An investigation into a crime that was committed in Paris forty one years ago was reopened a few weeks ago. The crime, the perpetrators of which have never been identified, was the assassination of Henry Curiel on the 4th of May, 1978. Curiel was taking the elevator down from his residence on his way to a meeting, and before he opened the iron arched door which looked like the tangled branches of a tree, he saw an unknown man waiting for him and staring into his eyes through the gaps. Bullets were fired from a silenced pistol on the Egyptian anti-colonialist socialist Henri Curiel, leaving him dead and alone on the floor of the lift.
By Dr Hazem El-Refaey
On the 25th of April 2019 in Paris, a plaque was inaugurated in homage to Cureil, as a memorial to the ‘insatiable militant internationalist’, as he was described the daily, l’Humanité.
Henri Curiel was an exceptional figure. He was one of the founders of the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (HADETU), the Egyptian organization that defined its duties, as its name implies, in the struggle against colonialism and exploitation. Thousands of peopled joined this organization, among them were some who became famous figures in the history of Egypt, such as Ahmad Hamroush, Yusuf Siddeq, Yusuf Idris, Fouad Haddad, Zaki Murad, Mohammed El Gendi, Shehata el-Nashar, Sharif Hatata and Rifaat el-Said and others in all fields of life.
This organization expanded at an amazing speed, transforming from the first cadre school in the history of Egyptian socialists to the association of el-Gamaheer Newspaper for the journal’s street vendors and then ultimately to the HADETU.
HADETU agreed on the United Nations resolution which called for the partition of Palestine in 1948 and demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.
While members of the Muslim Brotherhood were attacking Jewish neighbourhoods in Cairo to force Jews to immigrate out of Egypt to Israel, HADETU members were busy establishing the Jewish Anti-Zionist League. Thus, the slogans and actions of the Muslim Brotherhood served to create the Zionist entity by driving the Eastern Jews to make ‘Aliya’ to Israel, while others called for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
HADETU was a forerunner in foreseeing the events which were yet to come, so it was faced by a political storm for its position, as the time came for the idea of the establishment of a Palestinian State on any Palestinian land which was regained after Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.
Henry Curiel remained a communist and anti-colonialism activist, even after his Egyptian nationality was withdrawn from him and he was expelled by boat from Egypt in 1950, during the reign of the monarchy – he did not stop. His existential causes were politics and the struggle against colonialism.
Egypt remained in his life, and he played a clear role in warning Egypt about the aggressions of 1956. When he realized that he would not return to Egypt, he became involved in the liberation causes around the world. He played an active role in the struggle led by the Algerian Liberation Front, which led to his arrest in France. Then he participated in the liberation movements in Mozambique, Angola and South Africa. Algeria honoured Henry Curiel during his lifetime for his role in its liberation.
Henry Curiel had friends who happened to be Jewish by birth, such as Joseph Hazzan and Shehata Haroun. But the truth is that religion was merely a coincidence in their lives. All of them, like Shohdi Attiya and Abdul Khaliq Mahgoub, were guided throughout their lives by the program of national liberation emancipation and justice.
Henry Curiel was deeply committed of Gamal Abdel Nasser, and amidst the flames of the National Liberation Movement, the Three Continents Conference was called for in 1966 in order to launch the National Liberation Movement to new horizons.
The new movement was under the patronage of Egypt and Cuba and included infamous figures among whom were Henry Curiel and Mahdi Ben Baraka, the Moroccan thinker and leader.
In October 1965, Al-Mahdi Ben Baraka, who was also a strong Nasser supporter, was mysteriously assassinated in Paris, and his body was not found.
Until now, questions about who killed him and what was the role played by Oufkir, the horrible Morrocan general, and who facilitated a cover up on the political crime in France, remain unanswered and unknown.
The assassination of Mahdy Ben Baraka was one of the preludes to a wider attack on Egypt, which culminated in 1967. Within the past few weeks, in the memorial event of the mysterious assassination of Henry Curiel, Ibn al-Mahdi bin Baraka attended that limited celebration.
Curiel lived with danger as he was engaged in the most dangerous areas of politics and action, including the Arab-Israeli conflict. Amid great battles, bloodshed and shattered cities, Henry Curiel had relations with all parties in the Arab world, including the Palestinians and the Israelis. Those various relations were source of great danger, suspicion and doubts about him, which gave rise to accusation of being an agent aligned towards Zionism, while accusing all those who tried to defend him, as well.
The man who surpassed the limitations of nationalistic thought believed that direct relations between Arabs and Jews were the only bridle that could restrain Zionism and prevent wars which serve Israel and the gang that rules it, as he and his fellow communist Jews used to say.
Henry Curiel was an adventurer with extensive and complex relations with revolutionaries, opponents and national liberation movements stretching from Moscow to Tel Aviv, Paris, Beirut, Omdurman, Mozambique, Johannesburg and Cairo.
So it was inevitable that such a man could not have met a natural end. There are also testimonies of Egyptian political and security symbols who confirm the man’s bias toward Egypt in the period of national liberation, among those are the former Culture Minister Tharwat Okasha and Egyptian intelligence chief Amin Hoidi.
There were great testimonies in their memoirs about him and his fellow Egyptian Jewish Communists whose opinions on the struggle against colonialism remained firm and crystal clear. They had a vision concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict which, while sided with the Palestinians, also envisioned that seeking peace between Arabs and Jews was the only way forward.
Insisting on making peace with Israel is part of the historical battle with it, and this explains the constant Israeli evasion. Henry Curiel had no children, but instead he had comrades who shared the same one cause that was the struggle against colonialism.
Translated by Julia A’isha