The League of Arab States and the Maghreb Liberation Movements 1952-1962 (Algeria Case Study)

As part of its doctoral thesis series, the ACRPS has published The League of Arab States and the Maghreb Liberation Movements 1952-62 (Algeria Case Study) by Rachid Ould Boussafa. The book looks at the inner workings of the Arab League, documented in the periodic reports of the General Secretariat, and in other the Arab League resolutions, regulations, circulars, letters, statements, and session minutes. It is concerned with the role of the Arab League in supporting the liberation movements in the countries of the Maghreb, despite the idea of joint Arab action being originally British, when British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden called for the establishment of an entity that would unify the Arabs and strengthen economic and cultural ties between them. However, the League of Arab States’ founders made it a platform to advocate for liberation in the Arab world, and to support voices calling for the overthrow of colonialism. The liberation movements in the Maghreb received the bulk of the attention of the emerging body led by Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam (Azzam Pasha).

The book consists of four chapters. In the first chapter, the author focuses on the circumstances of the founding of the League of Arab States and its basic texts, and on the Arab Maghreb office, which was established in 1947 and played a leading role in framing the liberation movements in the Maghreb. According to the author, most scholars link the establishment of the Arab League with the historic speech delivered by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden on 29 May 1941, in which he said: “The Arab world has made great strides since the settlement reached at the end of the last war, and many Arab thinkers desire for the Arab peoples a greater degree of unity than they now enjoy. In reaching out towards this unity, they hope for our support. No such appeal from our friends should go unanswered. It seems to me both natural and right that the cultural and economic ties between the Arab countries, and political ties too, should be strengthened. His Majesty’s Government for their part will give their support to any scheme that commands general approval.” These clear expressions were an incentive for the Arab states, independent at the time, to move in the direction of unity, benefiting from the British support for this endeavour, which was renewed two years after this speech.

In the second chapter, the author considers the Arab League and Libya, which became independent years before the rest of the Maghreb, concluding that the Arab League was greatly disappointed by the fate that befell Libya due to the overlap of foreign interests, and especially the British influence. The Libyans accepted an imperfect independence in the shape of the federal system of government that is not in line with the unitary nationalist ideas advocated by the Arab League.

The author also discusses Tunisia, which ended up in a crisis between the Arab League and the Tunisian government, which concluded agreements with France in which the Tunisian national movement split and engaged in bloody fighting. Finally, the author moves to Morocco. The Arab League showed great sympathy to the point that it helped free Abd el-Krim Al-Khattabi from the French, noting that the Arab League considers Mauritania an integral part of the Kingdom of Morocco.

In the third chapter the author turns to the Algerian cause, dividing the liberation movement into three stages. The first stretches from the outbreak of the revolution until the end of 1956, during which the Arab League’s interest in the issue escalated, as hopes for a peaceful liberation dissipated and armed struggle became inevitable. The second stage was set over the course of 1957 and 1959 and was pivotal in the history of the revolution in which the League of Arab States played a major role in supporting the Algerian popular movement, which became a central issue for the League. Internal developments starting in 1956 gave the revolution an external impetus that was strengthened with the formation of the first Algerian interim government, and the Arab League began to take practical measures aimed at supporting the armed struggle with money and weapons, and a budget for Algeria was approved for the first time. The final stage stretches until independence, during which the Arab League's interest in the Algerian cause exacerbated, considering it an example of struggle and liberation. The Secretary-General sought to demonstrate the great achievement of the Algerian people as an achievement for the Arab League, and with it all the member states, providing donations and assistance to the Algerian people.

In the fourth chapter, the author deals with three major issues. First, he examines the reports of the Secretary-General of the Arab League, including regarding the humanitarian conditions in the revolution, looking at orders to practice acts of torture and executions that were carried out by the French army and the situation of refugees in Tunisia and Morocco, as well as the conditions in the detention centres set up by France inside Algeria. Second, the author considers the internationalization of the Algerian issue in international forums, especially in the United Nations, which was facilitated in part by the Arab League and its member states. Third, he goes on to study the negotiations pursued by the Arab League, and its position on the Evian Agreement. In general, the League of Arab States was not a party to the direct negotiations between the Algerians and the French, but it followed them step by step and functioned as a base for the Algerian negotiators who could rely on the diplomatic weight of the member states.

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