While anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world, creeping into mainstream society even in Western Europe, in some parts of the world this socio-political disease has been an integral part of state policy for decades.
This is the case in Algeria, which not by chance has been labelled the most anti-Semitic state in the world. Approximately 22 million out of 24.8 million – yes over 80%! of the adult population are hostile against Jews. It is not just an ever-present idea, it is a belief present at the core of Algeria and deeply-rooted in the very foundations of the country.
When interrogated about Jews, Algerians will freely admit they think Jews have too much power in the business world, as well as over the world’s media and financial markets. They also believe that Jews speak too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust and that people hate Jews because of how Jews behave.
But the truth is, how would they know? When the war of independence of Algeria against France started in 1954, there were approximately 130,000 Jews in the country. Today, there are fewer than 200, although a precise number is hard to gauge due to overwhelming fear of persecution by the remaining Jews.
Most Algerians today have never met a Jew, so where are these biases coming from?
The Algerian state apparatus is to blame for inciting such policies. Since its independence, successive governments in Algeria have adopted policies and speech that is downright hateful towards Israel and Jews. Israel is compulsively designated as the “Zionist entity” in the media and by official bodies, as it is too repugnant for them to acknowledge the existence of the state. Jews or people known to have Jewish lineage are regarded with hostility or, at the very least, with barely veiled suspicion.
There are multiple examples of this hostility. In December 2007, Mohamed Chérif Abbas, the Algerian minister of Veterans Affairs, banned the visit of French Jewish singer, Enrico Macias, of Algerian origin. Macias was invited by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy in the framework of his official visit to Algeria, a decision made based on the belief that his coming constituted “provocations.”
Abbas added of Sarkozy, who is also of Jewish origin: “You know the origins of the French president and the parties that brought him to power. This was the reason for a movement which reflects the opinion of the true architects of Sarkozy’s rise to power, the Jewish lobby which has the monopoly of the business in France.”
There are also violent incarnations of this hatred. A video that surfaced on social media in 2015 showed the Algerian National Gendarmerie chanting during marching drills “Oh, Arabs… sons of Arabs… march on… and turn your guns towards the Jews… in order to kill them… slaughter them… and skin them.”
Modern crusade against winds of normalization and regional stability
These declarations show the emptiness of the allegations held against Jews or people with Jewish roots. They are anchored in stereotypes and prejudices that have been fabricated over the course of centuries. This irrational hatred does not stop at Jews and Israel: It expands and contaminates anything and anyone seen as supporting them.
With the historic signing of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords in September 2020 – an agreement to normalize relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain – the positive momentum of peace-making was launched. Sudan followed suit soon after, as well as Morocco. More nations are expected to eventually normalize with Israel in the near term, including Oman and Saudi Arabia. The accords represent a significant opportunity for the Middle East to build positive ties between Israel and Arab nations.
This positive momentum was demonstrated in March during the Negev Summit, organized in Sde Boker in Israel’s south, which was attended by representatives from the U.S., Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE. All the parties involved agreed to build a strong cooperation against the threat stemming from Iran and its affiliates.
Those who were against the summit taking place underlined the lack of presence of Palestinians or Jordanian representatives. Algeria abstained from commenting, showing rare prudence likely due to the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had recently participated in the summit, was on his way to Algiers afterwards to meet Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The Algerian leadership has not displayed as much restraint ever since the Abraham Accords were signed, with Tebboune deploring the “mad rush among Arabs to normalize ties” with Israel. Algeria has no intention to participate in the agreement and has partly decided to sever relations with Morocco over their decision to joining the accords.
Algeria’s relations with Morocco already had a rocky past. An Algerian satirical show showed the King of Morocco Mohammed VI as a puppet, with one of the participants stating that “Jews are a danger for Algeria and Morocco,” while someone else corrected him saying that the problem was actually “Zionists” and not Jews, followed by the initial participant stating that they are one and the same.
Sabri Boukadoum, Algeria’s foreign affairs minister, was cited as stating that Algeria has never been “shaken by colonialism and will not be shaken by Zionists and whoever allies with them,” while Algerian media called the Abraham Accords “nothing more than lobbying steps by Morocco to consolidate its control over Western Sahara.”
In August, Algeria blamed Israel for its wildfires, stating that among the two groups that set them, the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) pro-independence group, was backed both by Israel and Morocco.
Isolation and shortages caused by pursuit of irrational positions
Algeria’s policy of promoting anti-Semitism and aligning with extremist forces to destabilize the region will lead to the North-African states growing isolation. Parts of the Arab world are finally realizing that holding on to antiquated views about the region – and Israel’s place in it – goes against their own self-interest. The path towards this paradigm shift was paved mainly by diminishing anti-Semitism from their own streets. While Algeria uses this extremist narrative to avert public attention from severe internal problems, no anti-Semitic scapegoating can wash away the blatant scarcity of goods, the long queues of Algerians waiting for days to receive their share, the stampedes, turning the quest for food into life-threatening endeavors. An article from the BBC calls attention to the fact that cooking oil is in such short supply that buying it “feels like buying drugs.”
Jews did not cause Algeria’s mass shortages of essential products. These are the direct consequence of the failures of the leadership, as well as the endemic corruption in the country. It would serve the Algerian people well to remember who the true and present danger to their own safety and stability really is.