Henri Curiel

Henri Curiel (13 September 1914 – 4 May 1978) was a left-wing political activist in Egypt and France. Born in Egypt, Curiel led the communist Democratic Movement for National Liberation until he was expelled from the country in 1950.

Henri Curiel
A man in glasses
Henri Curiel in the 1960s or 70s
Born(1914-09-13)13 September 1914
Died4 May 1978(1978-05-04) (aged 63)
Paris, France

Settling in France, Curiel aided the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale and other national liberation causes, including in South Africa and Latin America. In 1978 Curiel was assassinated in Paris; his murderer has never been identified.


Early life and familyEdit

Curiel was born in Cairo to an Italian Sephardic family. He became an Egyptian citizen in 1935.[1] His brother Raoul Curiel became a respected archaeologist and numismatist, specializing in Central Asian studies. A cousin was Eugenio Curiel, a physicist and anti-fascist militant who was murdered in Italy in 1945. Another cousin was the noted British KGB spy George Blake. In an interview with Jean Lesieur, published in the French magazine L'Express on Feb 21, 1991,[2] the latter said that the older Curiel had been influential as a communist in shaping his political views, as Blake met him as a teenager.[3]

His son is the French journalist Alain Gresh, who was born in Cairo in 1948 and grew up in Paris.[3]

Political career in EgyptEdit

In 1943 Curiel founded the communist Egyptian Movement for National Liberation (HAMETU) الحركه المصريه للتحرر الوطني حمتو, which in 1947 became the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (HADETU). He was repeatedly arrested, along with many other communists. Despite his Egyptian citizenship, he was forced to emigrate in 1950.

The Democratic Movement for National Liberation was an active participant in the 1952 revolution led by the free officers and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The revolutionary council and the free officers had many members from HADETU; the most eminent of these were Khaled Mohy el din خالد محي الدين, Yousef Sedeek يوسف صديق and Ahmed Hamroush احمد حمروش. Curiel settled in France and led a circle of Jewish communist emigres from Egypt known as the "Rome Group".

Anti-colonial activism in ParisEdit

Curiel worked for the Jeanson network which supported the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) during the Algerian War (1954–62). He was arrested by the French security services in 1960. Curiel was a founder of "Solidarité", a support group for various anti-colonial and opposition movements in the Third World (in particular Africa and Latin America), such as the African National Congress (ANC).

In 1976 he initiated contacts with Israeli and Palestinian representatives willing to negotiate a mutual recognition. Several meetings, later known as the "Paris talks", were organized.[4] Under the chairmanship of Pierre Mendès France, they included Issam Sartawi, adviser to Yasser Arafat; and Uri Avnery[5] and Mattityahu Peled, members of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (ICIPP).

On 21 June 1976, Georges Suffert published an article in Le Point reporting Curiel as the "head of the terrorist support network", connected with the KGB. He was put under house arrest in Digne, an administrative measure that was lifted once the accusation was demonstrated to be untrue.[6]

An American CIA report from 1981 (a Special National Intelligence Estimate) said that Curiel's organization "has provided support to a wide variety of Third World leftist revolutionary organizations", including "false documents, financial aid, and safehaven before and after operations, as well as some illegal training in France in weapons and explosives." The authors further comment that his group's "association with non-communist and nonviolent leaders, including clergymen, has tended to cloak the nature and extent of its operations."[7]


Curiel's grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery

Henri Curiel was assassinated in Paris on 4 May 1978. Two far-right groups (OAS and the Charles Martel Group) claimed responsibility, but the case is still unsolved.

Police and journalistic investigations suggest other suspects:

Henri Curiel is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Curiel's work in promoting dialogue between the PLO and left-wing Israelis was continued throughout the 1980s by the Comité Palestine et Israël Vivront , headed by Sorbonne lecturer Joyce Blau – Curiel's close associate and fellow Egyptian exile.[10]

In fictionEdit

Henri Curiel appears in several parts of the 1982 spy thriller Shadow of Shadows by Ted Allbeury, whose plot is focused on George Blake. Allbeury takes at face value the assertions of Curiel having been a KGB agent, and assumes that for some time in the 1950s Curiel was Blake's KGB contact – for which there is no historical proof of any kind.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There?, 1990, pp. 106–107.
  2. ^ L'Express, Paris, Feb 21, 1991
  3. ^ a b "George Blake: I spy a British traitor". The Independent. 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  4. ^ "IISH – Archives". www.iisg.nl. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  5. ^ He referred to "my friendship with Henri Curiel, a Jewish-Egyptian revolutionary who helped us in our contacts with the PLO", Uri Avnery, 'Two Americas,' Counterpunch 24 March 2008 Archived 27 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b "Henri Curiel, citizen of the third world", Le Monde diplomatique, April 1998 (in English and French)
  7. ^ Soviet Support for International Terrorism and Revolutionary Violence: Special National Intelligence Estimate (1981). p. 23. Available at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-08. Retrieved 2009-10-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Lucien Aimé-Blanc, 2006
  9. ^ Alexandre Adler, 2006
  10. ^ The archives of the Comité Palestine et Israël Vivront are deposited at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam [1]


  • Georges Suffert, "Le patron des réseaux d'aide aux terroristes", Le Point, 21 June 1976
  • Roland Gaucher, Le Réseau Curiel ou la subversion humanitaire, Jean Picollec, 1981
  • Jean-Marie Domenach, "Trois ans apres: L'affaire Curiel. 1. La preuve ne doit pas apparaitre". Le Monde, 16 mai 1981. 2." Espion et terroriste, certes pas". Le Monde, 17–18 mai 1981.
  • Gilles Perrault, Un homme à part, Bernard Barrault, 1984
  • Gilles Perrault, "Henri Curiel, citizen of the third world". Le Monde Diplomatique online, English edition, 1998/04/13, http://mondediplo.com/1998/04/13curiel
  • Alain Gresh, The PLO: The Struggle Within: Towards an Independent Palestine, London: Zed Books, 1985
  • Jacques Hassoun, "La vie passionnée d'Henri Curiel", Revue d'études palestiniennes, 1998
  • Recherches Internationales, Crise et avenir de la solidarité internationale. "Hommage à Henri Curiel", n° 52–53, 1998
  • Charles Enderlin, Paix ou guerres. Les secrets des négociations israélo–arabes 1917–1995, Stock, Paris, 2004
  • Alexandre Adler at the AJOE Congress, 6 March 2006
  • Lucien Aimé-Blanc, Jean-Michel Caradec'h, L'Indic et le Commissaire, Plon, 2006
  • Jonathan C. Randal, "French Socialists Start Digging Into Overtones of Curiel Killing," International Herald Tribune, 24 August 1981

External linksEdit