Wednesday, October 11, 2006
"CASABLANCA, Morocco - There is almost no important Israeli event that does not receive extensive coverage in the Moroccan press. That holds true for the investigation of President Moshe Katsav, with all its intimate details, as well as for the affair of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apartments.
The weekly Le Journal wrote last week that whenever King Mohammed VI meets with members of the legislature from the Islamic party, he has difficulty concealing his disgust. New surveys anticipate a majority for this party in the elections scheduled for next year. Were the elections to be held now, the Islamists would be able to form the government.
Official Morocco's secret wish was that Hezbollah's defeat in the war would undermine the prestige of fundamentalism. However, the opposite occurred. According to people close to the royal court, Mohammed VI was astonished by the Israeli weakness that the war exposed. Toward its end, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah became the most popular person in Morocco. "The imam who restored pride to the Muslims," shouted the newspaper headlines.
Not far from there, in the city's poor neighborhoods, hundreds of thousands had finished another day of fasting without electricity, without running water, without education, without work, without a future. The state recently destroyed all the underground mosques that had cropped up in poor neighborhoods, but has not succeeded in destroying the fervor for religion. "I'll tell you what Morocco is," a local resident told me while we toured the glittering neighborhoods of Marakesh: "10 percent who have something to eat, 10 percent who barely have anything to eat, and 80 percent who have nothing to eat."
The threat to the royal regime and the corrupt oligarchy lies in those 80 percent. An official or a policeman or a civil servant brings home about $200 a month. That is why baksheesh (bribery) has become endemic. "Do me a favor, it's Ramadan now and there are a lot of expenses," said a police officer in the Casablanca airport, smiling at me as he checked my Israeli passport. After receiving his compensation, he warmly shook my hand and said: "Barukh haba" ("welcome"). In Hebrew, of course."