Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:48 pm (KSA) 16:48 pm (GMT)

Algeria mulls visit by pro-Israeli French singer

Macias is an Algerian-born French Jewish singer (File)
Macias is an Algerian-born French Jewish singer (File)

The Algerian government could permit popular French-Algerian singer Enrico Macias to visit his birthplace of Constantine, despite his pro-Israeli sentiments.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem said Macias, a hit French Jewish singer of Algerian origin, could accompany French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his upcoming visit, only the second of its kind since 1971.

Macias is known to have participated in demonstrations supporting former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during the second intifada (uprising).

In a press statement, Belkhadem said he has not changed his mind about the singer, but added: "We do not have the right to choose who will be in Sarkozy's delegation. His guests will be our guests."

Mohamed Mosallam, an expert on Jews in Constantine, some 500 kilometers from the capital Algiers, said bringing Macias will hamper Sarkozy's efforts to establish close ties between the two countries.

"Macias' brother-in-law has a history in Constantine," Mosallam told "He massacred 100 Algerians, was executed by the freedom fighters of that time. That's why the whole family left on the eve of the independence in 1962."

That same year, Macias made his first ever recording, titled "Adieu mon pays," (Farewell, my country), which he composed on the boat to France. He became an overnight sensation after appearing on French television, and has since gone on to release numerous hits and perform in several countries.

Born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine's Jewish ghetto, the singer has always expressed a strong desire to go back to his hometown.

He was delighted to receive an invitation from Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2000. But Algerians, led by Belkhadem, joined forces to prevent the visit, which they considered an implicit normalization of relations with Israel.

After the cancellation of the proposed tour, Macias wrote a book called Mon Algérie, telling of his love for his native land.

Political analyst Abdul-Aaly Razaki told that he doesn't expect the government to block the Macias' visit, which coincides with the singer's 69th birthday.

Razaki said it did not ban a visit in 2003 to Wahran by Hamlaoui Mekachera, the former Minister of Veterans Affairs in France, and one of its most-wanted fugitives for being a traitor to the revolution.

In a statement to AFP last Sunday, Macias said he would very much like to accompany the French president, but would defer if it caused problems.
France's Elysee Palace said it would gauge the reaction of Algerian authorities before making a final decision about whether to include the singer in Sarkozy's delegation.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

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