The news comes months after news reports speculated about signs of a potential“diplomatic normalization” between Morocco and Israel.
Rabat – Hours before the second leg match with Palestinian club Hilal Al-Quds in the Arab Club Championships, Morocco’s Raja of Casablanca found itself at the heart of a highly political, contentious topic.
As Raja prepared to travel to Jerusalem for the match, debates of “diplomatic normalization” between Morocco and Israel have occupied the background of the difficulties recently experienced by some players and technical staff of the Moroccan club.
Reports have so far confirmed that four Rajawi players—Hamid Ahddad, Omar Boutayeb Abderrazzak Ghazout, and Sanad El Ouarfalli—were denied visas by Israeli authorities. It is also understood that some other members of the club’s technical staff faced the same issue.
“Raja Casablanca football team was forced to postpone its travel to Jerusalem until Wednesday after it was rescheduled on Tuesday because of delay in obtaining… visas” for the four players, Ahdath.info reported.
The Israeli authorities have not provided details about the problem with the Rajawi players’ visa applications.
The issue, however, is reported to have been successfully dealt with, and the Raja Casablanca-Hilal Al-Quds game is set to be played today as planned, at 5 p.m. (Moroccan time). Raja won the first-leg in Casablanca by 1-0.
Meanwhile, the visa incident has stirred “normalization” debates, with some voices finding connections between the Raja players’ problems with Israeli security officials and Morocco’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Fans of the Moroccan club who plan to travel to Jerusalem to watch the match have been accused of “normalizing” Israel’s claims on Palestinian territories, reports have indicated.
The main point in such suggestions is that traveling to Jerusalem and having one’s passports stamped by Israeli officials amounts to a “betrayal” of the fight to delegitimize Israel’s authority on Al Quds, Jerusalem.
In response, a spokesperson for the Palestinian club told the same newspaper that the game has nothing to do with “normalizing Israel.”
Instead, argued Tamer Obeidat, Hilal Al-Quds’s spokesperson, a football match with international exposure is much-needed for giving more visibility and legitimacy to the Palestinian cause.
“The Moroccan team will play on the Palestinian, in Al Quds, the capital of Palestine in accordance with the international law,” he said.
“Raja will play with a Palestinian team that has an audience and a managing team, it will not play in Tel Aviv and players and fans’ passports will not be stamped by Israel.
“We desperately need to visit our Arab brothers in order to strengthen our ties, and to feel that there is an Arab body standing with us and supporting us.”
The news comes on the heels of a politically sensitive period in the Morocco-Israel relations. A series of news reports recently speculated about sings of potential “diplomatic normalization” between Morocco and Israel.
There were suggestions that Moroccan and Israeli governments were working on laying the groundwork of a meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI.
In the past months, however, Morocco has adamantly dismissed any suggestions of normalization with Israel.
In addition to King Mohammed’s repeated calls against the move to make Jerusalem the de jure capital of Israel, Morocco has unrelentingly reiterated its “principled” and “firm” commitment to the Palestinian cause.
Most recently, the Moroccan government “firmly condemned” Israel’s expansionist ambitions in the Jordan Valley, citing its concern with safeguarding the “inalienable rights of Palestinians.”