Algeria likes to remember that she was the first to support the Palestinian cause, the two peoples continue to feel united by a common history. On November 13th 1974, Yasser Arafat was invited to the rostrum of the 29th session of the UN General Assembly, chaired by a young Algerian Foreign Minister, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In November 1988, Abdelaziz Rahabi, then spokesman for the Algerian Foreign Ministry, remembers it as if it were yesterday: Algiers welcomes the members of the Palestinian National Council against all international pressures. In 2010, four months after the Israeli navy attacked a Turkish flotilla that was trying to force the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the MSP (Algerian Islamist party) was sending a humanitarian caravan to the Palestinians.
“As Algerians, we lived a colonization that resembles point-by-point Israel: the French usurped our land, alienated society, humiliated our parents… It is therefore normal that we should be involved”, recalled Abderrezak Makri, now president of the party, to the daily newspaper El Watan.
Fares, an Algerian who has lived in Gaza for 21 years, analyzes this relationship with a lot of humor.
“Algeria remains one of the best supporters of the cause, of course. But its relationship with Palestine is not as strong as it once was. A Palestinian who wants to come to Algeria now needs a visa, which was not the case before. The bottom line is that there is no Algerian diplomatic representation in the Palestinian territories!”
Algiers considers that the installation of an embassy or consulate in the occupied territories would amount to recognizing the status of the occupier. Mahmoud Abbas did not come to Algeria for nearly ten years after the Algerian president urged the Palestinians to “solve their problems among themselves.”
“Algeria has always provided aid of all kinds to Palestine, well before the other countries,” Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal counter-declared last year.
Popular rallies had been held in several cities in the country and the presidency of the Algerian Republic called for a minute’s silence on July 31st 2014, urging businesses to cease all activities for five minutes, and had released $25 million in emergency humanitarian aid for Gaza.
At the beginning of August in Algeria the same year, the Algerian Minister of Maghreb Affairs, the African Union and the League of Arab States, Abdelkader Messahel, reiterated “Algeria’s principled, inalienable position and its full commitment is vis-à-vis with the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights to the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital”.
Screening of the infiltrators, Khaled Jarrar’s documentary, awarded at the international festivals of Dubai and Chicago, was not surprisingly welcomed by the Algerian public. The two Algerian artists who accompanied Khaled Jarrar during his residence– Arslan Naili, designer, and street artist Yasser Ameur– realized this.
“The fact that he is a Palestinian facilitates exchanges. We see it in the popular neighborhoods where people go, people feel immediately concerned,” they testify to MEE.
“I am touched by the welcome that people reserve for me and by the dialect that I do not always understand, so poetic and musical.”, says Khaled Jarrar.