"On October 29, 1956, soldiers of the Israeli Border Police murdered 43 civilians, including women and children, and wounded many others because they were outside their homes after curfew was imposed on the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Qassem at the beginning of the Sinai War. The perpetrators knew that they were killing villagers who were returning from work in the fields without knowing anything about the existence of a curfew." (Quotation from this article in Ha'aretz)
Here is how it was described by Nur Masalha, in
A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians 1949-96, pp. 21 - 33)
As planned with Britain and France, Israeli forces over-ran Gaza on their
way across Sinai to the Suez Canal on 29 October 1956. They expected that
their occupation of Gaza would be permanent. Long-term contracts with local
industry were signed, Arabic-speaking Jews were brought in to supervise the
educational system, and a Municipal Council of local notables willing to
collaborate was set up. During the occupation in 1956, the Israelis
displayed incredible brutality toward the population of the Gaza Strip.
Many hundreds of civilians were murdered in an apparent effort to force the
refugees to flee. (Michael Palumbo, Imperial Israel, p. 30)
One of the most horrible massacres committed in cold blood against innocent
and defenseless civilians took place in Kafr Qasem on the eve of the assault
against Egypt. It was intended to cause panic and trigger flight across the
borders in a replicate to what happened in 1948 when the massacre of Deir
Yassin was committed while Plan Dalet was taking place.
The innocent victims, including women and children, were farmers coming back
from the field not aware that a curfew had been imposed on their village and
neighboring Arab communities. The curfew was declared at 4:30 P.M. to take
force at 5:00 P.M. Explicit orders were given to the soldiers "to shoot to
kill all who broke the curfew...there shall be no arrests". Hadashot
established that the slaughter was carried out against the background of a
plan devised by the Israeli army on the eve of the 1956 war - Hafarferet.
It was intended to create panic and cause the inhabitants of the area to
flee across the borders. A Border Guard battalion of the IDF carried out
the massacre. Major Shmuel Malinki and Lieutenant Gabriel Dahan were found
guilty of the killings and sentenced to 17 and 15 years respectively. The
punishment did not fit the crime. Nevertheless, the convicted men were
pardoned and released from prison within 3 years from the massacre. The
Jewish Agency gave Dahan a job as manager of the sale of Israel's government
bonds in a European capital. Malinki, who was stripped of his rank by the
court, was reinstated by Ben-Gurion. Malinki's widow, Nehama, revealed many
years later that while the trial was in progress her husband was released
from prison to meet Ben-Gurion who told him that he was a "living victim of
the state", and pleaded with him not to reveal orders he was given by his
superiors lest this implicate the cabinet and the general staff, and that he
was promised an early release and reinstatement. The PM offered Malinki a
very important post: security officer of the new, top secret nuclear plant
at Dimona, in the Negev. Malinki talked about a message he had received
from Ben-Gurion, in which he had been requested to maintain silence in
return for being granted a pardon. In spite of the special treatment he had
received, Malinki remained until his death in 1978 very bitter at the fact
of having been brought to trial in the first place and having been made a
scapegoat for the state's plans toward the Israeli Arabs.
The attack against Egypt was also exploited to carry out another mass
expulsion of Israeli Arabs across the northern border into Syria. This
episode, involving the expulsion of 2,000 - 5,000 inhabitants of the two
villages Krad al-Ghannamah and Krad al-Baqqarah, to the south of Lake Hulah,
was revealed by Yitzhak Rabin in his "Service Notebook". Rabin was the
Commanding Officer of the Northern Command at the time.
Lawrence Joffe indicates, in this obituary
, that Meir Vilner
, head of the Israeli Communist Party, was active to have the atrocity at Kafr Qassem, which was initially covered up, investigated:
After an Israeli army unit massacred 49 Arab villagers from Kufr-Qassem in October 1956, he interviewed survivors, wrote a report and raised questions in parliament. Thanks to his zeal, 11 miscreants were convicted of murder, and the Israeli supreme court ruled that soldiers could legitimately disobey "immoral" military orders.
Tewfik Toubi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was also a member of the Israeli Communist Party, and Uri Avneri were also prominent in this campaign.
See the subsequent trial of the perpetrators and the way their sentences were reduced