Today is the 58th anniversary of Israel's infamous Kafr Qassem massacre. The following reference to it, in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, unfortunately hardly does justice to the gravity of the crime:
"Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has acknowledged past and present wrongdoings to his country's Arabs... Mr Rivlin spoke at a memorial ceremony for victims of the 1956 massacre at Kafr Qassem, where Israeli forces killed 47 residents of the Israeli Arab village for breaking a wartime curfew, becoming the first Israeli president to attend the event. 'A terrible crime was committed here,' he said. 'The brutal killings in Kafr Qassem are an anomalous [?!] and sorrowful chapter in the history of the relations between Arabs and Jews living here... Kafr Qassam is adjacent to the West Bank. In 1956, it was under [Israeli] military rule and, on October 29 - the first day of a war with Egypt - Israeli border policemen gunned down residents who were unaware a curfew had been imposed... The Kafr Qassem massacre is taught in the Israeli education system as a case of an illegal military order that must be refused by soldiers." (Killings were crime against Israeli Arabs, says president, AFP/Sydney Morning Herald, 28/10/14)
Notice how, in the ms media, Israel almost always manages to come up smelling like roses? Funny, that.
By way of contextualising the final sentence in the AFP report, I draw your attention to the following finding by Israeli educationist Nurit Peled-Elhanan:
"The Kaffer Kassem massacre is remembered in Jewish-Israeli consciousness mainly for being the source for the court's unprecedented ruling against compliance with 'manifestly unlawful orders' [but Israeli textbooks] failed to mention that the verdict was not carried out to its term and said nothing about the suffering of the villagers." (Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology & Propaganda in Education, 2012, p 172)
The following account of the massacre and its aftermath by British scholar David Hirst shows why:
"The Arabs remember Kafr Qasem as the Deir Yassin of the established State. Less revealing, perhaps, than the event itself was the reaction it generated. On 29 October 1956, on the eve of Israel's invasion of Egypt, a detachment of Frontier Guards imposed a curfew on villages near the Jordanian frontier. Among them was Kafr Qasem. The Mukhtar was informed of the curfew just half an hour before it was due to go into effect. It was therefore quite impossible for him to pass the message on to the villagers who would be returning, as dusk fell, from their various places of work. Major Shmuel Melinki, the detachment commander, had foreseen this eventuality, and he asked his superior, Brigadier Yshishkhar Shadmi, what should be done about anyone coming home in ignorance of the curfew. The Brigadier had replied: 'I don't want any sentimentality... that's just too bad for him.' And there was no sentimentality. In the first hour of the curfew, between 5 and 6 o'clock, the Frontier Guards killed 47 villagers. They had returned home individually or in batches. A few came on foot, but most travelled by bicycle, mule cart or lorry. They included women and children. But all the Frontier Guards wanted to know was whether they were from Kafr Qasem. For if they were, they shot them down at close range with automatic weapons. 'Of every group of returning workers, some were killed and others wounded; very few succeeded in escaping unhurt. The proportion of those killed increased, until, of the last group, which consisted of 14 women, a boy and 4 men, all were killed, except one girl, who was seriously wounded.' The slaughter might have gone on like this had not Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan, the officer on the spot '... informed the command several times over the radio apparatus in the jeep of the number killed. Opinions differ as to the figure he gave in his reports, but all are agreed that in his first report he said:
... 'one less', and in the next two reports: 'fifteen less' and 'many less - it is difficult to count them'. The last two reports, which followed each other in quick succession, were picked up by Captain Levy, who passed them on to Melinki. When he was informed that there were 'fifteen less' in Kafr Qasem, Melinki gave orders which he was unable to transmit to Dahan before the report arrived of 'many less - it is difficult to count them', for the firing to stop and for a more moderate procedure to be adopted in the whole area... This order finally ended the bloodshed at Qafr Qasem.'
"All this was established in the trial which, as the scandal slowly leaked out, the government was obliged to hold. The trial was a pro forma affair. There was little moral outrage in the courtroom, and, apart from a few lone voices, very little outside it. During the proceedings the leading newspaper Haaretz reported that 'the eleven officers and soldiers who are on trial for the massacre in Kafr Qasem have all received a 50% increase in their salaries. A special messenger was sent to Jerusalem to bring the cheques to the accused in time for Passover. A number of the accused had been given a vacation for the holiday... The accused mingle freely with the spectators; the officers smile at them and pat them on the back; some of them shake hands with them. It is obvious, that these people, whether they will be found innocent or guilty, are not treated as criminals, but as heroes.' One Private David Goldfield reportedly resigned from the Security Police in protest against the trial. According to the Jewish Newsletter, his testimony merely reflected what most Israelis thought: 'I feel that the Arabs are the enemies of our State... When I went to Kafr Qasem, I felt that I went against the enemy and I made no distinction between the Arabs in Israel and those outside its frontiers.' Asked what he would do if he met an Arab woman, in no sense a security threat, who was trying to reach her home, he replied: 'I would shoot her down, I would harbour no sentiments, because I received an order and I had to carry it out.' The sentences were pro forma too. Melinki and Dahan got jail terms of 17 and 15 years respectively, but it was a foregone conclusion that they would only serve a fraction of them. In response to appeals for a pardon, the Supreme Military Court decided to reduce the 'harsh' sentence; and, following this generous example, the Chief of Staff, then the Head of State, and finally a Committee for the Release of Prisoners all made contributions, so that within a year of their sentence Melinki and Dahan were free men. As for Brigadier Shadmi - the 'no sentimentality' senior officer - a Special Military Court found him guilty of a 'merely technical' error, reprimanded him and fined him one piastre. But the twist in the tail was yet to come. Nine months after his release from prison, Dahan, convicted of killing 43 Arabs in an hour, was appointed 'officer responsible for Arab affairs' in the town of Ramleh. And the last that has been heard of Major Melinki was that, through his influential connections in the army, he had secured a coveted permit, sought after by many an entrepreneur, to set up a tourist centre in southern Israel." (The Gun & The Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, 1977, pp 185-87)
By way of highlighting the obscenity of the judicial farce which followed the massacre (which, incidentally, was covered up for 6 weeks before the troops responsible were charged with murder), it's worth recalling colonial Australia's Myall Creek massacre. Here's the introduction to the Wikipedia entry on it:
'The Myall Creek massacre involved the killing of up to 30 unarmed Indigenous Australians by 10 white Europeans and one black African on 10 June 1838 at Myall Creek near Bingara in northern New South Wales. After two trials, seven of the 11 colonists involved in the killings were found guilty of murder and hanged."
That was 118 years before Kafr Qassem.