France MP from far-right National Rally sparks outrage praising Algeria colonial period

France MP from far-right National Rally sparks outrage praising Algeria colonial period
Jose Gonzalez, a member of the far-right National Rally party, evoked nostalgia for France's colonial legacy in Algeria during a speech in the French parliament, causing outrage among MPs.
3 min read
29 June, 2022
Jose Gonzalez is a member of the far-right French National Rally party, headed by Marine Le Pen [Getty]

A French MP has sparked outrage for appearing to praise the country's occupation of Algeria during a speech on the opening day of the new parliament.

Jose Gonzalez, a member of the far-right National Rally, made the remarks on Tuesday during a speech where he spoke nostalgically about France’s colonial past in Algeria.

He referred to himself as a "child of a France moreover torn from its native land by the winds of history".

His party, National Rally, made record gains in the last parliamentary election winning 89 seats.

Gonzalez, who was born and raised in the Algerian city of Oran while the country was still under French occupation, added: "In 1962, I left part of my France there."

In 1962, Algeria gained independence from France following a bloody eight-year war, killing thousands of people.

In the same year, thousands of French 'pieds-noirs' - such as Gonzalez - left Algeria and returned to France upon the North African country's independence.

Pied-noir refers to people of French or European descent who were born and raised in what was then called French Algeria. The vast majority also supported French colonial rule.

Roland Lescure, a deputy from Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche party, labelled Gonzalez’s comments as showing "the true face of the French far-right", reported the French daily Liberation.

Another MP, Sabrina Sebaihi from the Green Party, accused Gonzalez of "shamelessly and tearfully evokes the memory of French Algeria under a round of applause", calling his comments "a day of shame".

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Later on, Gonzalez told reporters "come with me to Algeria in the Djebel region, I will find many Algerians who will tell you: When are you [the French] coming back?".

When asked about French crimes in colonial Algeria, Gonzalez claimed that there were "no war crimes" in Algeria. "I’m not here to judge whether the OAS [The Secret Armed Organisation] committed crimes or not".  The OAS was a far-right military organisation that carried out terrorist attacks in a bid to prevent Algeria from gaining independence. 

The recognition of French war crimes in Algeria is a controversial topic with President Emmanuel Maron refusing to apologise for France's colonial past as of January 2021, but instead offered to make "symbolic acts" aimed at emphasising recognition of the harsh colonial reality and helping reconciliation between the two countries.