Israeli border police massacre Palestinian citizens of Israel at Kafr Qassem

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Israeli border police massacre Palestinian citizens of Israel at Kafr Qassem
28 Oct 1956
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Israeli border police massacre Palestinian citizens of Israel at Kafr Qassem

Date: Monday, 29 Oct 1956
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"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

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