16:00 Major Shmuel Malinki, Commander of Border Police Battalion 2, is summoned to OC Central Command Zvi Tzur to receive his battalion’s missions for Operation Kadesh.
12:00 Malinki meets with Lieutenant Colonel Zalman Meret, the military governor of the Triangle, who tells him: “The desire is how to move them [the Arabs] to leave the country”. Yehuda Frankental, one of the company commanders in the battalion also attended the meeting.
18:00 Malinki meets with Central Command Operations Directorate Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Avraham (Abrasha) Tamir. In the presence of other officers, Tamir hands him the Mole Operation order file and explains the plan. Tamir instructs Malinki to submit his plan for Command approval by Sunday, October 28, 1956.
At the battalion operation orders briefing, Malinki explains the delicate mission to the company commanders in his battalion. After the briefing, the officers set out to survey Triangle villages.
Company and platoon commanders survey Triangle village and divide the missions among them.
12:00 Malinki attends an operation orders briefing with Border Police Commander Major General Pinhas Kopel.
17:00 Border Police Battalion 2 is put under the command of the IDF’s Brigade 17. Malinki is then required to report to command headquarters for a briefing with the head of command headquarters, Colonel Aharon Yariv, and the command’s operations directorate officer, Lieutenant Colonel Avraham (Abrasha) Tamir. In this briefing, Malinki is told he must wait for final authorization of Operation Mole.
18:00 - Brigade 17 Commander, Colonel Issachar Shadmi, holds a brigade operation orders briefing. Shadmi asks Malinki to wait until the meeting is over to inquire with the OC, Zvi Tzur, whether Operation Mole has been approved.
01:00 Shadmi informs Malinki that some parts of Operation Mole would be approved by noon that day, but the full operation has not been authorized at this point.
Border Police Battalion 2 headquarters is transferred to Kfar Sava.12:30
Malinki is urgently summoned to the brigade headquarters at Kalmania Farm, near Kfar Sava, where he meets Brigade Commander Shadmi, and the two have a private conversation. The brigade commander gives the battalion commander the battalion’s mission, which includes enforcing the curfew in Ibtan, Bir a-Sikkah, Qalansuwa, Tira, Taybeh, Jaljulya, Kafr Bara and Kafr Qasim, as per Operation Mole.
14:00 Malinki calls a battalion operation orders briefing with the fourteen company and platoon commanders in the battalion and gives them their missions. Once the briefing is over, the Border Police officers deploy to the various villages in the sector.
15:00 Malinki continues to another brigade operation orders briefing.
16:00 Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan’s company arrives at Kafr Qasim and splits into seven squads that spread through the village.
16:30 Company Sergeant, Yehuda Zashatzky notifies the village mukhtar (head) that the curfew has been pushed up to 5:00 PM instead of 10:00 PM. The mukhtar cautions he would not be able to notify village residents who work outside the village in time.
17:00 The Kafr Qasim curfew goes into effect.
17:01 - The murder at the northern entrance to the village: Immediately after the curfew goes into effect, Shalom Ben Fordo and his squad (squad 2) kill three people, including a nine-year old boy and a 15-year-old boy.
17:05 – The first wave in the western part of the village (the “fork” area). Lance Corporal Shalom Ofer and the members of his squad (squad 1) kill two laborers returning from work at a quarry. Two others pretend to be dead. One later sneaks into the village, hiding amongst a goat herd.
17:12 - Second wave: : Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan and his squad members kill two men. A third is wounded, and the shooters take him for dead. Before firing, a young girl and an older boy who had arrived with them are sent home.
17:20 - The third wave: Shalom Ofer and his squad kill a father and son who return to the village with their herd after grazing.
Close to 17:20, inside the village, a seven-year-old who went out to retrieve the herd from grazing when he heard the curfew had been pushed up is shot at the entrance to his home. His father, mother and sister, who run to him, are shot and wounded. The boy lay dying in his home and finally passed away. His grandfather died the next day.
17:22 - The fourth wave: Dahan orders a truck with 23 passengers to go into the village. As it begins advancing, a 20-year-old man, who was nearby, runs to the truck and tries to get on it. He is shot and killed by the policemen in Shalom Ofer’s squad.
17:30 - The fifth wave: One of the policemen orders a truck making its way to the village with six people on board to continue toward the village. Shots are fired at the moving truck from behind, from the direction of Shalom Ofer’s squad. One man is killed.
17:35 - The sixth wave: Thirteen men who arrive at the “fork” by cart or bicycle are made to stand in a row and asked where they live. Shalom Ofer orders two policemen who have been lying by the side of the road, one of them armed with a Bren machine gun, to open fire. Any of the wounded who show signs of life are shot again. Five are killed, four are seriously wounded. Three flee to a nearby field. Another man, who had been wounded in the leg, crawls to a nearby olive tree, climbs it and hides there for two days. Another wounded man pretends to be dead. The policemen drag him to the pile of bodies.
17:42 - The seventh wave: A truck driver and his eighteen passengers are ordered by Shalom Ofer to get off the truck and stand in a row. To his question, all answer that they live in Kafr Qasim. Ofer then orders Haroush Mahlouf and Avraham Eliahu, who ae lying by the side of the road, to open fire. Ten are killed. The policemen shoot the wounded.
17:52 - The eighth wave: A truck transporting bricks arrives at the entrance to the village with two villagers inside. They are taken out of the truck, shot and killed.
17:55 - The ninth wave: A truck with four men and fourteen women, aged twelve to 66, arrives at the village on its way back from the olive harvest in Lod. The truck driver stops at Ofer’s demand, and he and the passengers are taken out of the truck. The group huddles together and Ofer orders members of Gavriel Uliel’s squad, which joined his own squad shortly before, to open fire. After the initial barrage of fire, the wounded are shot in the head. Seventeen of the eighteen men and women are killed. One woman is seriously wounded in the head but survives.
17:55 - Tira: Policeman David Mizrahi shoots a man at the eastern entrance to the village after he allegedly failed to stop when called to do so. In a separate incident, a 66-year-old man is shot on his way back on foot from his work as a guard in sugar cane fields. He was initially shot and wounded in the arm. Then two policemen approached and killed him.
At around 18:00, Malinki finds out about the killings in Kafr Qasim and gives orders to hold fire until 19:30, other than incidents of gunfire, assault, forcible resistance or escape.
18:20 - Taybeh: A thirteen-year-old is shot and killed on his way to buy cigarettes for his father, who did not know the curfew had been pushed.
19:15 The removal of bodies and evacuation of the wounded begins. Four of the wounded are taken to hospital. Nine bodies are put on a command car and taken to HaSharon Hospital, where they are denied admittance. The remaining bodies are taken by truck to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, where they are also denied admittance. All 47 bodies are taken to a forest near Antipatris Fort in Rosh Ha’ayin.
19:30 Malinki forbids any more fire aside from cases cited in the orders he gave at 18:30.
21:30 On Malinki’s orders, Company Commander Haim Levy interrogates Gavriel Dahan and takes down his statement.
23:00 Central Command Brigade 17 Liaison Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dov Nisrhi arrives on behalf of the OC Command to carry out an initial inquiry into the massacre.
02:00 A discussion is held at the office of OC Central Command Zvi Tzur. In attendance: Lieutenant Colonel Nisrhi, Malinki, Shadmi, Command Operations Directorate Officer Abrasha Tamir, representatives of the Military Government, the head of the minority department at the Prime Minister’s Office and others. Ben Gurion’s military adjutant, Nehemia Argov, informs Chief Military Censor Avner Bar-On that “a blackout should be put on the entire affair”. The next day, the head of the Intelligence Directorate relays Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan’s order to continue the blackout to the Military Censorship.
Approximately 07:30 The mukhtar is taken from his home to a forest near Antipatris Fort in Rosh Ha’ayin, where the bodies had been placed. The mukhtar, his son and two women from Kafr Qasim identify the bodies. The military brings 22 men from neighboring Jaljulya to dig graves in Kafr Qasim. The thirty identified bodies are buried. The victims’ families are not allowed to attend the burial. Lieutenant Colonel Dov Nishri submits the inquiry report.
The bodies whose identification had been delayed are buried. 13:00 The curfew in Kafr Qasim is lifted. Residents are given permission to come out of their homes, but they are forbidden from exiting the village for many days thereafter.
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense David Ben Gurion appoints a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Haifa District Court President, Justice Binyamin Zohar. Other members include Haifa Mayor Aba Hushi and former Military Advocate General, Aharon Hoter-Yishai. The commission is tasked with investigating what caused the incidents and the degree to which the Border Police men were responsible for them. OC Central Command Zvi Tzur orders the commander of the Military Police Criminal Investigation Department (MPCID) to investigate the incidents and file a report the next day. Over that day and the next, MPCID investigators take the statements of Issachar Shadmi, Shmuel Malinki, Gavriel Dahan, Shalom Ofer and others, none of whom are interrogated under warning. Latif Dory, Secretary of the Arab Department of the United Workers’ Party [known in Hebrew as Mapam] manages to sneak into Kafr Qasim and speak to the mukhtar. Nine days later, he records the accounts of the wounded at Beilinson Hospital.
The results of the MPCID investigation are delivered to the OC Central Command. MPCID investigators then collect statements from other individuals involved.
Initial reports about a commission set up to investigate incidents that took place in Triangle villages appear in the press. The Zohar Commission submits its conclusions, which are used to determine who would stand trial for the Kafr Qasim massacre. The commission also instructs the victims and their heirs must be compensated.
Ben Gurion informs the government plenum about the incidents, without any reference to Operation Mole. The next day, the press prints a short official announcement according to which several residents who returned to their homes in Kafr Qasim after the curfew began were hurt by Border Police gunfire. After the publication, Argov tells Chief Censor Bar-On that a publication ban should be placed on any details that did not appear in the official announcement.
Latif Dory publicizes the accounts he collected in the Al HaMishmar newspaper, under the title “The Kafr Qasim Bloodbath”. MKs Tawfik Toubi and Meir Vilner (Israeli Communist Party) visit Kafr Qasim. Three days later, Toubi sends a seven-page letter to public figures with details about the massacre.
MPCID investigators take statements from massacre survivors.
The trial of the eleven Border Police officers indicted for the massacre begins.
On the advice of Petah Tikva Mayor Pinhas Rashish, a public committee headed by the “Eldest of the Guards”, Avraham Shapira is set up (“the Rashish Committee). The committee determines what compensation the wounded and the families of the dead would receive and recommends a “Sulha” ceremony, that was held in November 1957.
The sentencing is handed down in the trial of the eleven policemen. Major Shmuel Malinki is convicted of the murder of 43 civilians and sentenced to 17 years in prison; Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan (43 murders) - 15 years in prison; Lance Corporal Shalom Ofer (41 murders) - 15 years in prison; Private Mahlouf Haroush and Private Avraham Eliahu (22 murders) - seven years in prison; Corporal Gavriel Uliel, Private Albert Fahima and Private Edmund Nahmani (17 murders) - seven years in prison. Corporal Abd al-Rahman, Private Said Sha’ban and Private Daniel Sminitz, who were charged with the murder of two civilians are acquitted.
Following an article written by Minister of Transpiration Moshe Carmel (under the pseudonym Hebrew Prisoner), which implied higher ranking officials than Brigade Commander Shadmi had been involved, the government orders a three-minister committee (the Rosen Committee) to find out “what orders and instructions the OC Central Command was given before of the Sinai Operation with respect to the conduct of security forces within the border”.
The Rosen Committee submits its conclusions at a government meeting: “No evidence has been found to support the conjecture that the events in Kafr Qasim were in any way the result of orders and instructions given by the OC Central Command or his superiors”.
Issachar Shadmi’s trial begins. He is charged with the murder of 25 residents (men only) and abuse of authority to the point of endangering a person’s life or health.
The decisions in Shadmi’s trial are handed down. He is acquitted of the murder charges but convicted of abuse of authority for imposing a curfew without written authorization from the military governor. The penalty is a reprimand and a fine of ten Israeli cents.
The decision in the appeals of the eight convicted policemen is handed down. Shmuel Malinki’s sentence is reduced to 14 years. Gavriel Dahan’s and Shalom Ofer’s sentences are reduced to ten, and the sentences of Haroush Mahlouf, Avraham Eliahu, Gavriel Uliel, Albert Fahima and Edmund Nahmani are reduced to three years. Mahlouf and Avraham are acquitted of complicity to murder in several of the waves and convicted of attempted murder. Uliel’s, Fahima’s and Nahmani’s convictions for their involvement in the ninth wave are reduced from murder to attempted murder.
As the official signing off on the judgments of the Military Court of Appeals, Chief of Staff Haim Laskov commutes Malinki’s sentence to ten years in prison, Dahan’s to eight and Shalom Ofer’s to seven.
Shalom Ofer is released from prison after the parole board deducts a third of his sentence for good behavior. Most of the other convicted policemen are also released at this time, after a third of their sentence is deducted.
President Yitzhak Ben Zvi commutes the sentences of Malinki and Dahan, the last of the convicted prisoners, to seven and five years respectively.
Gavriel Dahan is released from jail.
Shmuel Malinki is released from jail. Less than eighteen months after the sentencing in the trial of the eleven, all convicted prisoners are free.
Central Region Military Governor, Zalman Marat, visiting Umm al-Faham, 1955. Photo: Government Press Office
In 1956, Kafr Qasim, located a few hundred meters west of what was then the border with Jordan, and east of Rosh Ha’ayin and Petah Tikva, was home to about 400 families numbering just under 2,000 individuals. Residents were divided between six major clans. The village had no sewage or drainage systems. It spanned about 10,000 dunams, only about half of which was arable land. Village residents made their living mostly from the local quarry, farming and various jobs in neighboring Jewish communities. There were about ten trucks in the village. About 350 laborers from the village were unionized under the Eretz Yisrael Worker’s Alliance, an Arab-Jewish organization affiliated with the Workers’ Union. The alliance had a club in the village. Daily wages for young men averaged five Israeli pounds, though much less in the quarry. The usual tension between the younger and older generations impacted the village as well. The village school had about 550 students, about 100 of them female. Each class had an average of 50 to 60 students. A physician visited the village twice a week. “We are good citizens”, veteran Mukhtar Wadi’ Mahmoud Sarsour said, “Kafr Qasim is a village of quiet, peaceful, laborers. [...] We have never had any contact with infiltrators or neighbors across the border”. Within the internal Palestinian divide that was a feature of pre-Israel times, the mukhtar belonged to the “al-M’arda” camp, the opposition to Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s movement. Few village residents participated in the events of 1936 and its residents helped Arab fighters operating in the area during the 1948 war. After the area known as the Small Triangle (hereinafter: the Triangle), where Kafr Qasim is located, was transferred from Jordanian rule to Israeli rule as part of the Armistice Agreement of April 1949 (village residents later received Israeli citizenship), the village was put under curfew every night. Initially, the curfew began at 9:00 PM and lasted until 5:00 AM. It was shortened in 1953 to 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM. Any village resident who wished to exit village limits required a travel permit that was given, or denied, by the Military Governor. “The curfew we impose in the Triangle”, explained local Military Governor Zalman Meret, “is very liberal”. Anyone caught breaking the curfew, would be brought to the police and later put on trial.
Aerial photo of Kafr Qassim, 1960. The Fork, site of most massacre waves, is at the upper right corner of the image. Photo: Survey of Israel
When Israel was established, a Military Government was installed as a system for ruling over Arab residents of the country. The Military Government’s objectives were to a) Ensure control over areas inhabited by Arabs; b) Ensure control over land and villages abandoned during the war; c) Monitor the movements and activities of the Arabs; c) Prevent Arabs from returning to areas captured during the war. The Military Government covered the entire Galilee, the Negev Desert, the cities of Ramle, Lod, Ashkelon and Jaffa, and, after the armistice with Jordan (1949), the Triangle as well. Shortly after the war ended the Military Government in Jaffa, Ramle and Lod was abolished, leaving about 85% of Arabs living in Israel under Military Government rule in three districts: North, Centre (the Triangle) and Negev. Sixty percent of the Arabs lived in the Galilee, 20% in the Triangle and the rest in the Negev and the mixed Jewish and Arab towns. The legal source for the Military Government’s powers were the Defence (Emergency) Regulations 1945 - which had been used by the British during their mandate over the country and adopted by the Temporary State Council in 1948. From 1948 until its abolition in 1966, the Military Government was the main operative arm engaging with the Arab public, and as such, setting the course for Jewish-Arab relations. In practice, no less than 15 government officials and bodies were tasked with tackling issues that concerned Israel’s Arab public: The Ministry of Minorities, active until July 1949; The Ministry of Interior Minority Department (from September 1949); The Prime Minister’s Arab Affairs Advisor; The Ministry of Foreign Affairs; The General Labour Union; the Arab departments of the various parties and more. The Military Government may have been one of several arms addressing and advising on the issue of the Arab minority, but it was the most important of them. Of the many regulations in the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, mainly five were used. Regulation 109, for instance, gives the military commander (usually referred to as the Military Governor) the power to ban an individual from a certain area; Regulation 110 gives the military commander the power to place an individual under police supervision for up to a year; Regulation 111 empowers the military commander to place an individual under detention at any place of detention; Regulation 124 gives the military commander power to order a curfew over a certain area; Regulation 125 allows the military commander to declare an area or a place as a closed zone that may not be entered or exited without a permit in writing from the authorities. In practice, the Military Government imposed unbearably stringent restrictions on movement by Arabs in Israel, and the vast majority of this public was subjected to perpetual night curfews and travel restrictions. The Military Government was a point of contention not just among Israeli Arabs, but also for the Zionist parties and was the focus of fierce debate for years - until Prime Minister Levy Eshkol abolished it in 1966.
Documents related to this issue will be uploaded once the Military Court gives its decision on Adam Raz’s application to have the remaining sealed parts of the Kafr Qasim trial transcripts opened for access, and in keeping with that decision.
Inquiries into the massacre began just hours after it ended. The massacre was investigated by the Central Command, the Military Police, the prime minister appointed Commission of Inquiry and a ministerial committee. The different inquiries reached various conclusions regarding the origin and content of the orders and produced many documents and witness accounts from surviving victims as well as policemen and military officers. This section presents many of the documents produced by the investigative bodies.
The Fork at Kafr Qassim;s western entry, 1957. Photo: Haolam Hazeh magazine
Less than three hours after the massacre ended, Malinki ordered his battalion’s Company C Commander Haim Levy to take a preliminary statement from Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan. The statement was likely taken at 21:30 (per a handwritten annotation on the statement) and it is the first written statement taken from a policeman who participated in the massacre. In his statement, Dahan tells the story of the massacre from his point of view. He begins his story with the battalion operation orders briefing that took place that afternoon.
The MPCID began its work on the massacre three days after it took place, on 1 November 1956. MPCID officer, Major Shmuel Holder was appointed by the commander of the MPCID to act as the review officer in the matter. Since Holder was tasked with an inquiry rather than an investigation, the first interviewees were not warned that they may face charges before their statements were taken. Holder’s team included investigator Second Lieutenant Ya’aKov Danai, and later, also MPCID Commander Lieutenant Colonel Yosef Bar-Ner. First to give statements were the military officers and Border Police men. The statements of the survivors were collected only after Military Advocate General Colonel Meir Zohar ordered a supplementary investigation. Survivor statements were collected about a month after the massacre, on 24 and 25 November 1956 in Kafr Qasim and at the hospitals where some of them were still receiving care.
Several hours after the massacre ended, Lieutenant Colonel Dov Nishri, the Central Command liaison officer, was sent by OC Central Command Zvi Tzur to begin collecting the initial details of the massacre. Nishri and his assistant Shimon Forst, collected statements from the Border Police officers. They submitted their conclusions two days later. Nishri found the coordination between Brigade 17, the Military Government and Border Police Battalion 2 had been “lacking”. The committee did not make a conclusive finding on Shadmi’s order to fire at anyone who broke the curfew and criticized Malinki for not doing enough to "prevent the literal application of the instruction, if he had, in fact, been given such”.
On 1 November 1956, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion appointed a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Acting Haifa District Court President Binyamin Zohar. Other members included Haifa Mayor Aba Hushi and former Military Advocate General, Aharon Hoter-Yishai. The commission was tasked with uncovering and determining the reasons for the incidents and “the level of responsibility borne by Border Police men” and make proposals regarding compensation for village residents. The commission worked for five days, collecting many statements from various personalities connected to the massacre. In particular, the commission addressed what it called a “fundamental” difference between Shadmi’s and Malinki’s accounts of the conversation between them and the essence of the order given. The commission ultimately concluded: “In full recognition of the responsibility we have undertaken in weighing the accounts and preferring one over the other, we have reached the conclusion that the account of the brigade commander (Shadmi) is the correct one. We do not see fit to detail and specify our considerations in and grounds for reaching this conclusion”. The Zohar Commission recommended charging Battalion Commander Malinki, Kafr Qasim Company Commander Gavriel Dahan, Shalom Ofer and his squad, and Gavriel Uliel’s squad. Its conclusions were used to charge the defendants in the Kafr Qasim trial, which began several months later.
On 24 October 1958, shortly before Shadmi’s trial began, Minister of Transportation Moshe Carmel published an article entitled “The Kafr Qasim Tragedy and its Lessons”. He pondered in the article whether the orders Shadmi gave Malinki “contradicted the orders he received or matched them”? Ben Gurion was infuriated by the article which cast suspicion on the military and political leadership, and demanded a ministerial committee be established. It was named the “Three Minister Committee” or the Rosen Committee, after its chair, Justice Minister Pinhas Rosen. The two other members were Development Minister Mordechai Bentov and the Minister without Portfolio Naftali Peretz. The committee collected statements from Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan and Zvi Tzur. They hide more than they reveal. “Did you say the Arabs should be made to run”? Rosen asked Dayan, to which Dayan responded “I don’t recall”, but then immediately recalled not saying such a thing to Shadmi. The Rosen Committee “Unanimously concluded that no evidence has been found in the orders and documents submitted to the Committee for the conjecture that the events in Kafr Qasim were in any way the result of orders and instructions given by the OC Central Command or his superiors”.
The trial of the eleven Kafr Qasim massacre defendants spanned 100 different sessions between March 1957 and January 1958. The judgment was handed down on October 16 1958. Eight of the defendants were convicted and three were acquitted. Those convicted appealed and their cases were heard by the Supreme Military Court in February 1959. Earlier, in December 1958, Brigade 17 Commander Colonel Issachar Shadmi was prosecuted following the findings made by the Military Court in the judgment in the eleven Border Police officers’ trial.
The 11 defendants. Photographer unknown.
The Zohar Commission’s conclusions were used to determine who would stand trial for the Kafr Qasim massacre. Eleven Border Police officer were prosecuted: Battalion Commander Shmuel Malinki; the commander of the platoon stationed in Kafr Qasim, Gavriel Dahan; Squad Commanders Shalom Ofer and Gavriel Uliel and their squad members. The trial lasted about a year, and some eighty people testified. It took nine months for the judges to produce the judgment, in which Presiding Judge Binyamin Halevy instituted the black flag test, designed to identify a patently illegal order that must be disobeyed. Eight of the defendants were convicted, three were acquitted.
Dozens of exhibits - documents and photographs - were submitted over the course of Kafr Qasim trial. The prosecution entered 75 of them, the defendants entered 16. Most of the exhibits were filed and discussed in the public portions of the trial. Until the Military Court of Appeals renders its decision in Adam Raz’s application to open the transcripts of the in-camera sessions (including the exhibits submitted during these sessions), we present in this site only the exhibits submitted and discussed in open court during the Kafr Qasim trial, and cleared for publication by the Military Censorship.
The eight officers convicted in October 1958 appealed immediately. The hearings in the appeal began in February 1959 and the judgment was handed down several months later, in early April. The findings of the appellate instance regarding the officers’ guilt were not substantively different from those of the lower court’s (though some of the lower ranking officers’ convictions were changed from murder to attempted murder). The appellate court did, however, shorten their sentences: Malinki was sentenced to 14 years in prison; Dahan and Ofer to ten and the remaining officers to three. “Fundamentally”, wrote Meir Pail, one of the judges, “We thought the sentencing should be more justly distributed among all the defendants [...] Therefore, we somewhat shortened the sentences of Malinki and the others”.
In the ruling in the trial of the eleven policemen, Judge Binyamin Halevy found that Brigade Commander Issachar Shadmi had imposed a curfew illegally. In other words, the change in the time of the curfew had not complied with Regulation 124 of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, which gives the Military Governor sole power to impose a curfew. “The curfew had been imposed without legal basis by verbal orders from Shadmi”, Halevy wrote. Shadmi’s trial began in December 1958, about two years after the massacre and shortly after the officers were convicted. He was charged with causing the death of 25 residents of Kafr Qasim (The men only. Shadmi was not held responsible for the death of the women and children). In February 1959, Shadmi was acquitted of all murder related charges and convicted only of the disciplinary charges of abuse of authority for having pushed up the curfew without written authorization from the Military Governor. “We believe a fine of 10 [Israeli] cents would express how we see the gravity of the charges in this count”, the judgment said.
Efforts to suppress public knowledge of the massacre began immediately, but they were obstructed by political activists and public figures who went to Kafr Qasim and visited the wounded, collected their statements and publicized them. The massacre drew sharp criticism from both the Jewish and Arab public. It also rocked Israeli politics. At the same time, efforts to control the historical memory of the massacre and the leadup to it have persisted through the years and continue today.
Graves of the massacre's victims, 1957. Photo: Haolam Hazeh magazine
In the days and weeks after the massacre, staunch efforts were made to prevent the public, both Arab and Jewish, form obtaining information about what had happened. The long curfew on the village, which remained in effect until the dead were buried, was followed by a airtight closure with no one going in or out of the village. The Military Censorship was put to work to prevent any publication. “Even today, years later”, Chief Military Censor Avner Bar-On later wrote, “I look at the Kafr Qasim affair and how it was reflected in the censorship policy with a strong sense of discomfort”. Latif Dory, Secretary of the Arab Department of the United Workers’ Party, was the first to enter the village on 1 November 1956, three days after the massacre. Nine days later he went to Beilinson Hospital to take statements from the wounded. The witness accounts Dory collected were published on November 20 in the newspaper Al HaMishmar. As Dory was pursuing and publishing information about the massacre, MKs Tawfik Toubi and Meir Vilner visited the village on November 20, and three says later, Toubi sent a long letter describing the massacre to hundreds of people in the country. Dory’s and Toubi’s witness accounts caused an uproar in the country, and for a long time, they were the main source of information about the massacre.
Initial reporting of details about the Kafr Qasim massacre elicited strong responses within both the Arab and Jewish public. News reports postulating the trials might be held in camera provoked protest. Poet Natan Alterman and publicist Dan Ben Amotz wrote columns rebuking the massacre and the efforts to hide it. A special edition produced by weekly magazine HaOlam HaZe collated information about the massacre and called for a public trial. Jewish and Arab citizens wrote to the country’s leadership to express their dismay over the incident. Others wrote to demand the officers not be tried as they had followed orders.
Close to a year after the massacre, Petah Tikva Mayor Pinhas Rashish advised Ben Gurion to set up a public committee that would determine the final amount of compensation to be paid to the survivors and the murdered victims’ families. The committee worked for a month and suggested the parties would “hold a sulha ceremony inside Kafr Qasim according to accepted Arab tradition”. It later emerged that the Military Government pressured village residents to accept the committee’s conclusions. The date for the sulha was set when the committee finished its work. The ceremony was perceived by many in both the Jewish and Arab public as a cynical attempt to close the door on the affair.
Protests, in the form of demonstrations and strikes by the Arab public, began being organized immediately after the massacre. The largest protest was planned for early January 1957 in Nazareth. During a Central [government] Committee on Arabs meeting concerning the demonstrations, a decision was made not to arrest demonstrators in Nazareth but that “A small number of people would be arrested in the Triangle villages”. Throughout the following years, the Military Government worked to prevent any events commemorating the massacre and interfered with those that did take place. The Military Government blocked village access roads, claiming this was “completely justified” since “commemorating the victims and such is no more than shedding crocodile tears”. The Military Government took it upon itself to distinguish between protest and commemoration ceremony. This sort of interference in the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens was common. The purpose, in this instance, was to prevent criticism of the government, and particularly the ruling party, Mapai - Workers' Party of the Land of Israel. Ben Gurion’s Arab Affairs adviser, Uri Lubrani, thought the first annual memorial should be run by the Eretz Yisrael Worker’s Alliance which was affiliated with the Workers’ Union and suggested to distribute a “positive flyer” that would highlight the rehabilitation of the victims (who were not, in fact, rehabilitated). A “positive flyer” was written for the “village committee” (composed of clan delegates). It noted village residents did not “look favorably” upon attempts to exploit memorials “for negative political pursuits”. It is not known whether the flyer was distributed. Solidarity action was also hindered by the authorities. In April 1957, a women’s bazar was organized in Nazareth with the proceeds going to the massacre victims. For eight months, the women unsuccessfully tried to hand over the 800 pounds they had collected. The reason they were unable to deliver the money had to do with the control the Military Government yielded – the women had no travel permits for the area. According to MK Emil Habibi, for about a decade, not a year went by without police interference in memorial days. Habibi added that the government was trying to prevent memorial days from “affecting Israeli public opinion”. Deputy Defense Minister Zvi Dinstein explained a decision was made to prevent coordinated entry by “provocateurs” for the sake of public safety in the village and in order to allow the residents to “honor the memory of their relatives”.
In February 2017, historian Adam Raz filed an application with the IDF Archive to access all transcripts, exhibits and testimonies from the Kafr Qasim trial which were still classified. Raz also asked the IDF Archive to declassify historical documentation regarding Operation Mole in its entirety, on top of documentation regarding the Kafr Qasim massacre itself. At the same time, Raz filed an “application to access court records” with the Military Court of Appeals, given that it is the Military Court, rather than archive declassification departments, that decides on the declassification of military court cases. It emerged early on that the IDF Archive would not permit access to archived materials related to Operation Mole before Military Court of Appeals President Major General Doron Piles made his decision in the application. In August 2017, Major General Piles ordered the Military Prosecution and the head of IDF Information Security to submit a brief stating their position on Raz’s application. Over the last year, the court held several hearings in the case, and heard testimonies from representatives of the security establishment, the censor’s office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief State Archivist Yaakov Lazovik and MK Esawi Frej (from Meretz) who is a resident of Kafr Qasim. In April 2018, the Military Prosecution submitted its recommendation to the President of the Court as follows:
“Given the statements made in the brief, the Prosecution’s position is that at the present time, any declassification of ‘Kafr Qasim trial’ hearing transcripts that goes beyond what is already publicly accessible would harm national security and foreign relations and, in specific cases, also the privacy or safety of individuals - with a high level of certainty that legally precludes declassification [emphasis in original].
Throughout the hearings, Raz has argued that the Military Prosecution’s position and the briefs it has submitted were an automated response intended to prevent historical documentation being declassified. Raz claims that State conflates between a potential national security threat that could be caused by declassification and concern over finding itself in an awkward position after the materials are uncovered, and that a distinction must be drawn between the two. According to Raz, the declassification of Operation Mole documents 62 years after the Kafr Qasim massacre falls under the second category. During the hearings, the Military Prosecutor has argued that the public interest in keeping the historic records sealed is weighed only against historian Adam Raz’s private interest and that the “value in exposing the [trial] transcripts is not significant. [Adam Raz’s] requests [...] do not present substantive arguments other than that the transcripts are required for his research”. In his response, Raz argued the public had “a right to the truth”, as understood in international human rights discourse, and even though the right is not entrenched in Israeli domestic law, the victims’ families have a right to know what really went on in those days. Raz asked to call MK Esawi Frej, a resident of Kafr Qasim, as a witness. The President of the Court accepted the request. MK Frej gave his testimony in July 2018, opening with the following remarks:
“I am here, representing myself, representing the mother who lost her sons, the orphans sitting with us today. [...] I represent Arab society [...] [and] my brothers and sisters from Jewish society who want to know the truth. After 62 years, the State of Israel, which is my country too, need not fear the truth”.
It has now been more than two years since Adam Raz’s application was submitted. The Military Court hearings have ended, and we await the President’s decision on the declassification of trial transcripts and exhibits. A significant part of the classified material seems to relate to Operation Mole. For a detailed account of the efforts to have the records that are still sealed declassified, see the chapter entitled “The struggle to uncover the truth about the Kafr Qasim massacre” in the book: The Kafr Qasim Massacre: A Political Biography.
Sons of some of the victimsat the Military Court of Appeals attending a hearing of Historian Adam Raz's request to declassify the still-sealed court records and evidence (July 2018). Photo: Akevot Institute
29 October 2019: A result of extensive research and digitization efforts this Digital Document Library is now online on the 63rd anniversary of the Kafr Qasim Massacre. Akevot Institute will update the site with further documents and information as they become available. Over the coming weeks Akevot Institute will hold a number of events to accompany this site's launch; for details please follow our Facebook and Twitter pages, and join our mailing list.
On October 29, 1956, the first day of the second Arab-Israeli war (known in Israel as the Sinai or Kadesh Operation, and internationally as the Suez Crisis), the daily curfew imposed on the village of Kafr Qasim was pushed up from 10:00 PM to 5:00 PM with only half an hour’s notice. Laborers who were working outside the village at the time were not aware of the change. From 5:00 PM to nearly 6:00 PM, 47 Arab citizens – children, men and women - who were returning home were murdered in the village. Two more people, a boy and a man, were murdered in the nearby villages of Taybeh and Tira. Residents of Kafr Qasim count the unborn child of Fatma Sarsour, who was eight months pregnant when she was murdered as another victim, as well as ‘Abdallah ‘Issa, an elderly man whose heart stopped beating several hours after the massacre, after his young grandson, Talal, was murdered and many others in his family were hurt. This brings the number of victims up to 51. The massacre, and its aftermath – from the secrecy, obfuscation, politics and whitewashing to the trials and the public’s reaction, became a seminal event in Israel’s history in general, and in the history of its Arab public in particular. The memory of the trials held for the border police officers who took part in the massacre, and Judge Binyamin Halevy’s ruling, where he (vaguely) defined what a patently illegal order is has endured. However, an investigation of historical documents - transcripts, letters, police reports, government meeting minutes and many other accounts reveals that the story of the massacre itself, its related incidents and its aftermath, as it was known up to now, is quite different from the historical truth. This website is the result of longstanding collaboration between Akevot Institute and historian Adam Raz. Its purpose is to present the main documents that have been uncovered so far, and those that are still to come. The website reflects the mission Akevot Institute has taken upon itself to make primary sources regarding major events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accessible to the public and Raz’s belief the public at large should be able to directly access and critically evaluate the sources he used to write his book The Kafr Qasim Massacre: A Political Biography (Carmel publishing, 2018). Some of the texts on the site, mostly the description of the different phases of the massacre, are taken from Raz’s book. Others were written especially for the site by Raz and Akevot Institute. For a smoother online experience, we have excluded the footnotes in the texts taken from the book. We thank Adam Raz and Carmel Publishing for their invaluable help, without which this website would not have been possible. Akevot Institute also thanks the Kafr Qasim Municipality for its help in funding the translation of this site to Arabic and English. Akevot Institute and Adam Raz also wish to thank Adv. Shlomi Zachary, who volunteers his services in Raz’s legal battle for declassification of materials from the Kafr Qasim trial that remain sealed, which is taking place at the Military Court of Appeals. This site is launched following lengthy dialog with the Israeli Military Censorship. We thank Advocates Avner Pinchuk and Roni Pelli from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for their great help in moving this dialog forward. As the website launches, the Military Court of Appeals has yet to give its decision in Raz’s application to grant public access to the transcripts from sessions held in camera during the trial of the Border Police officers prosecuted for the massacre, which ended about sixty years ago. Therefore, until the decision is given, we will not be uploading significant records related to the massacre, including documents concerning Operation Mole and the role it played in the lead-up to the massacre and the trial transcripts, which are in our possession. Most of the court transcripts and evidence presented on this website originate in two important collections: The private collection of Adv. Yitzhak Oren, defense counsel for Gavriel Dahan, kept at the Tel Aviv University Archive and Shmuel Malinki’s private archive. We thank the Tel Aviv University Archive and the Malinki family for making the documents available to us. In 1998, in response to a request from the municipality of Kafr Qasim and film director Naftaly Gliksberg, then President of the Military Court of Appeals, Major General Ilan Schiff ordered a small portion of the transcripts from the in-camera court sessions in the trial of the 11 defendants be opened for public access. The pages and page portions opened for access at the time have not been published to date. The Public Committee for the Commemoration of the Kafr Qasim Massacre Victims provided us with copies of the materials Major General Schiff opened for access. We incorporated these pages into the transcripts on the website. We wish to thank the archives where the documents on this website are stored: Tel Aviv University Archive, Israel State Archive, Hashomer Hatzair Archive (Yad Yaari) in Givat Haviva, Labor Party Archive in Beit Berl, Central Zionist Archives, Ben-Gurion Archive in Sde Boker. We also thank Latif Dory and the Public Committee for the Commemoration of the Kafr Qasim Massacre Victims. The description provided for each document notes its origin: archive name and file number. Archive short form names: TAUA: Tel Aviv University Archive ISA: Israel State Archive CZA: Central Zionist Archives SMA: Shmuel Malinki Archive Research and Writing: Adam Raz Editing and additional writing: Lior Yavne Documents' digitization: Dr. Noam Hofstadter, Guy Hirschfeld, Lior Yavne Website design: Lee and Tamar Studio Website building: Noa Friedman Hebrew language editing: Noa Cohen Arabic translation: Muayad Ghanayem, Nawaf Atamneh English translation: Maya Johnston