The Justice and Development Party (Hizb Al-Adala Wa At-tanmia), which is identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, has won the elections in Morocco held on 26 November 2011. The party won 107 of the 395 parliamentary seats. The party said in an official announcement that, according to not-yet-final results, it had won over 100 of the 395 parliamentary seats. According to a constitutional amendment, King Mohammed VI will have to assign the task of forming the government to the leader of the largest party – Abdelilah Benkirane, head of the Justice and Development Party.
This party is the political wing of the Uniqueness and Reform movement which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Morocco. Its victory constitutes a further triumph for the Islamist movement in the context of the “Arab Spring,” so soon after the victory of the Ennahda movement in the Tunisian elections.
In Egypt, the three-stage elections begin on 28 November 2011, and the Muslim Brotherhood has a chance to make substantial gains. The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Alawite regime of Assad, is backed by Turkey, which regards it as an alternative to the existing government. In Libya, the new government has undertaken to make Sharia law a primary source of legislation. In Yemen, the Islamist movements have played a central role in the revolt against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Earlier, in 2006, the Hamas movement – the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian territories – triumphed in the Palestinian Authority elections, and since then Hamas has entrenched its rule in Gaza and, for all intents and purposes, has become an independent political entity.
The Muslim Brotherhood branches in the various countries are full partners to the worldwide movement’s ideology. Each one, however, has freedom of action to devise its own tactics in line with specific political conditions. In Morocco, the Justice and Development Party chose to downplay the extreme Islamist message and mainly focus on fighting corruption and improving the economy, issues that took the lion’s share of its electoral platform.
That platform, in its brief political section, stated that the party would aim to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with all of the EU countries and Canada while, in Morocco’s relations with the United States, pursuing an appropriate diplomacy and safeguarding national interests. The formulation in the Israeli context was restrained, and included a commitment to the “defense of the just issues of the people and first and foremost the issue of Palestine, and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of its independent state whose capital is Jerusalem, the Palestine problem being a national problem.”1
The ideological platform of the parent party, the Uniqueness and Reform movement, reveals its true Islamist face. The section on the movement’s goals states that it seeks to instill the Islamic religion in the heart of the individual, the family, the society, the state, and the ummah, and to help spread Islam throughout the world.2 The movement expressed unequivocal support for the armed struggle against Israel in the context of the Second Intifada, and for the terror attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq. It referred to “Zionist and American aggression” as “the greatest and most dangerous manifestations of terror that modern history has known.”3
In recent years Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of the Justice and Development Party and the designated prime minister, has made harshly anti-Israel statements that deny Israel’s right to exist and favor the armed struggle against it. Below are some quotations from his words.
From an interview to the Al-Mashaal weekly in 2011:
As for Israel, it has a special status. It is not like the United States but rather, in our view, a state that is waging a war against the people of Palestine. We, not as the Muslim Arab people but as the Moroccan people, do not see the Palestinian problem as a problem of our brothers the Palestinians alone, but as our own problem….If Israel were to live with the Palestinians within a single state as occurred in South Africa, our position would change. However, at present we regard Israel as a hostile state.4
From an interview to the Hamas website that is documented on the Uniqueness and Reform movement’s website, at the time of Benkirane’s arrival in Gaza in March 2009:
The inhabitants of Arab Morocco do not think there is only a duty to identify with the Palestinians, but want to wage a jihad struggle alongside them….Most unfortunately, the political circumstances, the borders, the soldiers, and the legal and military barriers that exist between the Muslims prevent these feelings from being expressed as they should….The Moroccans see the Islamic resistance movement Hamas as the mother of resistance and steadfastness. The Moroccans very much love the Hamas movement…and they love to recall at every occasion the acts of heroism and sacrifice of this great and mighty movement….All of the Moroccans stand beside the Palestinians and the noble Al-Quds [Jerusalem], and if the borders are opened to the Moroccans and the obstacles are removed, you will see how the masses come to help Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds.5
Benkirane, along with tens of other Muslim religious savants, signed two manifestos that openly declare support for jihad as the only way to liberate Palestine in its entirety and call for a hostile stance toward the United States. Below are quotations from the manifestos.
From the manifesto in support of Gaza:
No condemnation of the [Palestinian] struggle; instead, recognition of its legitimacy….Official condemnation of the U.S. stance of supporting and assisting the occupying entity and a call to ambassadors to hold consultations and reconsider relations [with the United States]….The importance of seeking to prepare an untrammeled Islamic legal manifesto that will clarify the Islamic dimension of the Palestine issue and the legitimacy of the jihad and the struggle against the occupying Jews….Adoption of the approach of an economic boycott against Israel and the Zionist entity….An economic jihad to help our brethren in Gaza….Emphasis on support for the path of struggle and for the legitimate jihad in Palestine as the means of its liberation.6
From the manifesto calling for the lifting of the siege on the Palestinian people:
We the undersigned on this manifesto emphasize the complete support of the ummah for the legal and noble Islamic position of the leaders of the Palestinian people, who belong to Hamas and other jihad organizations, in refusing to recognize the state of “Israel” and its fraudulent right to exist in Palestine. We regard recognition [of Israel] as a violation of the tenets of Islamic law and the consensus of the ummah….
We emphasize the right of the Muslim Palestinian people to struggle aggressively for its land…and we view this resistance as legally, Islamically mandated warfare and a political interest, it being forbidden to call for its condemnation or evade it.
We regard every signature on agreements or treaties that renounce the right of struggle, or the right of return of the refugees, or the right of the Islamic identity of Al-Quds in particular and of Palestine in general, as an offense to the ummah, a deviation from its fundamental principles, and a sacrifice of its interests.
We view the jihad-fighting Palestinian resistance, with all of its organizations, as one of the shining stars in the skies of jihad-fighting Islam….
The undersigned affirm to the masses of the ummah that the duty of liberating Jerusalem and rescuing the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only a duty of the Palestinians alone but of the entire ummah, and therefore solidarity with those who cling tenaciously to the sacred land is not an act of voluntary will but, rather, an Islamic legal obligation and a historical responsibility.7
In sum, the media’s accounts of a “moderate” Justice and Development Party winning the Moroccan elections do not accurately reflect this party’s ideology. The purported “moderation” is a tactic aimed at gaining a political foothold, a capacity, as part of the government, to enhance the public’s readiness for Islamic jurisprudence as the source of the country’s constitution and laws.
A party that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing has won the Moroccan elections, and despite its platform’s declarative commitment to strengthen ties with the West, the party’s outlook, its leaders’ statements, and the platform of its parent party point clearly to the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hostile to the West and its culture and views Israel as a cardinal enemy. The victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Morocco further energizes the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for the elections beginning on November 28, and encourages the Brotherhood’s branches that are fighting the existing regime in other countries. The domino effect that began with the revolt in Tunisia is coloring the Middle East green, as the Islamic revolution gradually alters the regional balance of power and, eventually, could well forge a new front to challenge the existing world order.
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4. http://www.marsadmag.org/index.php/2011-07-02-10-07-50/114-2011-10-01-03-32-53 הראיון נערך בשנת 2011.
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Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.