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My grandmother was murdered in Kafr Qasim, now these are my demands

12:00 Oct 29 2016 Kafr Kasim (Qasim)

My grandmother was murdered in Kafr Qasim, now these are my demands My grandmother was murdered in Kafr Qasim, now these are my demands My grandmother was murdered in Kafr Qasim, now these are my demands
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Photo:
Thousands take part in the march to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Kafr Qasim, October 29, 2016. (photo: Joint List).

Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsur stands by a monument for the victims of the Kafr Qasim massacre, October 28, 2007. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin greets an Arab-Israeli elder during a memorial ceremony in honor of the Kafr Qassim massacre October 26, 2014, held in the Arab-Israeli town Kfar Qassem. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)
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I think about the events that led up to the murder of my grandmother and 48 other women, children, and men, along with dozens of survivors who carry their trauma until today. Will we ever see true justice?

By Reem Amer for 972Mag

Everyone speaks of the Kafr Qasim massacre of 1956 as if it were an isolated case. As if Border Police officers decided to carry out, without any connection to or orders from the government echelon or military establishment. Yet we tend to forget that the regime and the Zionist movement, which sought to empty the land of it inhabitants, was behind the massacre.

One cannot disconnect what took place in Kafr Qasim from the injustices and oppression that began in 1948 and continue until today in places such as Al-Araqib and Umm al-Hiran, where the authorities destroy homes and expropriate land on a regular basis. The massacre was yet another attempt to force Palestinians to leave their homeland and join the hundreds of thousands of refugees who were expelled during the 1948 war.

One of the journalists who came to interview me in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the Kafr Qasim massacre asked about our demands, and whether we would forgive and move on if only the Israeli government would express remorse. We explained that an apology is not enough.

The goal remains the same

I am the granddaughter of Hamisa Farg Amer, who was murdered on that day in 1956. My grandmother was murdered while on her way back from the olive harvest with her friends who suffered a similar fate, save for one survivor, Hana’a Sliman Amer. My grandmother was born in Jaffa. She and her family lived in the Al-Manshiyya neighborhood, when her family became refugees and fled for the ’67 territories. We are in touch with some of them until today, we lost touch with others, and there are some whose fate we know nothing about.

I think about the events that led up to the murder of my grandmother and 48 other women, children, and men, along with dozens of survivors who carry their trauma until today. I think about them and about the fate of the activists who pledged to bring forth the full story of the massacre, to teach their children and grandchildren about the courage necessary to demand justice. These are people who, time after time, paid a heavy price when they were arrested and had their homes were raided on the eve of the massacre’s commemoration.

In the first 20 years following the massacre, when Palestinian citizens lived under military rule, the military governor would issue arrest warrants for activists in order to prevent them from marching to commemorate the massacre. The authorities would confiscate black flags and megaphones, which were used for chanting slogans against the military government. One of those people was my father, Muhammad Khamis Amer.

When I think about my personal story, my family’s story, and I think about our demands, I have an answer made up of several questions: will the Israeli government recognize the ongoing injustice that the state has caused the Palestinian people since 1948? What would be the significance of such recognition? Will it include remedying those injustices? Will it fully recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination? Will it fully recognize the Palestinian people’s right to return to the land from which they were and continue to be expelled?

After all, Kafr Qasim, Sabra and Shatila, Kaft Qana, the attacks on Gaza, every massacre has been carried out with a single goal in mind: expulsion and oppression.

Reem Amer is a feminist and political activist. She is a General Coordinator at Coalition of Women for Peace. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.
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One almighty military order and 49 dead Palestinians
Sixty years on, the Kafr Qasim massacre is a stark reminder of the buried past of the world’s ‘most moral army.’


by Sam Bahour for 972Mag

If your Palestinian neighbors and friends seem slightly on edge today, please excuse them. October 29th brings back horrific memories to Palestinians everywhere, young and old. It was 60 years ago today that a scene of cold-blooded murder fell upon the hilltop village of Kafr Qasim, located in Israel about 20 km east of Tel Aviv near the Green Line. It was in Kafr Qasim on this day in 1956 where the Israeli military mowed down in cold blood 48 innocent civilians, one of them a pregnant woman, whose fetus is counted as the 49th victim. It was said that all of this was done in the service of the almighty Israeli “military order,” which no one dared to challenge.

Sixty years is a long time to mourn a death, even cold-blooded murder. It is even longer when you must live among those, and under the system of those, who murdered your loved ones. Had this been merely an isolated incident of the Israeli military machine killing Palestinians, one may have already regulated it to the history books. But it was and is not.

There were others massacres prior to Kafr Qasim, such as the case of Deir Yassin in 1948. Since then there have been numerous other incidents, too many to list. One that comes to mind is 13-year-old Iman al-Homs who, in October 2004, was walking home from school in Gaza when an Israeli soldier emptied his magazine into her after she was wounded and lay on the ground. The soldier was caught saying he was “confirming the kill.” The most recent example that comes to mind is Elor Azaria, who was caught on camera in Hebron this past March as he executed an immobilized Palestinian, by firing a bullet into his head as his fellow soldiers casually watched on.

Unlike today, decades ago Israel did undertake more serious investigations its military’s actions. This is not to say that justice was ever served — it rarely is. One example of these investigations was the Kahan Commission, established by the Israeli government on September 28, 1982, to investigate the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which between 1,000-3,000 (the exact number is disputed) Palestinians were slaughtered over three days.

The Kahan Commission was chaired by the Israeli President of the Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan; its other two members were Israeli Supreme Court Judge Aharon Barak and Major general (res.) Yona Efrat. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was found to bear personal responsibility for the massacre: Sharon’s negligence in protecting the civilian population of Beirut, which had come under Israeli control, resulted in a recommendation that he be dismissed from the position of defense minister. Although Sharon grudgingly resigned as, he remained in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio. Years later, Sharon would be elected prime minister.

Back to Kafr Qasim.

An article published on Friday by Haaretz’s Ofer Aderet takes a look at the massacre 60 years on. Aderet writes:

In the 60 years since the [Kafr Qasem] carnage Israel’s attitude has been complicated. Those involved in it were court martialed, convicted and some sentenced at first to long prison terms [these ‘long terms’ were less than what the law stipulated for premeditated murder]. [Israeli] Judge Benjamin Halevy coined the phrase ‘a blatantly illegal order’ in his verdict. The instruction to Israel Defense Forces soldiers that they are obliged to refuse an order “that has a black flag flying over it” has become part of the Kafr Qasem legacy.

He continues:

‘But the convicted parties’ sentence was soon commuted by the chief of staff, they were pardoned by the president and released from jail. The most senior defendant, Col. Issachar Shadmi, commander of the brigade in charge of the area, was sentenced to a symbolic fine of 10 pennies for exceeding authority. Major Shmuel Malinki, commander of the Border Police battalion, testified at the trial that Shadmi had ordered him to enforce the curfew with gunshots. Asked what would happen to those who return to the village after the curfew, Kedmi said Shadmi had said ‘may God have mercy on their soul.’

Perhaps the most shocking of all was how the comparison between the Kafr Qasim massacre and the Holocaust was first made at the trial, when the judge asked one of the defendants if he would have justified a Nazi soldier who obeyed orders. “In 1986, 30 years after the massacre, Shalom Ofer, one of the convicted soldiers, said in an interview to Ha’ir:

‘We were like the Germans. They stopped trucks, took the Jews off and shot them. What we did is the same. We were obeying orders like a German soldier during the war, when he was ordered to slaughter Jews.'”

Many, especially those in the Jewish community in Israel and abroad, will rightfully find the above words hard to swallow. I don’t blame them. The massacre was a horrendous act, especially when undertaken in “your” name.

Aderet’s article offers but a glimpse into the legal proceedings surrounding Kafr Qasim. One of the first people to document those proceedings was Palestinian attorney Sabri Jiryis, in his landmark book, The Arabs in Israel, published in 1966. A fuller account of the testimonies recorded by the Israeli commanders and soldiers who took part in this killing spree can be found printed here in English. Warning: it’s a disturbing read.

And this, my friends, is the buried past and not so buried present, of the Israeli Defense Forces, “the most moral army in the world.” It is imperative that we all redouble our efforts to not make it its future as well, military orders or not.

Sam Bahour is a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network; Chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy; Co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (Olive Branch Press). He blogs at www.epalestine.com. @SamBahour
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