In the memory of June 5th 1967, some recall defeat others celebrate victory, but very few remember the tragedy of the forgotten ones. After the war between Israel and Egypt started in 1967, the Egyptian government took the decision to take Egyptian Jews into custody until they evacuated them from the country. One of those Jews after leaving to Paris, wrote his accounts of his last days in Cairo prisons. That letter that was published in the French newspaper Le Express Dec 1967. The writer remains anonymous but the truth not. Its very hard to write any commentary on this letter, so I will leave you right to it.
I was arrested by telephone on 25th June 1967. Kamel Daoud was the name of the special services officer who called me on the evening of the 23rd. He had arranged an appointment for the following day at 1pm. I waited for him: he didn’t come. I called him again on Saturday evening. We made an appointment for the next day.
On Sunday morning before going to the club as I did every Sunday, I made a detour through the political police bureau. He was there. I allowed myself the luxury of a presentiment: was he going to arrest me?
“Never on Sunday,” he said and burst out laughing. Since when did one arrest people by telephone? He offered me coffee and asked if I could prove that I was Egyptian. I could.
“And of course you have a certificate of nationality?”
That had been my act of triumph. A certificate of nationality proved that one had not always been Egyptian. I was Egyptian well before the birth of Egypt, when everyone was still Turkish. I had never had anything to prove it. The real Egyptians are as much Egyptians as the *Bororos are *Araras.
He said I was certainly a son of my country, asked me to excuse him a moment, slipped on a fitted jacket over his creased yellow shirt with the brown jabot-tie, and an hour later I found myself with a senator, a little Jew obsessed by kasher food, a fat landowner and three policemen in an old administrative jalopy which had got the wrong century but seemed to know the way very well.
“In ten minutes there’ll be a breakdown. I know it all.” He was an old senator, I had interviewed him at the time when things in Cairo were still normal. Since the revolution he had been arrested each time there had been trouble, but always, like this time, after the event. In 1948, he had been arrested after the fourth cease-fire.
In 1956, he had been picked up on New Year’s Eve. By the time he got to prison it was 1957. He knew all about the prisons. Abu Za’abal was the administration’s three-star entertainment. Turah was an old English jail; Barrages and Citadelle weren’t like they used to be in the good old days. He did not know the concentration camps in the oasis but he knew they were building a new prison in Wadi Natrun. It would be like it was for the public institutions, and the Khetta (the Plan), he said: the Middle Ages, the hurly-burly in beautiful modem buildings.
And then came the breakdown. Since we were not hand-cuffed, the senator and I got out and pushed with the three soldiers who had laid their guns at the feet of the landowner and the poor little accountant. We got going again.
‘A Bad Moment…’
He told me not to worry, that it was a bad moment to go through; that all this was perfectly Egyptian, perfectly coherent, because it was perfectly absurd. We are absurd, he said, like the French are Cartesian. Absurdity is our Magna Carta and our homeland incarnated.
He became heated. He took me to task when I said: “What are 350 Jews, as many Moslems and a few Christians imprisoned since 5th June, compared with the extent of the catastrophes?
He got excited. “What has that to do with the catastrophe? What is the connection between prisoners of war, refugees and citizens who are told that they are like the others and who are like the others? And there are officers who before 5th June had seriously decided to arrest people because they were Jews, or because they made jokes like me, to lock up Bahai and Jehovah’s Witnesses and not just in fun. And you will see, we shall stay there, no one will do a thing for us and on top of it all the Red Cross and some ambassadors will club together to get Nasser out of the nasty corner.”
The fat landowner agreed with the senator: he knew the Jews well; those, who had remained in Egypt had not done so to make a fortune. Fortunes were no longer to be made in Egypt. They had stayed because they were Egyptian. In terms of political realism and efficacy they should have been left free.
It is well known in politics that when it is not absolutely essential to kill an enemy, he should be showered with attentions. Do you know what the people have been saying since the Jews have been arrested? That the only Jews Nasser has succeeded in taking prisoner are the Egyptian Jews. When you can’t have the donkey, you take your anger out on its saddle.
The senator told us that at a meeting of the Arab League a few years ago, Syria and Iraq had urged Nasser to liquidate his Jews. Nasser had promised: paradoxically, his irritation against the Jews dated from that time but the Jews stayed where they were, turned a deaf ear, did not wish to understand that they were not wanted. It was as if Egypt had been given to Nasser as a dowry by God-knows-who, added the senator. The Jews did not wish to leave? They were put in prison. Prison had become the cesspool of Egyptian problems. It was only one more proof of the regime’s inability to establish itself.
The landowner shrugged his shoulders. Why should one protest only against the police, when the postal services, industry, sanitation, everything was so bad? This arresting of people was a result of that obsession with authority which is the privilege of the impotent. The complete unfoundedness of the arrests throws light on the mystery of the Six-Day War far more than it is explained by it.
The poor little Jewish accountant asked if he could get kasher food at Abul Zaabal. The senator shrugged his shoulders. One of the policemen told us that the Israelis (he said “the Jews”) were pouring across Sinai; they had opened up the gates of the El Tor prison where his brother had been interned for ten years as a member of the Moslem Brotherhood.’ He had gone to Saudi Arabia.
The old hulk, bogged down in the rich earth, suddenly appeared in front of us: it was an enormous sooty parallelepiped striped with bars: a bad set by Buffet for a 1930 performance- of Big House. We went in.
Only Women’s Names
An officer broke away from a group. He was jovial and held out his hand. I went forward smiling with my arm outstretched. “Hello,” he said. “Hello!” I said, and someone yelled: “It’s me!” The old senator and the fat landowner were on the ground; they were undressing, a palm branch whistling over their heads. Another officer cornered me against the bars and asked my name. I told him. He took me by the throat. No, here no one was called by his name. Here there were no watches, no names, no shoes. There was not even a register: there were only women’s names.
The officer who was dealing with my companions barked an order. We dashed round a hundred meters on a closed course. The officer who had cornered me against the bars tripped us up, we fell one on top of another. Palm branch, blows. We started off again. The senator ran faster than me but by the second round we were level. He wanted to tell me something but he couldn’t: his dental plate was out of place.
Then the officers asked us if we knew any noncom’s in the air force, how much we earned. The senator said that he had 1,800 feddans sequestrated and 45 pounds in rent. An officer gave him a kick.
“Who are you?” he asked the senator.
“Zanuba,”2 the senator answered without hesitation.
And he said that he knew the drill, that he had been there in 1956 when the Israelis had hit the camp by mistake.
“What else are you?”
“And you?” he said to me.
I didn’t know. He landed me one straight in the plexus.
“You are a pervert, too. Your name will be Khaduga.” Another woman’s pet name. Then he searched me, found my tobacco and slowly spilt it over my head. A little old man got up on a stool and shaved our heads. Then came the disguise. With our bare feet, our shaven heads, our baggy trousers and our fatigues which came down to our knees, we looked like Mexican walk-ons who had got the wrong set. I parted ceremoniously from Zanuba outside his cell. The Moslem Brother who led me to mine said without turning his head, or moving his lips: “Don’t worry, you’re not the pervert. We all know here who the pervert is. Can’t you guess who is the pervert?”
NASSER’S JEWS (II)
Sea-cows, winged horses, white alligators, giant ghosts swarming round a remnant of sky as if around a fire. I was sitting on the stone as though at the bottom of an aquarium. Behind me on the floor were folded blankets. No seats. The lavatory flush was out of order and sounded like an outboard motor.
Good Signs, Bad Signs
Their faces glued to the bars, the prisoners opposite were making obscene gestures at us. The others explained to me that that was the Abu Zaabal alphabet. They were asking me what was being done for them “outside,” if the Red Cross knew about them and if they had not been forgotten. I got someone to tell them that the Israelis were within earshot of Abul Zaabal, but that all Cairo still saw Nasser through Moscow’s eyes. They asked me exactly where the Israelis were. I told them. They pranced about, bursting with laughter: “A very, very bad sign.”
Everything was a sign for them. When the officer gave them one blow less of the switch it was a good sign. When the soup spilt over the sides of the tin mugs onto the blankets it was also a good sign. A very good sign was to come a cropper in the slippery toilets.
They initiated me into the Kama Sutra of the concentration camp: how to stretch my legs, how to exploit to the maximum the space of two and half tiles by seven which was allotted to me. How to avoid border incidents at night, how to keep the water fresh by wrapping the tin mug in a piece of wet rag, how to prepare my blanket for the night and use the large mug for a pillow.
They found it perfectly natural to be there. And besides, we were not there. I must be very careful. One must not annoy the officers in charge of training. They would say to me: “Where do you think you are?” And they would make me repeat to the point of nausea that I was in Poland. So pretend to be mad. Even speak Polish if you can, that is, jabber anything.
Moslem Brothers, Too
Until mid-September there were 350 Jews at Abu Zaabal. Of these, 185 were Karaites, the rest almost all Sephardim. There were very few Ashkenazi. In December, there were still two hundred. Between July and November one hundred and fifty Jews were liberated thanks to the intervention of the Red Cross and the French and Spanish embassies. The Spanish ambassador went back to the time of the Inquisition to find the Sephardi Jews’ Spanish origin and to grant them a passport. France, too, did a great deal for the prisoners.
Apart from the Jews, there are 700 Moslem Brothers at Abu Zaabal who have been there for five, ten and even thirteen years without conviction or sentence. They are at Barrages, too, where the regime, for them only, is very strict. In November, a thousand Moslem Brothers were released. Some four thousand five hundred are still in the Egyptian prisons. At Abu Zaabal, apart from the five Jewish cells, there were two cells reserved for the nachat mo’adi (active enemies of the regime), peaceful, well-known pro-Westerners, a cell for Jehovah’s Witnesses and another for the Bahai. In August, seventy Moslems from Gaza, and in September the Marshal’s informers, were imprisoned in the first floor cells. Among them was Mustapha Amer, Abdel Hakim Amer’s brother, who cut his veins after the first round of torture. Also in October, a Moslem Brother committed suicide by slitting open his belly with a knife stolen from the kitchen.
In the isolation of Abu Zaabal, the ethnic or ideological classification of the cells and their occupants concealed a less artificial division and more realistic affinities. Precisely because of their instinct for self-preservation the prisoners very quickly reestablished their own society just as it was thirty kilometers away in order not to lose contact with reality.
In fact, paradoxical as it may seem, no political affinity drew the prisoners together during their walk. Neither did they form groups according to their religion, but only according to their socio-professional status and, above all, according to language.
‘The Privileged Class’
In the Jewish, Moslem and Christian cells there were only some twenty prisoners who belonged to the privileged class, not by income but by social status. From June to September, these privileged ones got together during the walk and in their ragged uniforms, their heads shaven, often barefooted, they talked naturally under the watchful eye of the kapos about golf tournaments, chattered as if they were at a cocktail party and elegantly protested against the logical scandal of imprisonment.
“Stupidity is not my strong point,” declared Mr. X, who had brought his two volumes of Valery, Pleiade Edition, with him. (They had been impounded by the registrar.) Mr. Z looked at the poor little Jews and sighed with resignation: “I have to tell myself that I am among my poor so as to be able to bear it.” A Moslem prisoner, a former Minister, had employed a young secretary from his ministerial cabinet as a “washerwoman” and he made her wash the uniforms and underwear of his Jewish friends.
X came up to me during the walk and asked me: “Don’t you feel yourself becoming very snobbish in this outfit?” It was all so absurd.
Less so was the grouping of the poor little Jews” and the Moslem Brothers. Among the Moslem Brothers there were many lawyers and doctors.
Was it their common language and customs, a feeling of religious identity? Or were the Moslem Brothers who burned synagogues fascinated by this phenomenon of the Jew who resembled them like a brother, who spoke their language and prayed like them? Every evening the kapos of the Moslem Brotherhood were to be found outside the Jewish cells, talking through the bars to those whom Mr. Z called our brothers of the “Temple flagstone.”
Neither did the Moslem Brothers ever talk to their pro-Western co-religionists in other cells. They gave the Jews advice, spared them the surprise of officers’ visits, settled their disputes, talk of Om Kalsum, of their families-all with that familiarity coupled with the politeness and precedents typical of the petit-bourgeois of Arab cities.
Cried Out Too Soon
Then, as the “poor little Jews” had so naturally fraternized with the Moslem Brothers, their traditional political enemies, so they began to organize their relations with the officers. In Egypt the army, the administration, the catchwords are all based on secret conventions and a subtle game; right from the start the “poor Jews” entered it.
The privileged Jews did not notice it at once. The “poor Jews,” like the Moslem Brothers, never protested. They found the blows and the cruelty quite natural. But the first weeks had been hard. The officers hit and hurt until the day when little Ch- drew my attention to the shoes of Amr who was called Hitler. From the first day the “poor Jews” instinctively trifled with the pain. They played a comedy, cried out a second too soon and drew the officer into this parody of Buchenwald which was being enacted 50 kilometers as the crow flies beyond the Israeli lines.
With a minimum of common sense I could have found this out at once. One thing I had noticed: when the officers hit, the Jews yelled a little too hard, a little too fast, the officer’s frown was a little too “terrifying,” his voice over-solemn and bombastic. “To shake the dignity of the guardian is almost like shaking the dignity of the law,” said Kafka.
I found these grimaces absurd, one more absurdity in the long series of absurdities that had begun in May. On the contrary it was a serious, almost desperate tragedy that was being played out there. The “poor Jews” had arrived at Abu Zaabal naked, surrendered up without defense to their enemies the Moslem Brothers and the special service officers who in the camps had permission to kill. To take the sting out of the tragedy, to turn it into a farce-that was the way to win. I reached this conclusion only a few days after my release, after I had found out what had happened before my imprisonment.
It began before Akaba/Tiran.
It all began in May before the war, before Akaba/Tiran. At the beginning of May the Jews connected with or employed by the public institutions received a letter sending them on vacation for an unlimited period, and then a second dismissing them. Their bank accounts were blocked.
When with outstretched arms Nasser said during his press conference: “To the Jews we say ‘Come’,” the Jews were not even concerned that for the first time in fifteen years Nasser had not said “Zionist” or “Israeli” but “Jew.” They knew. This time there would be no legal fiction. With Akaba blocked, war must break out. This time they knew they would be arrested as in 1948 and 1956, but it would no longer be imprisonment at the Hukstep or Abassieh camps. In 1948 and 1956 antisemitism was still courteous. This time they would not simply be given as fodder to the special services. It would not be enough to leave everything-homes, cars, carpets -to the officers of Section 94. The auction room in Nemr Street, whose owner was a member of the Jewish community and whose shadow-partner, Lieutenant-Colonel Chaaraoui, was Director of the Department for Jewish Problems, would no longer be the shortest route from prison to Paris. There would be something else, but what?
Five Minutes …
In 1948 there were 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Now there are no more that 2,000, women and children included. Since 1948 not one had been expelled without having consented to his possessions being plundered and pillaged, a process organized by the police. And no one asked the big police chiefs who had been the prior owner of their motor car or the previous occupant of their apartment. On the morning of 5th June, swarms of secret police agents left the basements of the political police headquarters and spread out through the city. “Five minutes,” they said. “It’s nothing, a mere formality. You will be back in five minutes.”
It sounded like a round-up and the last days of Pompeii. By sunset over 300 Jews were piled into the police stations. They had left their businesses, and their wives and children of whom they were to have no news until the end of August. Soon they were 350.
“Five minutes” for the man with one leg, for the Jewish doctor from Turah prison who was operating on a prisoner, for G. H. who was parking his car beside the pavement. Five minutes for the Chief Rabbi of Alexandria, five minutes for M. H. who was preparing an injection: his mother was dying, his wife about to give birth. He placed the syringe in boiling water and followed the policeman. It was only at Abu Zaabal that he learned that his mother had died. Five minutes, from eight in the morning till the evening for 350 Jews, not a single one more. That was the quota fixed by the special services.
At the mental asylum in Alexandria they had to find a shirt and a pair of trousers for M. S. He couldn’t follow the policeman in a strait-jacket. At Abu Zaabal, M.S. in a flash of lucidity said to the doctor, a Moslem Brother: “No, doctor, you can’t do anything for me. You’ve been here for thirteen years. You’re crazier than I am.’)
D. H., another lunatic who was arrested, thought he was Cod. We slept side by side at No. 17, Stalag 17. He got up in the night, gripped the bars on the door and yelled: “I am a free man!” Every day at prayer time came the crisis. “Don’t pray, don’t pray, I tell you. I am God.”
Five minutes for the three P. brothers whom the police picked up from the examination table in the Hall of the Faculty of Medicine. Five minutes for M. the beggar, who plied his trade in front of the Police station at Bab Charki in Alexandria. All he had to do is go to the other side of the wall.
… Or Five Years?
But they were not all like M. They all left money, a car, offices, cheques to be signed, and disappeared. But they all knew quite well that five minutes (khamsa) in Arabic could mean five minutes or five years. They are still at Abu Zaabal. Nearly all of them learned in July or August that their furniture and possessions had been sold by auction. Nearly all of them shrugged their shoulders and found it all quite natural. What they didn’t understand were the blows, the torture. On 5th June, in the evening, the officer on duty at the Muski police station had attached a butcher’s hook to his switch. As soon as a Jew arrived, he ordered him stand with his back to the wall, place the hook between his shoulder-blades and pulled with a sharp movement. Everything came away-skin, flesh and all. A woman who had followed her husband and protested against his arrest was whipped. J.C. had “too much” money on him seventeen pounds. The officer tore up the serial numbers and gave the wad back to J.C. after he had trampled his spectacles under foot.
Mr. Z, 69 years old, was shut up from 5th to 6th June without food or water in a hole fifty centimeters square. He had the brilliant idea of asking why he had been arrested.
Also at the Muski station two agents had committed sodomy on little Y. on officers’ orders his mother was there.
Horrified, she ran to the Spanish Embassy. The ambassador dashed to the police station, flew into a rage that was far from diplomatic and snatched little Y. from the cell. At other stations there were other eighteen-year-olds. They were not Spanish. The only ones who flew into a rage were those whose “advances” they resisted.
At the Old Cairo police station a 73-year-old doctor who asked to telephone his lawyer was politely accompanied to the booth. But it was not a telephone booth: he was joined by a convict. The police blocked the door. The Jews who were in neighboring cells heard the doctor moan for a whole hour. Then he came out: he was holding his trousers in his hands. He said nothing but all night his companions heard him crying.
Leaders and Lunatics
On the evening of 8th June, Dr. Mohammed Fayek announced over the radio that the first prisoners taken by Egypt would be arriving that night at Cairo railway station and that, if Israel had taken Egyptian prisoners, Egypt had nothing to envy it for.
Dr. Mohamed Fayek’s pun sent crowds rushing to Cairo station. On 8th June, at 6 o’ clock in the evening, a long line of old people, children and cripples who had been arrested in Alexandria got off the train from that city. They descended in pairs, handcuffed, and crouched on platform No. 2 to be pushed round by the crowd which the police could not longer control.
First in the line were the Chief Rabbi, president, vice-president and secretary of the Alexandria Jewish community. Behind came school children, lunatics from the asylum, a man who was deaf and dumb and the certified undertaker’s assistant who himself had one foot in the grave and whom the police in accordance with the who know-what regulation, had deprived of his wooden leg.
Pushed, shoved, spat upon, the Jews of Alexandria were saved from being stoned only thanks to the presence of mind of one of the officers. They were piled into Black Marias which drove without headlights to Abu Za’abal. And that was the Night of the Long Knives.
NASSER’S JEWS (IV)
Night of the Long Knives
Mr. Z. told us about the Night o the Long Knives. The Black Marias arrived at Abu Zaabal during the night. The officers were waiting for them at the foot of the trucks whose rails were too high. The prisoners were ordered to jump. Chained, they jumped two by two, rolled on the ground, were beaten and then packed into the yard, crouching in front of the sewerage manholes. From eight in the evening till six in the morning they remained there, hunched on their heels. Every hour an officer passed and beat them with a palm branch. The Chief Rabbi was crucified on the bars of the main gate and beaten till he lost consciousness. After the thrashing another officer came. He climbed onto their shoulders and ran back and forward on top of them. If one of the crouched men leaned against his neighbor, he was thrashed. By three in the morning many of the Jews were unconscious.
Towards four in the morning the officers put up a table, and the kapos brought long kitchen knives which they laid on white sheets. “They are going to cut our throats,” said the Chief Rabbi. “Pass the word: pray…”
All the Jews began to pray. They prayed till dawn. After the knives came great receptacles full of boiling water. The Jews kept on praying. The officers were dressed in pyjamas. Mass hallucination? Mr. Z. stated that that night he had seen two young women shrieking with laughter when the officers said: “Would you like to slit a throat yourself?”
Dr. G. was still more certain. He had heard an officer say to one of the women: “It was a good idea of mine to invite you to see Jews like that, wasn’t it?”
At dawn the telephone rang in t c commandant’s office. The Jews, who all the while had not ceased to pray, were then sent to their cells. They slept till the evening without food or drink.
During that night, towards three o’clock in the morning, Officer Amr had called I. D. out and ordered him to go upstairs, following him with his switch as he went. In the darkness I. D. fell. Amr beat him. Then he ordered him to enter a dark, open cell. He closed the door and as he did so gave an order to someone who was ostensibly concealed in the shadows inside: “Rape him, Morganc.”
It was dark. Morgane was a Sudanese name. All night I. D. stayed on the alert. It was to be the longest night of his life. At dawn he realized that the officer had been joking: he was alone in the cell. He lost consciousness. The officers must have had a good laugh later.
Ratshad-called-Thunder, Amr-called-Hitler, Rifaat, Abdel Latif, Essam, the strong man with the eunuch’s voice, and Abdel Aal Saluma, the commandant-they were our torturers. It was Rifaat who came up three times a day and made us jump and run and shout that we were perverts. He would lay his switch on each prisoner’s Adam’s apple and chuckle when we began to hiccup. Rifaat had so well accustomed us to the thrashing times that we were uneasy on the days he didn’t come.
It was Amr who on the first night had hung up Nafusi, Chief Rabbi of Alexandria, with his arms outstretched like a cross, and had given him a hundred strokes with his stick, saying: “Jew, you are crucified…”
It was Essam who ordered the prisoners to stand opposite one another and slap each other’s faces. We all slapped old men. We all took a few 4 1 walks” with our noses stuck into the behind of an old president of the Barristers Association or a doctor who was a grandfather three times over. That was called “making a chain.” It was Amr who had packed us in groups of seventy into cells made for thirty. It was Amr who made Mr. Z. sing a children’s song, “Kotati Saghira” with actions and smirks. It was Amr who made Dr. G., who suffered from coxalgia, jump up and down on the spot and sing “Do, re, mi. .
It was Rashad who made us run, shouting “I am a pervert … My name is Zanuba!” But it was at the eunuch Essam, who called the sick Jews “Sodomites,” that a Palestinian Moslem yelled one night: “Sodomites, son of Pharaoh! But it was the Jews who brought you to your knees! What would you have called them if you had won the war?!”
I didn’t see Cell 22 whipped until three prisoners were brought in to the infirmary. But I was there when a policeman gave a hundred strokes of the belt to J.B. on officer’s orders. The officer ordered the policeman to beat until young J. B. asked for mercy. He fainted, his teeth clenched. “I have a son your age. I pray to God that he is like you,” said the policeman to J. B., who was lying on the flagstones.
Isolated from the World
Every morning before the dish of runner beans which the Moslem Brothers prepared and which was always very good, one of our Jews would climb onto the toilets and try to catch a few wisps of news from the officers’ radio. We got no news. It was as though we were lost on the high seas. When we heard the cells near the staircase shout “Entebah” (“Present arms!”) we knew it was nearly ten o’clock. Until midday it was the incessant “Long live Nasser!”, “Long live the Revolution!”, “Down with America, long live France!”
The cells danced about, sang Arab nursery rhymes in chorus, friends slapped each other in the face. Prisoners in their underpants came out by turn s in groups of five or six and galloped in the passageways until they were out of breath. When our turn arrived we were grateful to be given a thrashing and get it over. B., son of a gunsmith had a weak bladder. He ran two or three times to the toilet and was always getting caught by the officer. Each time he got a thrashing. It was tedious.
It was Amr who thrashed to death little I., who thought the cell was a swimming pool and would climb onto an upturned bucket and dive into us. We protested; his father, who was in the same cell, was indignant, then he collapsed into tears. Little I. had come out of a mental home. He had dared to show Amr-called-Hitler a glass in which a runner bean, a flower and a midge were floating. “Last night I put the bean and the flower in water and look what they made together.” And he showed him the midge. Little 1. spent two days in the infirmary because of a midge.
‘He’s My Brother!’
It was Rashad-called-Thunder who came into our cell one morning and ordered two boys whom he picked out at random to undress. Then he told one of them to bend down with his face to the wall and after he had given a few blows of the switch to the other, ordered him to commit sodomy on his companion. We watched. One of the young boys suddenly broke into sobs: “I can’t. He’s my brother!” They were the B. brothers. Their father was there too. Rashad aimed at him between the eyes: “You haven’t seen a thing, have you?” The father, with the palm branch between his eyes, said he had seen nothing.
The thrashing had the great advantage of keeping the cells quiet for an hour. Three times a day it was held like a ritual, a kind of low mass. Afterwards the quarrel and pettiness began again. They were no less tedious.
Amr-called-Hitler, Rifaat, Rashad entered, whipped. The Jews moaned. With one stroke of the wand, the Arab superman changed these yelling confederates into the Israel Army begging for mercy …
I was released from Abu Zaabal on 4th September. The cells gave me the traditional farewell party. From one cell to another, through the bars, I heard: “Brothers, do you know who is leaving us today?” And from the other cell the reply: “It is our brother from cell 24. Happy release, maa el salama, brother.” Moslem Brothers and Christian kapos came to embrace me. From the top of the passage Ch. winked at me and waved his cap. I gave him a military salute.
I spent another few days in the Barrages prison and a few hours at the Citadelle. At the passport office Lieutenant-Colonel Minchaoui, a little embarrassed, had one morning made me sign the relinquishment: I was no longer Egyptian. I left …