A prominent Algerian human rights activist called on the government to acknowledge the rights of Jews of Algerian origin and said such people should be naturalized as he stressed there was a difference between being Jewish and being a Zionist.
Malia Bouzaid, a member of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, launched a campaign to grant Algerian Jews living abroad citizenship as she believed they were suffering greatly because they were deprived from returning to their homeland.
"Algerian Jews meet all the conditions to become citizens," Bouzaid told Al Arabiya. "Most of their fathers or grandfathers were born in Algeria. Many of them were born to Algerian mothers."
Bouzaid said the Jewish issue was very sensitive in Algeria but argued that handling the issue realistically would play a major role in solving many of the problems Algeria has faced for decades.
"What I mean by 'realistically' is learning from the experience of other Arab countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen in the way they preserved their Jewish communities and treated them as citizens," Bouzaid said, adding "'Realistically' also means knowing the difference between Jews and Israel."
Algerian Jews meet all the conditions to become citizens...Most of their fathers or grandfathers were born in Algeria. Many of them were born to Algerian mothers
Activist tells Al Arabiya
Bouzaid stressed that the Jews she met in French cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille pledged allegiance to Algeria rather than Israel and that given the choice they would love to resettle in Algeria.
When asked about French-Algerian relations, Bouzaid said that 25 percent of the decision makers in France were Jews of Algerian origin and that they have the ability to help their homeland if it were to acknowledge them.
"They might get back at Algeria for denying them citizenship by grabbing every opportunity to weaken it in front of the international community. But if Algeria recognizes them as citizens, they will work for its benefit," she said.
The head of the Algerian National Commission against Zionism and Normalization rejected all calls for the unconditional naturalization of all Algerian Jews and said some of them pledge allegiance to other than Algeria.
"We have to differentiate between Jews who willingly left Algeria after the independence and their hands were not stained with Algerian blood and Jews who took part in killing Algerian people and they are many," Khaled bin Ismail told Al Arabiya.
Ismail cited the example of French-Algerian singer Enrico Macias who was born in the northeastern city of Constantine.
"He was a teacher during the day, but in his leisure time he put on the French military uniform and fought against his fellow Algerians," Ismail said, adding in 1956 Jews were asked to join the Algerian resistance fight against French occupation and none of them responded.
"Algeria does not bestow its citizenship on anyone. Those who want to apply for citizenship have to supply the necessary legal documents," he concluded.
Algerian Jews are those who settled in Algeria during the time of the Ottoman Empire through the French occupation that started in 1830.
After Algeria gained independence in 1962, thousands of Jews left with the French soldiers for fear of Algerian retaliation since most of them fought with the occupation.
Currently only 200 Jewish families are left in Algeria mainly situated in the Bab al-Wadi district in the capital of Algiers and in the provinces of Constantine, Tlemcen, Blida and M'Sila.
Jews living in Algeria keep a very low profile. They avoid talking about their religion and their political allegiances but nevertheless they coexist with Algerians of all religions peacefully.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)
We have to differentiate between Jews who willingly left Algeria after the independence and their hands were not stained with Algerian blood and Jews who took part in killing Algerian people and they are many
Head of national commission