Daily Israel Report

Grapel Speaks Out: I Came to Egypt to Help the Arab World

Ilan Grapel who was released from Egypt in exchange for 25 prisoners: I was in Egypt on a public interest grant. They didn't torture me.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/16/2011, 3:14 AM

Grapel and Netanyahu
Grapel and Netanyahu
Flash 90

Ilan Grapel, the American-Israeli who was released from an Egyptian prison a few weeks ago, gave an interview on Tuesday to CNN.

Grapel was arrested by the Egyptians in June on charges of spying for Israel. He was released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners who were held in Israel.

“I was in Egypt on a public interest grant, which makes it more ironic because I was there to help the Arab world and in the end I became accused of working against the Arab world,” Grapel said when asked what he had been doing in Egypt.

Grapel claimed that he thought that the best way to “get off the radar” would be to be “upfront and flagrantly Israeli.”

“I was teaching Hebrew, I was telling people I was from Israel in order to refute all possible suspicion that I was a spy,” he said. “I thought they would realize that a person who’s carrying an Israeli passport is probably not a spy.”

Speaking about his actual arrest, Grapel said he woke up in his hotel room one night to find that about 30 men in civilian clothes had barged in.

“They asked for my nationality and I said American-Israeli,” he said. “They said, ‘Come with us.’ I thought it was about a police report I filed (about a dispute over a bill) and then I quickly found out, when they put on the handcuffs, that this wasn’t the issue.”

“They took me downstairs, I saw an unmarked van, and then I was blindfolded, put in the van and taken to the prosecutor’s office where the interrogations began,” he added.

He said he had not been tortured while in prison and that he was only placed in solitary confinement.

When asked whether he is upset that Israel had to release 25 prisoners for him, Grapel answered, “I understand that Egypt needed something to show their people and when they realized they made a mistake the only thing they could do was release people. I don’t think they cared about [these prisoners] themselves, but they wanted to show their people that they released [Egyptians] from the Israeli regime.”

The deal Israel signed to free Grapel was criticized by some, who said the deal made Israel appear weak since it was surrendering to Egyptian demands.

One of those critics was Meir Indor, Head of the Almagor Terror Victims’ organization.

“The Egyptian government, no matter how they try to paint it, kidnapped a citizen, accused him of spying and then got off that idea,” Indor said. “But they’re saying, ‘Before you get him back, you’ll pay us with security prisoners. This is a bad sign for the future, because other countries are standing in line...By Israel surrendering in the Grapel affair, it is signaling that the kidnapping method pays off.”