|06CASABLANCA947||2006-08-14 12:06:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Consulate Casablanca|
1. (C) Summary: As the fighting between Israel and Lebanon hits the
one month mark, anti-American sentiments in Morocco's largest city
are strong, and getting stronger. On Sunday, August 6, Casablanca
witnessed a well-organized protest with tens of thousands of
Moroccans marching in solidarity with Lebanon. The leaders of the
march added their voices to those already calling for boycotts of
American products. The demonstration, and others like it coordinated
by Islamic parties and organizations, have left Casablanca's
moderates feeling isolated and concerned about the country's future.
"All United Against the United States"
2. (C) In the last month, the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca has been
the setting of sit-ins, protests and rallies, sometimes more than one
a week. To date, the largest demonstration in the city was on
Sunday, August 6, when approximately 45,000 Moroccans, according to
our security contacts, marched to express their solidarity with
Hizballah and their strong anger at the U.S. Originally planned to
occur in a district away from the Consulate, the march ended nearer
than expected. Photos of the march appeared on the front page of
nearly every Moroccan newspaper. "L'Economist," a widely read,
French language newspaper printed a large color photo of an American
flag being trampled during the march. It also reported U.S. flags
being burned (reportedly more than Israeli flags) throughout the day.
Marchers carried banners with anti-American sentiments such as,
"Stop the terrorism of the United States" and "The Butchery of Qana
is an American Crime, Executed by the Israelis." People waved
portraits of Che Guevara and even Sadam Hussein while chanting
"Allah, Allah, we are all Hizballah."
3. (C) The march was organized by The Association for the Support
of the Struggle of the Palestinian People and The Moroccan Action
Group to Support Iraq and Palestine, and supported by the Party of
Justice and Development (PJD) and the Organization for Justice and
Charity (JCO). The aim of the march was to demonstrate solidarity
with the Lebanese, but it was also a call for support of Hizballah
leader Hassan Nasrallah. During the march, Nasrallah was hailed as
the "hero" of the Arab people who "fights for dignity and liberty."
Photos of women, most of whom wore headscarves, and children carrying
signs that stated, "We are all Hizballah, we are all militants"
appeared throughout the media.
4. (C) In a conversation with poloff, a longtime local employee of
the Consulate claimed, "Nasrallah use to be wild and out of control
and the Israelis were calm, now it's the opposite. Nasrallah is
making sense and winning over all who thought he was an extremist."
Two former Moroccan International Visitor participants echoed the
sentiment during a recent lunch with PAO and CAO. "Shi'a Hassan
Nasrallah has acquired the status of Gamal Abdul Nasser because he
has stood up to Western powers" one of the participants declared.
Calls for Boycotts Abound
5. (C) At the end of the three hour march, Abdelilah Benkirane, of
the PJD, delivered a speech in which he congratulated all the
participants for "answering the call" and demanded a boycott of all
American products. A similar demand was made recently by the
National Trade Union of the Moroccan press, which called for
"Moroccan civil society organizations and the Moroccan media to
boycott all the activities of the American Embassy and of the
institutions related to it." A well-known Moroccan comedian
asserted, during the demonstration, that "the American products that
should be boycotted are not food and drink but the Arab regimes (they
keep in power)."
6. (C) There have been some indications that the calls for boycotts
are having a limited impact. We were forced to cancel an upcoming
special International Visitor Program (IVP) for female Moroccan union
leaders of Casablanca. All but one of the ten invitees of the
much-anticipated program called to cancel or declined the offer to
participate. Some stated up front that they would not be involved in
a program sponsored by the USG at this time, while others claimed the
program was ill timed and conflicted with scheduled union elections.
We later learned that the Directors General of a number of the unions
told the potential participants they were not to take part in any
program sponsored by the USG. Along the same lines, American
businesses are starting express some concern. Recently, one of the
larger American companies in Morocco, Proctor and Gamble, contacted
the Consulate's Foreign Commercial Service Office in anticipation of
possible problems after seeing their name surface on one of the
None Safe from Criticism
7. (C) As expected, the U.S. and Israel were the main targets of
condemnation during the August 6, march, however, the GOM did not
escape unassailed. According to the French Language daily, Le Matin,
spontaneous chants of condemnation of the Moroccan government
exploded throughout the march. The paper was also very critical of
the lack of participation by members of the government. (Note: It is
surprising that Le Matin, normally pro-regime, was so critical of the
GOM and its officials. End Note)
Consulate Contacts Speak Out
8. (C) Some of our contacts have been very candid about their
feelings and concerns regarding the situation and are eager to
deliver their message. Mohamed M'Jid, activist, anti-Islamist, and
president of the Moroccan Foundation for Youth, Initiative, and
Development, said during a lunch on August 3, that "Just as in
Lebanon, where Israel is planting the seeds of terrorism, so the
seeds are being planted here as well." M'Jid said there is "major
unhappiness" in Morocco and that people are watching pan-Arab
television, and are focused on the situation. Another contact,
Nouzha Skalli, outspoken advocate for reform and Party of Progress
and Socialism (PPS) parliamentarian, pulled the Consul General aside
during "Throne Day" celebrations to make an impassioned statement
about what she sees this war doing to moderates in the region. Her
concern, a concern shared by others to whom we have spoken, is that,
due in part to recent regional developments, "extremists and
Islamists are gaining influence at the expense of the moderates"
insinuating that there will be a reversal of the progress Morocco has
made in recent years as Islamists gain support.
9. (C) Meanwhile, in a very open and frank discussion, longtime
Consulate Moroccan employees told us that most Moroccans are
preoccupied with the war. One employee is convinced that "this
situation legitimizes terrorism in the eyes of Arabs." He is
concerned that Morocco is now experiencing the worst anti-American
sentiment in decades and, somewhat dramatically, asserted that "it
will take generations to get past what we are now experiencing." The
sharpening of comments we hear is unusual. Events in the Middle
East, far from Morocco on the western edge of the Arab world often
meet with subdued reactions here. During a conversation, several
months ago a number of university students told poloff that they were
sick of hearing about Palestine. "We have problems of our own," they
Loss of Credibility
9. (C) Moderate political activists in Casablanca have expressed
concern that the U.S. is losing it standing in the region(reftel).
Some worry that the U.S. has lost what little credibility it had
remaining as a "neutral" mediator in the "Middle East peace process."
One Moroccan who participated in the protest told us afterwards,
"The U.S. should no longer preach for democracy in the Arab world,
while being unjust towards the Arabs, and unconditionally supportive
of the Israelis, while openly encouraging their butcheries." "How
can they preach democracy," he continued, "when Hamas, which was
elected democratically, is being condemned by the entire West?"
10. (C) Moroccan reaction in Casablanca is more than meets the eye.
With 2007 parliamentary elections coming up, anti-American
demonstrations and rhetoric are useful to Islamist parties like the
PJD. Their intentions are twofold: while the anti-American slogans
and demonstrations help to broaden their base, they simultaneously
damage the position of the moderate parties, which support democratic