An Ongoing Crisis Between Algeria and France

An Ongoing Crisis Between Algeria and France

Al-Watan, Egypt, October 8

There are many words that can be used to describe Algerian-French relations, but perhaps the ones most applicable today are “tension” and “crisis.” The manifestations of this crisis are abundant. They include statements by President Emmanuel Macron about the fact that an Algerian nation didn’t exist before French colonialism, and the Algerian response to recall its ambassador from Paris and ban all French military flights in Algerian airspace. In a meeting with a group of Algerian expats residing in France, the descendants of the “Harkis” who cooperated with the French occupation, Macron remarked that the “building of Algeria as a nation is a phenomenon worth studying” and then proceeded to rhetorically ask: “Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization? That is the question.” Another crisis between the two countries erupted following Algeria’s refusal to receive 8,000 Algerian citizens whom France sought to deport. The Algerian Consulate in Paris refused to issue travel documents to these men and women until each request was examined on an individual basis. The French government responded by reducing the visa quota allocated to Algerians, especially those linked to the government. In this context, there is a major state of anger that appears in the Algerian media, in the official statements of Algerian institutions, and in the tweets of ordinary Algerian citizens. One can’t help but see that what is happening between Algeria and France is inseparable from the severing of relations between Algeria and neighboring Morocco, which embraced its ties with Israel and turned its back to the Palestinian issue. This was explicitly evident in a statement made by Algerian Chief of Staff Saïd Chengriha, who accused both Morocco and Israel of backing separatist movements in Algeria. The Algerian people view their history with French colonialism as a legitimate national struggle for freedom and independence, in which they paid a heavy price of nearly 6million deaths and massive collective suffering as a result of the French policies of looting, torture, and imprisonment. There is a growing demand for explicit French recognition of this historical and humanitarian responsibility. However, France, as expressed by Macron, aspires to close this thorny file through some symbolic moves and to rewrite history in a way that limits France’s historical responsibility for the massive injustices that Algerians have been subjected to over the years. But history should be written by professional and fair historians of facts, not by partisan politicians who may be ravaged by whims and their personal interests. –Hassan Abu Talib (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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