Monday, October 17, 2016

'Moroccan king helped Mossad' is old hat

The news that the Moroccan King Hassan II allowed the Mossad to listen in on conversations at the Arab League summit in Casablanca in 1965, thus 'helping Israel to win the Six-Day War, is in fact an old story. The 'revelations' by Shlomo Gazit, ex-chief of Military Intelligence, broken by Yediot Aharonot and carried by other news media have been common knowledge for decades.

The Economist carried this obituary for King Hassan, who died in July 1999. It called him a 'ruthless manipulator':



Queen Elizabeth on her official visit to Morocco: king Hassan was an hour late to dinner (Photo:Hilton)

"He was less polite to European monarchs, perhaps because they have little power, and turned up nearly an hour late to dine with Queen Elizabeth when she visited Morocco in 1980. But where he considered it mattered, King Hassan was a dab hand at manipulating western opinion.

On independence from France in 1956, Morocco had 350,000 Jews, a large and influential minority. Within two decades nearly all had been exported*, most to Israel, under covert agreement with that country. King Hassan used the few Jews who remained to sell his kingdom as an oasis of pluralism amid the climate of Arab intolerance, a fancy lapped up by pro-Israel lobbies in Washington and Paris. Having earned trust in Israel, he was often able to act as a go-between for other Arab countries.

 European dignitaries, plus a present and past American president, came to his funeral to hail him as a peacemaker. But his relationship with Israel was less about peace than the elimination of mutual foes. Israel's secret service, the Mossad, helped the king to abduct his former maths teacher and leftist opponent, Mehdi Ben Barka, in a Paris cafĂ© in 1965, and subsequently kill him.

 Israel and the United States supplied the tanks to crush the Polisario Front, a guerrilla force struggling for independence in Western Sahara. United Nations officials say the defensive sand walls in Western Sahara bear remarkable similarity to the Bar Lev line the Israelis once constructed to keep Egypt at bay. The king let the Mossad set up a base in Morocco in 1964, and eavesdrop on an Arab summit called to discuss a united military command on the eve of the 1967 six-day war.

In domestic affairs, King Hassan fiddled continually with the constitution to secure power while retaining a whiff of democracy. His amendments of 1970 banned parliament from debating royal decrees, since that was tantamount to challenging the will of God. The king retained control of internal security, foreign policy and defence.

 Moroccan law still forbids inquiry into the king's finances. In the mid-1970s, having expropriated the property of French settlers, the king was reported to own a fifth of the country's arable land. The mining of phosphates (Morocco is the world's largest exporter) remains a royal concern. By the time of his death, the king had built at least ten golf courses for his private use, including one in Fez, floodlit for nighttime rounds."

*'driven out' is possibly a more appropriate term: the atmosphere was one of virulent antisemitic nationalism and repression, despite King Hassan's philosemitism, and the remaining Jews of Morocco left amid the heightened tensions following the 1967 war.

My return to Morocco

6 comments:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

"on the eve of the 1967 six-day war"

1964 was three years before the six Day War. How can the Economist write "on the eve of" when the Arab League meeting took place three years before the war? So the connection to the Six Day War seems tenuous.

bataween said...

The meeting took place in 1965. Maybe it s a stretch to call it on the 'eve', but Yediot is claiming that Mossads eavesdropping had a decisive effect two years later on the outcome of the war

Ben said...

I heard Meir Amit, Mossad chief before, during and after the 1967 war, speak in the late 1990s at a public meeting in San Francisco about the contacts that Mossad made with Morocco in the 1960s. Amit, by then retired, claimed these contacts were very important but did not explain why. Neither does Gazit.

Under Amit's direction Israel's intelligence community ceased its pursuit of Nazi war criminals and focused entirely on the Arab world and Israel's conflict with it. Although the meeting was held under the auspices of the Israeli Consulate, Amit thought it appropriate to launch a vicious personal attack on the Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, calling him dishonest, a liar and incompetent. It never ceases to amaze me how disrespectful of the national interest and how unable to comprehend the concept of mamlachtiyut so many of Israel's leaders are.

Sylvia said...

In 1963 there was a war between Algeria and Morocco known as la Guerre des sables. Mossad agents were present in Morocco in connection with defense strategies and exchange of information regarding that war and border security.

Anyone who thinks that after the tragedy of the Pisces/Egoz -- a fiasco of the Mossad -- Hassan II was going to offer them information so crucial, a reward in fact, is a fool.

In the same period and up till 1967, Hassan II issued restrictions of mobility for Jews (refusal to issue new travel documents, refusal to extend passports for those already abroad), which affected mostly students and intellectuals not planning to go to Israel.

After the drowning of the boat the King was so furious he refused at first to allow the bodies of the drowned Jews to have a proper burial.

And let's not forget, he sent aircrafts to help in the Arab war effort during the 67 war.

After the war the Arab world was so stunned that all kind of "explanations" emerged on why Israel won. That is one of them.

Sylviag said...

Indeed Ben they made important contacts in the early and mid sixties, but it was only after 1967 that Israel began having relations with Morocco based on those earlier contacts no doubt.

Another thing they obtained is a more orderly alya with collective laissez-passer for those groups going to Israel, which was beneficial to Morocco as well.

Sylvia said...

Re:BenBarka. That's an old conspiracy theory. There has been a lot of research done particularly by his own son since that debunked the Mossad theory.