North African enclave seeks freedom, alliance with Israel

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 |  Israel Today Staff

The leader of the exiled provisional government of a small strip of land on the northern shores of Algeria was in Israel last week, and expressed hopes for both independence for his ancient nation and alliance with the Jewish state.

The area known as Kabylie was an independent nation for much of the past 500 years, but was strong-armed into becoming part of Algeria during French colonization. That despite the fact that the resident of Kabylie are not Arabs like most other Algerians (they are Berbers), and have a distinct culture and language.

Those cultural differences have been a point of contention for well over 100 years. In the late 1990s, government forces and Islamic radicals began attacking Kabylie, and a few years later the government officially banned the Kabylie culture and language.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Ferhat Mehenni, president of the Provisional Government of Kabylie, likened his people's plight to that of the Jews and Israel.

"Both countries share kind of the same path, but Israel already exists – that’s the only difference," said Mehenni, who has been making the rounds of Western governments recently hoping to gain favor for a Kabylie independence movement.

Mehenni said that if Kabylie were to gain independence, one of its first actions would be to forge a lasting relationship with Israel. He even noted that Kabylie applauded Israel's military defeat of Arab armies in 1967 and 1973.

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