Far-right figure's appointment to Algerian-French friendship group branded 'disgrace'
The French parliament has appointed a far-right lawmaker, Jose Gonzalez, as vice president of the Algeria-France Parliamentary Friendship Group.
The move in the final days of 2022 has sparked outrage, given Gonzalez's controversial views on France's occupation of Algeria.
Gonzalez's past statements have resurfaced, with people questioning his suitability for the role given how sensitive diplomatic ties between Algeria and France remain.
Responding to questions about France's colonial crimes in Algeria, Gonzalez said he didn't think the French army had committed crimes.
The French lawmaker, who was born in colonial Algeria, also defended the actions of the Secret Armed Organisation (OAS), a paramilitary group that sought to prevent Algerian independence from France through bombings and assassinations.
"Frankly, I'm not here to judge whether the OAS has committed crimes. I don't even know what the OAS was, or almost not at all," he told reporters.
A young French political activist, Sarah Metennani, said that Gonzalez's "nostalgia for colonial times" and his "revisionist history of colonisation" meant that his appointment was an "absolute disgrace".
Antoine Leaument, another social media user, added that "appointing to this post this man whose first speech in the Assembly was to say that he was nostalgic for French Algeria is a shame."
Gonzalez is a politician from the far-right National Rally (RN) headed by Marine Le Pen.
Following elections held in June, RN became the largest opposition party in the France assembly, a significant boost to the far right in the country.
In his first speech to the French Assembly, he recalled being torn from a "remote France" in reference to Oran, Algeria, where he was born.
"I left a part of my France and many friends there," he said.
Following his speech, he told journalists that "many Algerians will tell you: when are you [the French] coming back?"
Responding to the criticism, Gonzalez told his Twitter followers, "Thank you for your support regarding my nomination. Some may not have understood… But this place that I now occupy within this friendship group honours me and obliges me; not to judge the past but to look to the future."
Algeria has long had a fraught relationship with France, following 130 years of French colonisation and an eight-year war of independence that left hundreds of thousands dead.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.