Sunday, 20 May 2012

"Jews of Egypt" interviews with expelled jews

A film called the “Jews of Egypt” is being released soon in Egypt. The trailer shows egyptian jews loyal to Egypt and innocent of any crime who were ethnically cleansed from Egypt. This is now happening with the Copts albeit in slower motion. It is believed that around a quarter of a million copts have left Egypt in the last year.

One of the jews who was kicked out the country was Henri Curiel, a revolutionary who later headed the Algerian FLN. He had previously been one of the jews rounded up by Egyptian police during the Second World War. The pro nazi Egyptian authorities had hoped to give the Germans a 'goodwill' present of jews when they marched into Cairo.

The ANC received much support from the Solidarité organisation set up to help revolutionaries benefit from the skill gained over many years by Curiel and his friends. It is possible that Solidarité had become such a thorn in the side of the apartheid regime of South Africa that it decided to kill him. Anyway Curiel was killed by a couple of assassins and the killers and who sent them are still unknown.

Curiel's greatest coup apart from divesting France from one of its 'departments', Algeria was of delivering in advance the plans of the1956 attack by Britain, France and Israel to Nasser. As with Stalin's receipt of the plans of operation 'Barbarossa', it doesn't seem to have helped much to defend the country and Israel's forces reacting to the closing of the Straits of Tiran to their shipping, routed the Egyptians in 100 hours. Maybe however this foreknowledge explains why Ariel Sharon's forces fell into a strongly prepared trap when he moved forces into the strategic Mitla Pass. Curiel's treacherous actions towards France the country that had given him refuge and Israel were made in favour of a country that had expelled around 40,000 jews ( Once Algeria became independent it also expelled its jews in 1962 after taking away their citizenship). 

Nasser's reward was to order Curiel to get his Egyptian citizenship back. It didn't happen however.


“In 1942, when Cairo seemed about to fall to Rommel’s Afrikakorps, the wealthy Jewish community crowded into trains heading for Jerusalem. Henri Curiel decided to remain, intending to organise resistance in the event of Nazi occupation. Without the knowledge of the British authorities, he was arrested by the Egyptian police, who were busy rounding up the remaining Jews as a welcoming present for the victorious German army. The prison was full of Egyptian agents working for the Nazis who had been arrested by British counter-intelligence. From his cell, Curiel heard thousands of demonstrators chant the name of Rommel. It was a shattering discovery. The mass of Egyptians were playing Hitler against Churchill. Those later known as the Free Officers, led by Anwar Al Sadat, were plotting with German intelligence and preparing to stab the British in the back. Was this connivance with Nazi ideology? Egyptian patriots were clearly prepared to form an alliance with the devil. “

“Apart from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian people had not reacted strongly. But defeat in the first Arab-Israeli war was felt as an unbearable humiliation. Hundreds of communist militants had been arrested as soon as martial law was declared. For the Jews among them, their fate was sealed. In the words of Raymond Stambouli, a comrade of Curiel: "The war spelled the end of everything we had dreamed of and were beginning to achieve. We considered ourselves Egyptians, even if the Egyptians themselves considered us foreigners. Now it was over. We were no longer simply foreigners. We were Jews, i.e. enemies, a potential fifth column. Which of us could have foreseen that?"

“In November 1957 he introduced him to Francis Jeanson, who was running a support network for the FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front). The network had been in existence for a year but had set up a proper organisational structure only a month before. For three years Henri Curiel devoted his organisational abilities and exceptional militant energy to the FLN support network. His wife Rosette worked with him, as did Joyce Blau and Didar Fawzi Rossano, both of whom had come from Egypt. When several activists were rounded up by the French security services, and Francis Jeanson’s cover was blown, the Algerians asked Henri Curiel to take over.”

On 20 October 1960 Henri Curiel was arrested. He spent eighteen months in prison. Once the peace agreements had been signed, the deportation order issued at the time of his arrest ought normally to have been executed. He escaped deportation thanks to old and powerful connections. In Cairo, in 1943, his Amitiés Françaises organisation had rendered important services to Free French resistance workers, some of whom were now ministers in De Gaulle’s cabinet.

When he emerged from Fresnes prison at the age of forty eight, he knew he had been banished to the sidelines. But if he could not find a place in any organisation, he could act as a linchpin. His intellectual training and vast reading had made him a repository of European revolutionary experience. For years he had worked side by side with militants who had learnt the skills of underground activity under the Nazi occupation or in helping the FLN. He decided to make those skills available to third-world liberation movements whose organisational weaknesses he knew well since his time in Egypt
On this basis, Curiel set up an organisation that came to be known as Solidarité. It was a centre for the provision of services. A few dozen militants, most of them French, with widely varying backgrounds and affiliations (Protestant clergyman, trade unionists, Catholic priests, members of the Communist Party acting on an individual basis, etc.) placed themselves modestly at the service of other militants from all over the world. Their aim was not to act as political mentors, but simply to teach a number of crucial skills that could make all the difference. How to detect and shake off a shadow, print leaflets with a portable press, forge documents. How to use codes and invisible ink. Basic medical care and first aid. Possibly the use of arms and explosives. How to read maps, interpret terrain, and so on. Many of the instructors had doubts about the usefulness of such brief periods of training. But the trainees’ tragic lack of experience soon convinced them. Militants like those from the ANC, exposed to the cruellest and most sophisticated repression, turned out to know nothing of the elementary rules of underground activity.

No comments:

Post a Comment