Algerian separatist leader’s visit to Israel stirs controversy


The visit of the leader of an Algerian separatist movement to Israel stirred controversy and raised concerns over destabilizing the security of the country.

Ferhat Mehenni, leader of the Paris-based Mouvement pour l’autonomie de la Kabylie (MAK), French for the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabyle, visited the Israeli capital Tel Aviv and called for the support of what he called “the honorable members of the Knesset.”

The visit, scheduled to last for four days, is part a plan by MAK, which calls for the independence of the tribal northern region of Kabyle, to establish strong ties with countries all over the world especially with U.N. member states like Israel, said Mehenni.

“I am sure the Kabyle people will support me in such a move,” he told Israeli and Algerian media

Algerian political parties slammed Mehenni’s visit and accused him of attempting to destabilize the security of the country. For Qassi Eissa, spokesman of the socialist National Liberation Front, Mehenni’s action only represent him and a small group of people.

“This group does not enjoy any popular support in the Kabyle region, which is an integral part of Algeria and whose people are Algerian citizens,” he told the Algerian news website Tout Sur l’Algerie (All about Algeria).

“This is an absolutely irresponsible action,” he added.

Abdullah Gaballah, head of the Islamist-oriented Front for Justice and Development accused Mehenni of attempting to undermine the unity of Algeria.

In the same vein, spokesman of the Islamic Renaissance Movement Amohamed Hdeibi called for striping Mehenni of his Algerian citizenship because he is a threat to national unity.

Ferhat Mehenni, a 51-year Amazigh folk singer, bases his demands for the autonomy of the Kabyle on alleged crimes committed against the residents of the region by the Algerian authorities.

Mehenni, known for his advocacy of establishing ties with Israel and opening an Israeli embassy in Algeria, does not have a wide popular support in the region for whose independence he is fighting.

The two main political parties in Kabyle, the Front of Socialist Forces and the Rally for Culture and Democracy, declare their opposition to Mehenni’s plans and their efforts to thwart them through participation in the Algerian political scene.

“Our party has decided to take part in parliamentary elections to prevent the division of the country and counter those who jeopardize its unity,” Front of Socialist Forces spokesman Chafeia Buaich told Al Arabiya in an earlier statement.

According to the Algerian newspaper Annahar al-Jadid, Mehenni’s visit to Israel is the third on one year. He travels to Tel Aviv from Paris via the Israeli airline al-Aal and uses his French passport, the paper reported.

The paper added that statements by Khafiet Mariza, a political affairs bureau official at the Israeli Embassy in Paris, showed the Jewish state’s support for Mehenni and his movement.

“The Israeli government supports Mehenni in his struggle for grating Amazigh minorities in Algeria their autonomy and the same applies to their counterparts in Morocco and Libya,” said her statement.

On the other hand, Zohra Charout, the military attaché at the Israeli embassy in Bucharest, said in a phone interview with Annahar that Mehenni has received one million Euros from the Jewish community in the United States.

“Israel will be the first country to open diplomatic missions in the Republic of Kabyle,” she said.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)