Remembering the Kafr Qasim Massacre

The 29th of October 1956 started as a quiet day in the village of Kafr Qasim, then under military rule since it was transferred to Israeli occupation by the Jordanian king in 1949. The villagers, hard-working peasants and workers, went out early to work in the fields and in near-by stone quarries. In the afternoon a unit of the Israeli army came in and informed the village head that they are coming to impose a curfew. They told him to warn the villagers not to get out of their homes. “But what about the people that will come from work, I can’t warn them of the curfew?” he asked. “Don’t worry, I will let them in” answered the soldiers.

Eventually, as farmers came back from their fields and workers from the workshops, the soldiers gathered them in small groups on the entrance to the village. Then the officer ordered to “mow them down” and they were shot dead, their bodies piled in heaps at the side of the road. Fourty-nine people were killed in cold blood without any provocation, for violating a curfew order that they was not aware of. Twelve of the martyrs were women and girls, 17 children, the youngest of them only 7 years old.

The massacre of Kafr Qasim was not an isolated incident. It was intentionally planned by elements in the Israeli army command as part of a much bigger plan to complete the ethnic cleansing of 1948. The massacre was carried in the first day of October 1956 Tripartite Aggression of Britain, France and Israel against Egypt. Israel hoped that, under the cover of the fog of war, new massacres would cause the Arab Palestinian population to seek refuge and safety beyond the Jordanian border.

Commemorating the massacre

The people of Kafr Qasim were not even allowed to bury their dead. The army kidnapped at gun-point some men from the nearby village of Jaljulia and forced them to bury the massacre’s victims in Kafr Qasim’s cemetery, while the curfew over the village was extended to three whole days. Israeli military censorship prevented any mention of the crime in the press. It required a prolonged struggle, mostly led by the Communist Party, just to publish the shocking facts about what the army did.

In the coming years the military government continued to terrorize the population and prevent the commemoration of the massacre. As we visited Kafr Qasim today, our hosts told us how the army used to force a siege of the village on the anniversary of the massacre. The army was even searching homes and confiscating any piece of black cloth in order to prevent any sign of mourning.

Only in 1966, at the 10th anniversary, as the military rule in the 1948 and 49 occupied territories was abolished, could the people of Kafr Qasim for the first time openly and more or less freely commemorate their martyrs, with solidarity delegations coming from all over the country.

Israeli authorities launched an investigation into the killings and the border policemen who were involved in the shooting were brought to trial and sentenced to prison terms ranging between 8-17 years.

However, all were released two years after the massacre, while the brigade commander was ordered to pay a fine of one piaster.

(Source / 29.10.2020)

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