Following Georgetown University’s Sheikh Abdullah Saleh Kamel Distinguished Lecture on Arab Studies, Houston University Professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti sat down with the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs to discuss Algeria and Palestine’s common struggle for independence.
GJIA: Could you briefly explain the relationship between Algeria and Palestine?
AT: There’s been a long history of Algerian-Palestinian relations. I focus on the fraternal aspect of this relationship, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s when there was anti-colonial sentiment that strongly tied the two nations together. They were both fighting the same kind of enemy and their struggles had to do not only with imperial powers, but also with the real presence of colonial settler populations. Palestine played a big role in supporting the Algerian Revolution from 1954 to 1962 by showing its solidarity through actions like fundraisers. The Algerian Revolution served as a model for the Palestinian movement, which Algeria also supported.
GJIA: Do you think that the relationship between Algeria and Palestine is unique, or are there other cases of this type of relationship around the world?
AT: There are other cases, and the Palestinians enjoyed close relationships with other revolutionary movements. The Algerian-Palestinian relationship was particularly close, and I’d argue that it was actually a fraternal relationship. There was joint planning and work. They had a very open discussion about what Palestinians need to do and how the Algerians could help them in ways that transcended just the immediate level of “yes we support you” or praising each other in diplomatic circles. There actually very serious support for each other on the ground.
GJIA: How has the relationship between the two nations evolved?
AT: The relationship between Algeria and Palestine was very strong until the Oslo agreements were signed and Palestine’s political trajectory changed. The Algerians continue to be supportive, and they still have a very close relationship with the Palestinians, but it is not the same as it was in the revolutionary phase of the Palestinian struggle. Algeria could offer more to Palestinae in that regard because of its own revolutionary history. Overall, they have a very different type of relationship in the modern day.
GJIA: What are the biggest points you hope that the lecture attendees take away from your talk?
AT: The main point is to reflect on the importance of anti-colonial revolutions and to think about the different ways in which we can view them. The social science model often dominates discussions of revolution. Anti-colonial revolutions, which were important in the making of the modern world, are overlooked. We do not talk enough about them, partly because we have a Eurocentric vision of the world. You hear about the importance of the French Revolution and the American Revolution, but for most of the people living outside the United States, anti-colonial revolutions had an enormous impact. They led to the independence of large swaths of the planet. It is important to take the legacy of these revolutions seriously as they have major implications for the present.
Part of the reason we do not study events like the Algerian Revolution is because there is anxiety around studying anti-colonial revolutions. These great social phenomena are reduced to mere acts of violence. To actually take them seriously, to view them in their full human complexity, would mean coming to terms and grappling with a country’s own colonial history and colonial present. It becomes much more difficult to justify invading and occupying other countries if you start taking seriously the resistance that the populations of other countries have displayed against foreign invasion and control in the past. This is very relevant, especially in the case of the United States’ relationship with the Middle East.
GJIA: Do you see any similarities in any contemporary alliances or groups?
AT: The nature of the present world is quite different. The anti-colonial model was much more progressive. It was open to the world and it drew its strength from this. The region should understand that this internationalism is what allowed these anti-colonialist struggles to succeed at the end of the day. Returning to nativism or more exclusionary forms of thought does not help. Middle Eastern nations need more intersectionality; we need more vision that is global and that is about actually overcoming injustice along humanist lines. A closer connection to that tradition would be very good for the people of the region.
Abdel Razzaq Takriti is the inaugural holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History. Professor Takriti received his DPhil from St Antony’s College, Oxford University. His dissertation was awarded the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) Malcolm Kerr Prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities and the British Society of Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for Best Dissertation in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. In 2014 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and in 2015 he was an Academic Visitor in Modern History at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His opinion pieces on Arab affairs have appeared in a variety of English and Arabic media outlets including The Guardian, Aljazeera English, Al-Ahram Weekly, Politics in Spires, and more.