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Samir Bennis releases his first book on the relations between Morocco and Spain

By Houda El Mouatassim Billah

Morocco World News

Rabat, January 11, 2013

On Wednesday, January 9th, the Association of Moroccan Economists organized Mr. Samir Bennis’ presentation of his book entitled “Political, economic and cultural relations between Morocco and Spain (1956-2005)” at the National Library of Rabat.

The presentation was characterized by the presence and intervention of Mr. Ismail Alaoui, Morocco’s ex-minister of Education and the writer of the preface of Mr. Samir Bennis’ book, Dr. Mustapha Mchiche Alami, international consultant at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Mr. Mustapha Ktiri, president of The Association of Moroccan Economists and High Commissioner for Former Combatants, Mr. Mhammed Grine, Vice president of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, alongside many others who share Mr. Bennis’ concern for the relations between Morocco and Spain.

When interviewed by Maghreb Arab Press news agency about the reason he wrote his book, Dr. Bennis said: “When comparing the books published by Spanish writers and those by their Moroccan counterparts, there is almost no scientific book that makes accurate research, promotes Moroccan positions or defends Morocco in general, which prompted me to take the initiative in order to motivate other Moroccans to do research in the same field.”

During the presentation, Mr. Bennis, who is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Morocco World News, emphasized this fact by stating that this lack of references emanating from Moroccans leaves enough room for Spanish writers to come up with all kinds of groundless, fake and negative stories about Morocco, like saying that the latter was established as state in 1956, which happens to be the year of its independence.

This is the case when some Spanish intellectuals try to refute Morocco’s arguments regarding its claims over the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. “Throughout my research, what struck me was the effort made by some authors to prove that Ceuta and Melilla belonged to Spain even before Morocco was constituted as a State,” Mr. Bennis said.

“This fallacy, amongst many others, is the result of the limited number of intellectuals and educated people in Morocco who can stand up to these lies and present concrete scientific proofs that contradict such claims,” highlighted Mr. Bennis.

In this regard, he added that “We can’t just put the blame on the Spaniards, for if we need our image or position to be improved, no one can do it better than us as Moroccans.”

“It saddens me to see the inertia of our intellectuals and our cinema. I always wonder why we never make movies or soap-opera that would not only educate Moroccans themselves about their history, but also help introduce it to a foreign audience.”

Thus, “Moroccans are held responsible for this reciprocal ignorance about their country and must promote Morocco’s history through movies for example, just like Egypt does, not leaving room for any misconceptions to surface ever again,” Mr. Bennis added

Moreover, the presentation tackled the issue of the unstable political relation between Morocco and Spain, as the latter is still colonizing two North-Moroccan cities. Surprisingly enough, the latter issue, unlike that of Gibraltar, is not on the agenda of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee.

“This fact is due to the diplomatic blunder of Morocco when it accepted in the early 1960’s to dissociate the question of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as the Sahara from that of Sidi Ifni, which had no strategic importance for Spain,” emphasized the author of the book. “Because of this uncalculated move made by the Moroccan diplomacy, Ceuta and Melilla are not on the agenda of the United Nations and from a legal perspective, they are not considered colonies by the UN,” he added.

By the same token, he stressed that until June 1966 in all UN resolutions regarding decolonization no mention was made of the settlement of the Sahara issue according to the principle of self-determination as we know it nowadays. “The UN position in this regard changed only when Morocco accepted to envisage a different approach than that applied to the other Moroccan territories still under Spanish occupation.”

“This is what allowed Spain to buy more time and come up with a strategy aimed at preventing Morocco from regaining its sovereignty over the Sahara,” he said.

In the end, Mr. Bennis noted that Morocco doesn’t have a clear strategy to deal with the problem of the Sahara. “In most instances we lack actions, all we are good at is reacting to others’ actions that they make us undergo,” he said. “On the contrary, Polisario is everywhere promoting its propaganda.”

Mr. Bennis suggested setting up research centers which will have enough expertise to provide the Moroccan government with the right strategies and recommendations in order to put in place well-rounded strategies that would enable us to strengthen our position.

For his part, Mr. El Alaoui argued that the economic crisis that Spain has been undergoing since 2007 is what’s making the political tension between the two countries cool down to some extent. Spain has set up many businesses in Morocco where it employs more than 8000 Spanish workers, according to Dr. Mchiche, who lost their jobs back in their home country due to the crisis, and headed to Morocco in order to make a living. These economic relations between Morocco and Spain, Mr. El Alaoui emphasized, are what’s saving the political ones. Otherwise, the tension between the two countries would have been a lot worse.

“We hope that Mr. Bennis finds time to translate his book from French into Spanish, so that it reaches a wider audience and draws its due attention to the cause it tackles,” Mr. Ktiri said at the closure of the event. In this respect, he offered to sponsor the publishing of the Spanish version of the book once translated.

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