2,000 years of Algerian Jewry end in three months

Although Jews had been settled in Algeria for 2,000 years, the dissolution of their communities took place in  just three months – when the modern state of Algeria  declared independence in 1962.

The Great Synagogue at Oran, now a mosque

1830 French invasion of Algeria. All natives declared equal under Article 5 of the surrender of Algiers.

1845  Consistoire becomes religious governing body of Jewish community.

24 February 1862: appeal court deems Jews of Algeria have French nationality.

14 July 1865: senatus-consulte declares both Muslims and Jews to be French. They may serve in the French army.

24 October 1870: Cremieux Decree declares Jews to be French citizens (with the exception of those in the M’zab south), their personal and civil status governed by French law.

1890s: Far-right French backlash demands abrogation of Cremieux Decree.

May 1897: looting of Jewish quarter of Mostagnanem and Jewish shops in Oran.

Four far-right supporters of antisemite (anti-Dreyfus) Edouard Drumont elected to parliament.

1914: Algerian Jews drafted into French army.

1929, 1933: Jewish – Muslim clashes, some provoked by far-rightists.

3 – 6 August 1934pogrom in Constantine. Shops looted, 25 Jews killed in city and district. Army does not intervene. Economic crisis aggravates relations between Jews and Muslims.

 October 1940: Vichy regime imposes statut des juifs. Cremieux Decree abrogated.

June 1941: quotas on jobs and in education.

November 1942: Jews lead Algerian resistance.

October 1943: Cremieux Decree reinstated. Jews can serve in the French army.

Rise of Algerian nationalism led by the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN)

1956 FLN demands that the Jewish community affirm its loyalty to the Algerian nation.

1st November 1956: 70 attacks take Jewish community by surprise. Between 1954 and 62, declares its opposition to violence. Jews die, some join the pro-French militia, the OAS.

12 December 1960: Algiers Great synagogue ransacked.

1961: Jewish cemetery of Oran vandalised. Jew stabbed to death on his way to New Year synagogue service.

1961: musician Sheikh Raymon Leyris murdered.

 3 July 1962: Algeria declares independence. France declares it will repatriate all French citizens, even those of non-French descent.

May – July 1962: mass Jewish exodus. of 160, 000 Jews, only 4, 000 remain. 135, 000 Jews flee to France, 10, 000 choose Israel.

March 1963: Only Muslims (those with a Muslim father and grandfather) may acquire Algerian nationality.

1971: less than 1, 000 Jews remain.

1992: less than 50.

2007: less than 20.

2011: last Jew assisted by Joint Distribution Committee dies.

Based on  De l’emancipation a l’exode brutale des Juifs d’Algerie by Richard Ayoun, in La Fin du Judaisme en terres d’Islam (ed. S Trigano)

For other country timelines see righthand sidebar under ‘Country by Country’


  • Elyahu,
    There is a whole interview of Ben Bella in French on Islam on line. In it there is a chapter on the question. There he says more or less what you're looking for. It's long but it makes for a fascinating reading.

  • by the way, Simon Malley's son, Rob Malley, is/was a high official in the US State Dept working on the Israel issue and against Israel of course. His father was a communist and he still retains the Communist anti-Jewish perspective. But now he is openly siding with the camp of the "American imperialists," who were once very much loathed and vilified by all true blue Communists.

    Sylvia, as to Ben Bella, can you direct me to any one source, whether French, English, Hebrew, Spanish that presents quotes from Ben Bella on the Jewish and Israeli issues.

  • Elyahu

    Ben Bella had many such quotes about destroying Israel.

    The irony is that he received invaluable help from Jews such as Henri Curiel and Simon Malley.

    A little known fact about Ben Bella that could shed light on his turning Algerian Jews to outsiders as well as on the wording of the article of the code I've quoted above, is that himself was not Algerian "de souche": himself was born in Algeria but both his parents were Moroccans who emigrated to Algeria from the Moroccan interior.

  • I agree with you that it is most irritating that people like Behar are peddling his false political narrative. Perhaps you should write a corrective article for Haaretz, Sylvia!

  • Thanks Bataween. What I would like to see is a site that would debate to the end issue by issue in long form. Posts with appended short comments never give the whole picture unless of course they are presenting facts.

    More importantly, given the state of knowledge about North African Jewry, I think it would be helpful to deal exclusively and intensively with that topic. Many events, much material have been deleted either for ideological reasons, or as a result of generalisation in keeping with the mistaken notion of ONE "Mizrahi heritage", or appropriated out of pure malice. Ignorance of the other and unbridled narcissism might at times play a role.

    If we consider the topic you just posted, the issue has been relaunched lately by one of usual suspects on the Hebrew Haoketz, Behar. Here is someone who is three quarters ashkenazi, one quarter Iraqi twice removed, born in Ramat Gan who is coming to tell us who we really are, that we were wrong all of our lives, total idiots who don't even what is their identity. Enough. That must be put to rest once and for all.

  • Let's remember something about the Algerian War and the aftermath that can be applied in many other places.

    Around 1960, the Algerian struggle against France was considered the quintessence of progressive struggle. The FLN's victory would bring progress, a new and better society, equality and women's rights, so forth and so on, and inspire true revolutions throughout the world, not just the Third World, le Tiers Monde. A New Socialist Third World Man would emerge.
    Well, we now know what did in fact emerge and it was not so pretty. And it did not take long. We don't have to wait till we come to the 1990s to see the mass slaughter that Algerian Muslim can inflict on each other.

    Before, the French army pulled out, progressives throughout the world were assured that the new state would not be a state of Islamic law and Muslim bigotry, etc.

    Be that as it may, maybe somebody can help me locate a quote from Ben Bella. After he had been out of office for years, he addressed the issue of Israel. He said something like this: If Islam cannot destroy Israel [OR rid itself of Israel], that will mean that Islam will collapse on its own. Islam cannot last if Israel endures. If so, Islam will implode.

    I can't remember his words, although I probably read the statement in French. It seems that what Ben Bella said indicates a Muslim phobia about Israel's very existence putting the validity of Islam into question.

  • Thank you both for a most interesting discussion. if you would like to research this question further, PoNR would be very happy to post your findings.

  • I looked at the list.

    Curiel was indeed Egyptian but he dabbed in practically every conflict including the Algerian one and even did time for that.

    Henri Alleg is another non-Algerian Jew (Ashkenazi). He was heavily interviewed a few years ago when the question of torture by waterboarding came up in the US media. He experienced it first hand in Algeria and even wrote a book about it.

    There were Jewish women who reintegrated Algerian citizenship without problems based on another article of the code since they were married to Muslims.

    In fact a woman who was also tortured but not on that list is Lisette Timsit who was married to and later divorced the well known author Kateb Yacine (Nadjma).

    Regarding Audin who now has a statue I think in Algiers his family maintained they were Christians. Maybe. But in my opinion the name nonetheless means "Jews/Judeans" in Berber (Ouday,Auday-Oudeen, Audin).

    There were also liberal Jews who didn't engage in violence but militated against colonialism headed by a known Jewish Algerian philosopher whose name escapes me at the moment.

    This is well worth further discussion –what made them…but in a more formal setting and in a purely scholarly spirit. If you know of such internet venue, let me know.

    For Daniel Timsit he was perhaps the most puzzling. I have a whole draft for an article about him in some drawer.
    The more I think about it, the more it appears to me that understanding the phenomenon would shed light on many behaviors in our era.

  • In 2013, in one Zlabia forum there was a discussion about the Jews who fought in the ranks of the FLN (see the first entry of the link below).


    I cannot attest to the accuracy of the list. I know for sure that Henri Curiel is not associated with Algeria but with Egypt during the years leading to the military coup against King Farouk (see 1984 Gilles Perrault's book "Un Homme Apart" – A book entirely about Henri Curiel). Curiel was a communist third world advocate. He may have helped the FNL.

    I was not surprised at all about those who wanted to join the armed struggle. Similar breaks occurred in Eastern Europe during the socialist revolution between various Jewish social movements. Some Jewish Algerian activists received death sentences. Again, the problem is that these Jews were never acknowledged as having participated in the armed struggle, let alone suggesting that there were in the upper echelon. Simply put, there were not allowed to be in the so-called "party" or being a card carrying members. In a sense, the FLN demands for the Jewish community to denounced French Colonialism required a total break from the French culture, and the total obedience to the dictates of the Stalinist style control. The FLN assassinated in France and in Algeria all those who did not join ranks to its ideology, this includes ALL Arab MNA party syndicalists fighting for the rights of workers in France and for a future democratic Algeria. The murders were brutal. The MNA was first party (social movement) for political equality of all Algerians, the FLN was created a bit later.

    How can Jews (with any political persuasion, that's for or against the FNL) fare in this kind of atmosphere of thuggist revolution. They were from the start a fifth column that had to chance to survive, regardless of participating or not participating in this so-called armed struggle.

  • That's not what I said.

    As a general rule and based on the nationality code, indigenous Jews no matter who they were, could not be admitted as Algerians after the independence. The Jews who remained were French nationals.

    Among them there were Jews who had been members of the FLN (when it was a resistance movement) and who paid a high price for their terrorist activities. I know of one case where Algerian nationality was granted to such person, not as a birthright mind you, but by special decree thanks to friends in high place after investigation (of grandparents and witnesses determined he was not eligible not bei g a Muslim. But that was during the Ben Bella government, the first after the independence, when his former jail companipns were in power.
    Subsequent governments to my knowledge have admitted no Jews as Algerian citizens, not even by special decree.

  • Sylvia, do you have a source for your assertion that Jews were subsequently refused admission to the FLN?

  • You nailed it. Indeed that article of the code also favors the kouloughlis, who were Turkish citizens but lived in Algeria for many generations and were Muslims.

    As to the Jews who were members of the FLN, the first rulers admitted them but the subsequent governments did not. There have not been any Christians Algerians (or Moroccan for that matter) since the Almohads who also ruled over Algeria and part of Tunisia.

    Elyahu os right to make a parallel with Palestinian citizenship since they were also ruled by the Ottomans and had the same type hierarchies-

  • Sylvia,
    I agree with you on the citizenship (Nationality)legal issues, because you are bringing up the legal aspect of what is written and made formal. And certainly, the discriminatory flaw is there for all to see. What I was raising is the socio-cultural aspects of this idea of nationality (citizenship)among the Arab state and particularly Algeria.

    You see, laws are sometimes bended to benefit one group or to marginalize others depending of the power struggle on the time. In Arab countries, laws are not only bent all the times, there are at times, disregarded for cases that benefit one group. Your example of Bouteflika fits this. He passes the test of "jouir du status musulman" but fails the Algerian paternity. You see, it does not matter, Algerian officials can with a brush of a pen make anyone an Algerian citizen because it benefit them. Of course, Jews, after the independence have been denied the citizenship because of hatred and the perennial dhimi status, not because of the article code. The code was written only to exclude Jews, but exceptions are always made for those to join the ranks. Many Frenchmen stayed in Algeria and were given citizenship because they helped logically or materially with the armed struggle. I do not know ho many Jews were in this category.

    In sum, what I was trying to convey is that the idea of citizenship is meaningless to Arab states, because of undemocratic, rigid, authoritarian and exclusionary aspects of the culture. Yes, you can write all the laws you want, but in the end, they are not binding and can change swiftly, mostly to the detriment of groups (i.e., Jewish subjects) or to the benefits of others (i.e., anyone joining the majority mold).

  • Elyahu the hypocrisy doesn’t stop there the gas-rich territory that is today Eastern Algeria ( Colomb Bechar, Tindouf, the Touat) was actually Moroccan territory occupied by force by Algeria.
    The French discovered there rich deposits in 1952 and annexed it to Algeria. In 1963 Algeria supported by Cuba and Egypt went to war with Morocco over it.

  • Sammish there are also the "kouloughlis" who are the descendents of Turkish janissaries and local women.

    Bouteflika was born in Oujda Morocco when it was annexed to Algeria by the French. To me, Bouteflika resembles more Erdogan than any native Algerian.

  • Chapitre VI Article 32 du Code de la nationalité algérienne

    ,Lorsque la nationalité algérienne est revendiquée à titre de nationalité d'origine, elle peut être prouvée par la filiation découlant de deux ascendants en ligne paternelle, nés en Algérie et y ayant joui du statut musulman.


    When Algerian nationality is claimed on grounds of nationality of origin, it can be proven by filiation derived from two ascendents on the paternal line who have held Muslim status.

    There is no doubt that this article of the code was meant to oppose any claim to nationality by Jews. Who else was of Algerian origin who was not Muslim or Jewish?

  • Bataween,
    Yes, I agree. Tribes with flags, guns and I may add "senseless bravado". 🙂

  • To clarify my point about Algeria's law of citizenship, citizenship is given to groups who are Muslims first, and also to others; but it means nothing. The concept of citizenship can only mean something if a county abides by some forms of democratic principles. That's why I brought forth the notion tribal affiliation. It does not mean that Algeria denies citizenship to the various different regional groups. It is only that citizenship is meaningless. Why have citizenship when you are second class citizen? or some laws are set against you to the utmost. I know there are different levels and degrees of separation. In Algeria (and in most other Arab/Muslim countries) these are invisible.

  • How interesting, Sammish. What you say fits in with the idea that Arab states are just 'tribes with flags'(and guns!).

  • Laws or ideologies governing the citizenship are a bit complex when comparing countries. The case of France (under Vichy regime period)is a telling one. Vichy French racial laws, because they were rooted on religious and later on, framed on a pseudo-scientific racial categories,did not discriminate against French ethnic groups(to my knowledge)like "les Bretons, les Limousins, les Alscaciens, les Basques, les Provincials, etc…" [sorry, English doesn't translate]. In a sense, these groups all identified themselves as roman Catholics. And many were ardent anti-Semites. Only, some Huguenots stood against bigotry.

    The Algerian case was different. The laws of citizenship were primarily based on religious Islamic affiliation, but also on linguistic and regional (tribal affiliation). This aspect is often overlooked. The regional tribalism is extremely important. Those who are now in power (took over from the French) and killed all opponents, are all from the Eastern part of Algeria (Chaoui region). The Algerian revolution was so brutal in terms of liquidation of all those who did not join the ranks of the National Liberation Front(FLN). The Chaoui dominate the Army, hate the Berbers and all other regional groups, specially those of Algerois (Central Algeria) and the Oranais (Western Algeria).

    Even under the mantle of Islamic homogeneity, the tribalism brews under in extreme tension and can spur extreme level of violence and outright extermination. One wonders why Arab countries can never be democratic. The case of Algeria is telling one.

  • Sylvia makes an important point that is much too little known, even to academics. But then many academics nowadays are like a chorus of clowns. Especially in the USA.

    Now, what may be slightly better known today is that all Arab states but Lebanon declare themselves Muslim states in one way or another. And then, the would be additional Arab state, "palestine," has a draft constitution that also declares Islam the state religion. And few if any in the international community criticize Mahmud Abbas and his Palestine Authority for having such a constitution. Furthermore, as far as I know, the laws for citizenship in the would be state of "palestine" is much like what Sylvia describes for Algeria. Earlier PLO documents going back many years definitely stipulated similar principles for "palestinian" citizenship as Algeria has.

  • Another point: only Muslims whose grandfather was a Muslim may acquire Algerian nationality. The leaders of the revolution seem to have been strongly influenced by Vichy racial laws to come up with that one.

  • Decret Cremieux granted French citizenship only to those Jews who lived in the three departments under French control in 1870, Algiers Oran and Constantine. Jews in the South were refused French nationality until the 1960s, on the eve of Algerian independence when there was barely time to file the paperwork.

  • Algeria has long lost its beauty and soul, maybe because of the exodus of Jews, but it is also the inability of rulers and the ruled to create a society that is worth its name. Another failed state ruled by a military junta. The majority of Algerians prefer to leave for Europe. The political repression is the name of the game for anyone who challenges the status quo. The irony is that the country elites and the masses chased away everyone that does not prescribe to their culture and Islamic ideology.

    Self-inflicted disaster. I think it is a curse.

  • [cont'd 3rd part]
    Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.

    Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.

    This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran.

    That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred

  • [cont'd]
    As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.

    Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.

    These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

    In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution.

    Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.

    Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’ i.

  • Bret Stephens wrote up the expulsion of Jews as a general phenomenon of the Arab lands. Algeria fits into the broader paradigm:
    The Meaning of an Olympic Snub
    The Arab world has a problem of the mind, and its name is anti-Semitism.

    By Bret Stephens Aug. 15, 2016
    An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal.

    If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.

    That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.

    Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism. [cont'd]


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