(JTA) — A group of Moroccan Berbers launched an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and to strengthening cultural ties with Israel.
The Moroccan Observatory for the Fight against Anti-Semitism, founded last week, is headed by Berber minority rights activist Omar Louzi, according to a report Thursday on the online edition of the Ya Biladi daily.
“We are here to stop the anti-Semitic attacks in mosques and elsewhere against Jews and their culture,” the news site PanoraPost.com on Thursday quoted Louzi as saying about his association, which he cofounded with two other Berbers. Media reports did not name the other co-founders.
Louzi is planning to organize trips to Israel for Moroccans to “meet the Moroccan Jews and visit their holy places, especially in Jerusalem,” Ya Biladi reported.
The initiative comes amid a debate in Morocco about the country’s relatively friendly relations with Israel. Last year five political parties, including the Islamist ruling party, jointly sponsored two bills to make it illegal to trade with Israeli entities. At least one bill proposes to make it illegal for Israelis to enter Morocco.
Among the supporters of the bills is the Moroccan Observatory against Normalization with Israel, an association launched last year. It seeks to challenge the policy of relative openness to Israel advanced by Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
The formation of Louzi’s group follows the cancellation last month of a planned visit by three Berber activists to Israel. The three — Omar Ouchann, Boubker Ouchann Inghir and Mounir Kejji — were scheduled to attend a conference organized by Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, but they cancelled amid allegations in Moroccan media that they are Israeli spies.
Kejji said the reports were a form of “intimidation” and, in an interview for the news site Red Marruecos, added that he and Omar Ouchann had to cancel “for family reasons.” Inghir, who is a university lecturer, had to cancel because he did not receive the approval of the Moroccan education ministry, Kejji said.
Last month, a youth soccer team from Marrakech pulled out of an international tournament for 11-to-13-year-olds in western France because the team might have had to face an Israeli team, the news site afriquinfos.com reported. The decision did not come from Kawkab Athletic Club Marrakech but from the Moroccan soccer federation, the website reported.