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A Primer on the Occupation of Western Sahara

As Israel recognizes the sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara, it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with the indigenous Sahrawis and their right to self-determination.

The area known as Western Sahara today, commonly referred to as ‘Africa’s last colony’ was occupied by Spain up until 1975. Despite the International Court of Justice declaring the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, the kingdom of Morocco has engaged in settler colonialism ever since.

The US was the first country to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the region, in December of 2020. 

Israel’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory can be observed as an evolving Zionist strategy, driven by incentives for further regional extraction and control. 

Israel and Morocco established low-level diplomatic relations in 1994 when Tel Aviv opened a liaison office in Rabat. The office closed after the Second Intifada in 2000, but informal relations never stopped. In 2021, the Israeli office in Rabat reopened as the Abraham Accords were signed. Economic and military cooperation between the two states seems to have heavily increase. 

Western Sahara is rich in minerals, phosphates and fisheries; which Israel is eagerly seeking to exploit.

In fact, the fishing industry plays an active role in the settler colonization of Western Sahara; as octopus has been heavily extracted by European nations, Spain chief among them, without the consent of the indigenous Sahrawi peoples. 

The Western Sahara Watch (WSRW) reported a shipment of phosphate rocks being exported from Western Sahara to Israel in March of 2022; a flagrant violation of international law.

In a 2002 opinion, the U.N. has deemed extraction of resources from “non-self governing territories” without the consent of the people of that territory as illegal. In three following rulings, the European Union Court of Justice has, in various forms, condemned trading in the region without the consent of the Sahrawi people. 

The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination. 

“Such a position emanating from the Zionist entity or any other party to legitimize the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is null and void” the Sahrawi Ministry of Information stated. 

Polisario representatives said resiliently that the move by Israel would “only reinforce the determination of the Sahrawi people to pursue their national struggle on several fronts”.

They denounced “subversive joint security and military maneuvers aimed at destabilizing the North African region and the Sahel in general”.

By 2022, Israel had sold the Kingdom of Morocco 150 drones; sowing carnage and bloodshed

Sahrawis face surveillance, harassment, detention, and torture. 

Zwelivelile Mandela, the grandson of late South African leader Nelson Mandela, has earlier claimed his full support for the struggle of the Sahrawi people and their legitimate right to self-determination and freedom.

Algeria has since reiterated  its support for Sahrawi independence, stating that Israeli recognition “constitutes a flagrant violation of international law”.

On the 31st of July, a Moroccan man was sentenced to 5 years in prison for criticizing the King’s normalization with Israel, which has a wide record of spreading division and surveillance in the country. 

We must be wary of Zionism and its ever evolving neocolonial practices; paying close attention to the situation as it develops. 

In solidarity with the people of Western Sahara and Palestine, for a better world! 

Additional Resources on:

Moroccans mixed over Israel’s recognition of Western Sahara (

Western Sahara: EU trade in octopus driving Morocco’s occupation (

Collective of Sahawari Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA)

Western Sahara Resource Watch (

Israel condemned by Algeria for supporting Morocco over Sahara region (

Polisario says Israel’s Western Sahara move ‘null and void’ (

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