Movies as Political Propaganda: The Battle of Algiers, Part II

A Jewish family in Biskra, Algeria, early 20th century
A Jewish family in Biskra, Algeria, early 20th century

by Robert J. Avrech

Part I can be found here.

We continue our analysis of The Battle of Algiers, one of the most influential propaganda films of the 20th century. We rely on Alistair Horne’s, Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 , the most thorough and accurate history of that war yet written, bearing in mind that the movie, The Battle of Algiers, conveniently eliminates vital facts regarding the sickening terror codified by the Algerian IslamoNazis. Historical truth would severely undermine the film’s foundational purpose: to spread Marxist/Leninist/Jihadist propaganda under the guise of the always dim and fashionable anti-colonialism which pervades postmodern culture.

Who were the leaders of the Battle of Algiers? Who were the men so willing, so anxious to spill oceans of innocent blood? This is not an academic question, for as we shall see, the cast of characters bears little relationship to the romantic images presented by Gillo Pontecorvo in The Battle of Algiers.

The Cast of Characters

Mohamedi Said: Born in 1912, he had grown up with early memories of a French officer slapping his grandparents. Fanatically religious, he worked during the Second World War with the Pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Husaini, joining the Muslim S.S. legion formed by the Mufti. In 1943 he was parachuted into Tunisia as an Abwehr agent, was captured and sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 1952. Whether out of nostalgia for the good ol’ days, or a whacky sense of fashion, he frequently appeared in public wearing a Wehrmacht steel helmet.

Ait Hamouda, AKA Amirouche: A tall, reed-thin montagnard with wide-set eyes and a thick moustache. He was also a deeply religious Muslim. Of remarkably quick and decisive intelligence, he assumed command of a small mobile unit, imposed iron discipline and made his men go on forced marches of seventy kilometers a day. Within six months he had over eight-hundred men under his command. Soon, he established a reign of terror in the Soummam region of Eastern Kabylia.

Ramdane Abane: Involved in a massacre that took place in 1945, he was jailed by the French. In prison, he studied Marx, Lenin and ever popular in the Arab Muslim world—Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Released in 1955, he immediately made his mark as an outstanding political intellect. Something of an Algerian Robespierre, his popular and catchy dictum was: “One corpse in a jacket [a civilian] is always worth more than twenty in uniform.” From the spring of 1955 Abane’s philosophy was central to the Battle of Algiers, both in its external and internal operations. Abane would tolerate no “deviationist bodies.” Translation: anybody who disagreed with his group, the FLN, died–quite horribly.

You would think that Abane and his terrorist cells would turn their attention immediately to their prime enemy, the French. But no, Abane realized that he had to tame the Algerian population. And after the Phillipville Massacre, Abane and the other leaders realized, with great satisfaction, that terror worked.

Abane had no interest in bringing the masses to the movement through propaganda. Pressure and blackmail on the average poverty stricken fellah, peasant, worked much more effectively. The terror cadres “with the knife literally under his [the fellahs] throat, make him hand over 50,000 francs.”

The leaders of the Algerian revolution never sought to attach the rural populations to their cause by promising them a better life, a happier and freer future; no, it was through terror that rural Algerians submitted to tyranny.

In 1956, a visitor was shocked at the silence he found in the typical Algerian villages, each one of them of which would be held by a local FLN thug who was responsible simply for collecting “taxes” and “food supplies.”

It was also a customary initiation ritual for a new recruit to be made to kill a designated “traitor,” a French officer, or colonialist in the company of a “shadow” who would dispatch the recruit if he did not commit the murder. It was a form of terror apprenticeship.

Yes, even after Philippeville, it was fellow Muslims who bore the brunt of FLN terror. Over the first two and a half years of the Battle of Algiers 6,352 Algerians were murdered by the terrorists as opposed to 1,035 Europeans.

Losing Body Parts, The Islamic Way

The FLN announced that cigarettes and liquor were unIslamic and would no longer be tolerated. It was also a way of boycotting French products.

The punishment for any Algerian caught with liquor was having their lips severed. It was called, the Algerian Grin.

The punishment for smoking was the severing of the nose.

In the Casbah the Chardor was now mandatory on all women. The repression of women was brutal and uncompromising.

Interpolation #1: Hamas is the Proud Stepchild of Algerian Terror

In Gaza we see the exact same pattern play itself out. Hamas is no charitable organization. It is a ruthless terrorist group that gleefully sends out killers to slaughter Jewish civilians. They do not bother setting up sanitation services. They do not organize effective medical services. They do not build power grids. They have no idea how to build an infrastructure for this is an organization whose roots are solidly embedded in clan and tribal rivalries. They have no interest in building a state, only in destroying the Jewish State.

Hamas collects taxes, AKA protection; they eliminate so-called traitors, repress women, torture and murder homosexuals, and steal every penny—we’re talking billions—of international aid that comes their way. Oh, and they kill Jews. Read the Hamas Covenant, it overflows with Jew-hatred and is proudly genocidal, vowing to eliminate Israel and kill all Jews everywhere. And for extra added fun: parts of the covenant are based on that notorious Tzarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document Hamas considers a reliable source. Which testifies to the racist Jew-hatred that animates these (and all) IslamoNazis and their Western enablers.

End Interpolation #1

Y’Allah, Let’s Get Rid of the Jews and Call it National Liberation!

Finally, we turn our gaze to the Jews of Algeria. Needless to say, director Gillo Pontecorvo—born Jewish but his real religion was Communism—cleanses The Battle of Algiers of all references to the Jews of Algeria and their treatment at the hands of the FLN. Indeed, Pontecorvo created a Judenrein film, much like the Algerian terrorists ultimately created yet another of twenty-two Judenrein Arab Muslim states.

The Jews in Algeria comprised about one fifth of the non Muslim population. Tragically, they were squeezed between the European colonists and the native Muslim people.

Many Jews could trace their ancestry back to the expulsions from 16th century Spain; some even claimed to pre-date the invaders who surged out of the Arabian peninsula in the 11th Century. Many Algerian Jews believe that their ancestors fled to Algeria from Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple, 70 ACE. No matter the exact dates, the Jews of Algeria were an old and established community with deep roots and an abiding love of the land.

By the 1830’s the Jews of Algeria had become an underprivileged community, fallen into poverty, and it was with the advent of the French colonists that their opportunity arose to improve their status. By the 1870’s more prosperous Jews from outside Algeria began to arrive and the quality of the lives of the native Algerian Jews improved considerably.

In the Second World War, Petain’s anti-Semitic regime repealed articles of Jewish Rights, The Cremieux Decrees, and Jewish teachers and school children were expelled from all European schools in Algeria.

By the 1950’s the Algerian Jews were tugged in several directions. The poorest tended to identify with the Muslims rather than the French colonials, and many were members of the Communist Party. The wealthiest Jews identified strongly with the Parisian life style and scorned the local Muslims.

By 1954 a majority of the Jewish intellectuals and professionals sided with the Algerian insurgents. In August 1956 a group of Constantine Jews wrote a public letter declaring that:

“One of the most pernicious maneuvers of colonialism in Algeria was, and remains, the division between Jews and Muslims… the Jew has been in Algeria for over 2,000 years; they are thus an integral part of the Algerian people.”

Frantz Fanon wrote:

“The Jews were to provide invaluable services as the eyes and ears of the revolution, often acting as double agents against the French.”

This was not enough for the FLN. By 1960, they tightened the screws on the Jewish population, demanding that the Jews en masse, declare itself publicly for the FLN.

Most Jews were uncommitted. There was never such a thing as a united front among the Jews of Algeria. Besides, there had been too much indiscriminate terror, too much throat slitting, too much rape; the Jews were not fools, they knew that such revolutions eat their young.

The Jews of Algeria found themselves subjected to the cruel logic of terrorism. Typical was this letter to a Jewish shopkeeper:

“Sir, if on Wednesday you do not hand us a sum of two million francs, your daughter will be abducted and will serve as a mattress for the army of liberation… If you do not follow our instructions, your shop will be blown up and we shall have your skins, yours and your wife’s.”

In the spring of 1960, a terrorist grenade was tossed in the Jewish ghetto. In March the following year Jacob Chekroun, the Rabbi of Medea, was murdered on the steps of his synagogue. The following month an FLN boycott–some things never change–was imposed on Jewish businesses.

Whole families were riven by conflicting loyalties. The Levy family of Algiers is a particularly poignant and tragic tale. The father would be assassinated by the French as an FLN sympathizer while his son was murdered by the FLN on suspicion of being a French agent.

Fade to Black

The end of the Algerian Jewish community finally came with France’s withdrawal from Algeria and her independence in 1962. And as always, when the day of reckoning came, all Jews–rich, poor, pro-FLN, anti-FLN –were lumped together into the same boat–a boat that would sail away from Algeria, never to return.

Over 100,000 Algerian Jews, most of them poor, backward, and disease ridden, fled their homes, and poured into France.

The ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Algeria by the Muslims was complete.

But in a sense they were more fortunate than the loyal Muslims who fought for France and who were now abandoned to their fate to be massacred in the thousands by the vengeful FLN.

The Jews of Algeria were the historic canary in the coal mine. To judge the decency of any society, look at how the Jews are treated. The French treated the Jews wretchedly and so did the Muslims.

Now, the children and grandchildren of these Algerian Jews are once again witness to their homeland being devoured by Muslim terrorists. The French will do nothing; they know not what to defend for they believe in nothing. The irony is devastating: the former colonials are now being colonized by Islamists whose cruelty and ruthlessness make the French Paras look like amateurs.

In ten to twenty years the last of the Algerian Jewish community will be forced to leave the shores of France — for Israel and America.

For the Jews, this will be the final fade to black of The Battle of Algiers.

As for Pontecorvo’s film, so popular on college campuses, revered as an important work of cinema, as I’ve said, it’s a skillful film, a riveting film, a convincing film, but like all totalitarian propaganda–consider the films of Nazi Leni Riefenstahl and Bolshveik Sergei Eisenstein–it’s a clever lie, slickly produced propaganda unreeling at 24 frames per second, poisoning impressionable young minds.