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Why does Algeria stop us from organising Gaza solidarity marches?

November 7, 2023 at 9:11 am

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune lays flower to the Monument of the Martyr to mark the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the liberation revolution against French colonial rule in Algiers, Algeria on November 01, 2022 [Algerian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

This week, Algerians have celebrated the 69th anniversary of the November Revolution, in an atmosphere overshadowed by the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza. The situation was mainly characterised by an atmosphere of restricted freedom in Algeria, to the point that Algerians were not allowed to express their solidarity freely with their brothers in Palestine, through approved marches, except for once. This was something that many people around the world — in the US, Europe and some Arab countries, for example — were allowed to do as the Palestinians face genocide at the hands and bombs of the apartheid state of Israel.

The official position on Algerian solidarity marches with Gaza is that it fears popular solidarity movements which could deviate

An infographic titled "Algeria marks anniversary of revolution against French colonial rule". On November 1, 1954, Algeria sparked the struggle for independence, putting an end to 132-year-long French occupation on [Efnan İpşir/Anadolu Agency]

An infographic titled “Algeria marks anniversary of revolution against French colonial rule”. On November 1, 1954, Algeria sparked the struggle for independence, putting an end to 132-year-long French occupation on [Efnan İpşir/Anadolu Agency]

from the cause and criticise the current political situation in the country. This is a country in which the people on the streets have no political and party framework within which to operate. The atmosphere is such that the government banned the national football championship for a while, and now matches take place in empty stadiums because the crowds of supporters had become the largest weekly gathering of popular opposition to everything official, including institutions and discourse.

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The mosques in Algeria are no longer the stimulating centres seen during the eighties and nineties now that the state’s religious affairs bureaucracy has imposed its control and removed all opposition movements from them. They have lost much of the vitality that they used to have due to the defeat of the radical Islamic movements that controlled the religious space in the country.

The ban on marches comes at a time when even the US is seeing popular protests against Israel’s genocide in Gaza. As was the case during the Vietnam War, they are organised by effective social movements, led by university students and the educated urban middle classes, including many Jewish Americans.

The people are demanding the severing of ties with Israel

People in Arab countries that normalised relations with Israel have also taken to the streets, such as Morocco, demonstrating how far they are from the normalised official position. The same and maybe more happened in Jordan, where any movement against Israel’s attacks could take on more dangerous aspects, given the sensitivity of Jordan’s status as a state and society, with all the political scenarios that could develop. This may happen without the desired severing of ties with Israel, which the people are demanding. The popular position in other Arab countries remains varied and at a much lower level than Operation Al-Aqsa Flood carried out by the Palestinian resistance on 7 October.

While popular protests in solidarity with Gaza have been allowed in places such as Qatar, Iraq and Tunisia, where the political arena has been united, the other Gulf states and Egypt block all protests even while the Palestinians are being bombed and killed in great numbers.

Along with mass support in Western cities, where freedom of expression allows protests to take place despite opposition from governments which support Israel and are complicit in its genocide of the people of occupied Palestine, there is a lot of pro-Palestine activism in Latin America. This is not only explained by the presence of large communities of Arab and Palestinian origin, as is the case of Chile — which has recalled its ambassador from Israel — but rather by the traditionally progressive positions of the people, who are politically close to liberation issues around the world. Bolivia has also cut ties with Israel, and so has Colombia.

READ: Algeria calls on ICC to hold Israel accountable for its crimes in Gaza

Arab governments are finding it hard to make such decisions, despite pressure from the street. The opportunity to express their political and humanitarian positions is being denied the people of Algeria, who are too weak to organise themselves independently to defend their national and international issues, including the Palestinian issue. This situation has been created by the political establishment and adopted by the official media and political elites behind it. The Algerians have to be content with the official government position in support of the Palestinian issue, because the establishment disregard the role of freedom of speech as a basic human right. Only those who are free in their own country can stand in solidarity with and defend the freedoms of others.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 5 November 2023

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.