Non­fic­tion

Lethal Provo­ca­tion: The Con­stan­tine Mur­ders and the Pol­i­tics of French Algeria

Joshua Cole

  • From the Publisher
January 1, 2013

Part mur­der mys­tery, part social his­to­ry of polit­i­cal vio­lence, Lethal Provo­ca­tion is a foren­sic exam­i­na­tion of the dead­liest peace­time episode of anti-Jew­ish vio­lence in mod­ern French his­to­ry. Joshua Cole recon­structs the 1934 riots in Con­stan­tine, Alge­ria, in which ten­sions between Mus­lims and Jews were aggra­vat­ed by right-wing extrem­ists, result­ing in the deaths of twen­ty-eight people.

Ani­mat­ing the unrest was Mohamed El Maa­di, a sol­dier in the French army. Lat­er a mem­ber of a noto­ri­ous French nation­al­ist group that threat­ened insur­rec­tion in the late 1930s, El Maa­di became an enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­er of France’s Vichy régime in World War II, and fin­ished his career in the Ger­man SS. Cole cracks the cold case” of El Maadi’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the events, reveal­ing both his pres­ence at the scene and his motives in pro­vok­ing vio­lence at a moment when the French gov­ern­ment was debat­ing the rights of Mus­lims in Alge­ria. Local police and author­i­ties came to know about the role of provo­ca­tion in the unrest and killings and pur­pose­ly hid the truth dur­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion that fol­lowed. Cole’s sen­si­tive his­to­ry brings into high relief the cru­el­ty of social rela­tions in the decades before the war for Alger­ian independence.

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