Moroccan journalists visit Israel despite threats 

Facing down fear and intimidation from elements within the Arab community, a group of journalists from Morocco arrived in Israel for a week long visit this month. The five men and two women were invited by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“We are very excited that we succeeded in realizing this visit,” the ministry’s spokesman for Arabic media, Hassan Kaabia, told reporters. “It follows many months of hard work and comes from the realization that through their visit we can show the reality to the Moroccan public and thereby combat the negative treatment Israel receives in that country.”

The group’s itinerary included meetings with senior foreign ministry officials and military advisers as well as Supreme Court justices, members of parliament and civilians living on the Gaza border. A visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial was also scheduled.

In striking disdain for freedom of the press, movement and expression, Hamas condemned the visit, calling it a “crime.”

“We consider this a crime against our people, and an offense to the feelings of the Arabs and Muslims and lovers of the Palestinian cause and an encouragement of the Israeli entity in its crimes and violations,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum declared.

By coming to Israel, the Moroccan journalists went against the grain of their own culture. Israel does not have formal diplomatic ties with Morocco and the country is rife with anti-Israel sentiment. At the recent global summit on climate change in Marrakech, for instance, protests erupted at the raising of the Israeli flag which signaled the Jewish state’s participation in the convention.

The names of the journalists and the exact dates of their visit were not disclosed for the group’s protection.

“People are scared to become outcasts,” one of the journalists told Ynet News. “If you say you support Israel, or even that you don’t have a negative opinion about the country in regard to the Palestinian issue, they will single you out.”

Speaking against normalization of relations between Israel and Morocco, Hamas’s Barhoum said, “we condemn the visit of a team of Moroccan media persons to the Israeli entity with the goal of normalizing with it and undertaking a campaign of beautifying its image in the Arab media.”

Apparently forgetting that civilian Jews are not allowed inside Palestinian controlled areas of Gaza and the West Bank, and that Israel counts 1.4 million Arabs as part of its population of 8 million people, Barhoum raged that normalizing ties with Israel must not occur because of its “actions of racist purification against our people.”

Nevertheless, the journalists’ visit took place. As one of the journalists summed up to Ynet: “I want to know the Israel that the Arab media does not show us.”