Israeli basketball player joins Moroccan league

Israeli basketball player joins Moroccan league, a first in the Arab world
2 min read
13 January, 2022
Israeli basketball player Mohamed Abu Arisha joins the Moroccan league, a step Israeli media branded as historical. Moroccans are not paying much attention to the deal, most likely because of the player's Arab and Muslim background.
Israeli basketball player Mohamed Abu Arisha joins Moroccan league. [Getty]

Rabat - Israeli basketball player Mohamed Abu Arisha is getting ready to play for Morocco’s Michlifen Ifrane Basketball Association (AMI), to become the first Israeli player contracted by an Arab team, Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old athlete played for Hapoel Beersheba in the Israeli Basketball Premier League and Israel’s National Team, before heading to Morocco more than two months ago to join AMI's training sessions, according to the Israeli daily.

The Moroccan team has officially shared Mohammed’s picture with the AMI uniform, while Israeli media are branding the deal as "historical".

AMI’s Instagram post about Mohammed did not stir up much controversy, as the player’s nationality probably went unnoticed because of his Arab name. The caption mentions his training years in Israeli and US sport academies, while omitting the fact that he has played for the Israeli national team.

Even before agreeing to normalise ties with Israel in December 2020, Morocco was allowing Israeli passport holders to enter the kingdom because of the large Jewish Moroccan community living in the Jewish state. 

Since signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords last year, enhancing Moroccan-Israeli relations has become the two countries' diplomatic priority, as Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita asserts that "sky is the limit."

Rabat and Tel Aviv are now connected through direct flights, cultural activities and student exchanges. Israel's foreign and defence ministers both visited Morocco. Cooperation agreements have been signed in different sectors, including military training. According to Spanish media, Israel is reportedly planning to build a military base near Melilla.

The Moroccan state sealed the deal as a patriotic diplomatic step that serves its interests in the Western Sahara conflict, as the US recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory in exchange for  normalisation with Israel. Some Moroccans embrace this argument under the slogan of “our nation first”.

Others are protesting against the newborn Moroccan-Israeli friendship, arguing that national struggles cannot be won by befriending an apartheid state.