusations.
In 2006, several lawyers filed a complaint against Peretz related to that year’s Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Outside the parliament, Moroccan activists also protested Peretz’s presence.
War crimes in Lebanon
Peretz, a member of Israel’s ostensibly dovish Labor Party, was Israel’s minister of defense from May 2006 to June 2007. On his watch, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon in which it indiscriminately targeted civilians with cluster bombs.
An independent UN inquiry into the 33-day assault found “a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by [the Israeli military] against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects, failing to distinguish civilians from combatants and civilian objects from military targets.”
According to the report, nearly 1,200 people were killed and close to 4,500 injured. The UN inquiry found that a staggering 900,000 people were forced to flee their homes, mostly due to “indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure, as well as the climate of fear and panic among the civilian population caused by the warnings, threats and attacks” by Israel.
The report concluded that Israel’s actions, including attacks on medical personnel, “could qualify as serious violations of the laws and customs of war and war crimes.”
Hundreds killed in Gaza
During the period Peretz was defense minister, Israel continued its lethal attacks on Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip where it killed hundreds of civilians including dozens of children.
Israel launched a June 2006 offensive on Gaza that destroyed the main electricity generation plant, bridges, public and education institutions and other infrastructure.
While public and parliamentary support for Palestinians is strong in Morocco, the government has a long history of ties with Israel.
In June, however, Morocco’s King Muhammad VI boycotted an African summit attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Morocco also said it would shun an Africa-Israel summit that had been planned for this month before being shelved.