Last week, the skulls of 24 freedom fighters were returned to Algeria by the French government. The 24 men were killed in 1849 during the French colonial occupation of Algeria (1830-1962) and their heads were taken to Paris as trophies. They were found in a museum in the French capital and President Emmanuel Macron agreed to their return to Algeria two years ago.
The arrival of the remains on Algerian soil was a moment of great pride for the people of the North African country. Although many massacres and atrocities were carried out throughout the French occupation, the Algerian resistance never wavered. The French thought that the Algerians would forget a little bit of France’s dark history in Algeria, but they didn’t, and the return of the remains was a new victory for that resistance.
The Algerian people believed unequivocally that they would be victorious eventually; that it was inevitable. However, that victory came about through effort and many sacrifices until the colonists left the country. Such victories don’t fall from the sky; those involved have to keep going until the occupation is ended.
Resistance can take many forms: armed, civil and diplomatic. They are all linked and are equally important. In Algeria, even when negotiations were demanded by the occupiers, and agreed to by those under occupation, they took place as the bullets still flew.
The people of Algeria defeated the French and their occupation which lasted for 132 years, a period filled with pain and suffering. The French tortured the Algerians and the families of the martyrs by stealing their bodies so that they could not be buried locally and become a place of motivation for the resistance. Despite this despicable tactic, the resistance and revolution did not die with them. Instead, their blood fuelled the popular revolution, which persisted until freedom was achieved and French colonialism was defeated. It was then and only then that the Algerian people celebrated their victory.
The Palestinians rejoiced at the Algerian victory in 1962, and today the Palestinians rejoice with them again on the return of the martyrs’ remains. And why not, for the Palestinian and Algerian experiences are very similar. Their land has also been colonised by foreigners, and those foreigners also steal the bodies of the resistance martyrs, torturing their families who cannot bury them and have closure.
This is how the Zionists try to break the will of the Palestinian people in order to stop their resistance, but the spirit of resistance will continue until freedom is won and our refugees can return to their land. Then we will celebrate the greatest victory with the souls of the resistance martyrs, especially those still held in Israel’s notorious “Cemeteries of Numbers”. Israel thinks that the Palestinian people will forget and overlook this and its other crimes against humanity, but the blood of the martyrs runs through our people’s veins and resistance will continue.
The brutal Zionist occupation authorities forget history and have not learned the lessons from the French occupation of Algeria and other occupations before it, all of which came to an end eventually. We are just as confident as our Algerian brothers and sisters that victory will come, sooner or later.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 7 July 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.