Oct. 29th, 1948 in history: Massacres in Palestine

Today in history is another black day in the Palestinian history.

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1. On October 29, 1948, when Israeli brigades captured the village of Safsaf. The known details of the massacre come to us via several contemporary second-hand Zionist reports and via Arab oral history. Yosef Nachmani, a senior officer in the Haganah (and later the director of the Jewish National Fund in Eastern Galilee), recorded in his diary what he was told by Immanuel Friedman, a representative of the Minority Affairs ministry:

In Safsaf, after … the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the [soldiers] collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-sixty fellahin [peasants] and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several women… (quoted in Zertal, 2005, p. 171; see also Morris, 2005, p. 500).

Moshe Erem reported on the massacre to a meeting of the Mapam Political Committee but his words were censored from the minutes. According to the notes taken by another person present, Erem spoke of:

Safsaf 52 men tied together with a rope. Pushed down a well and shot. 10 killed. Women pleaded for mercy. 3 cases of rape . . . . A girl of 14 raped. Another four killed (Morris, 2004, p. 500).

These accounts in broad detail are supported by Palestinian witnesses who told their stories to historians.

2. On October 29, 1948 (same day as above massacre), the Arab town al-Dawayima was conquered by Israeli terrorist groups known as Irgun and Lehi.

An unnamed Israeli soldier told this version: “The first wave of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 Arabs, women and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead.”

Meron Benvenisti writes:

Atrocities and acts of brutality characterised this period: summary executions, rape, blowing up houses along with their occupants, looting and plundering, and leaving hundreds of villages to their own devices in the fields, without food or water. The most serious atrocities were committed in the village of Al-Dawayima on the western slopes of the Hebron Highlands. This large village, with a population of some 3,500 was taken on 29 October, 1948. The occupying forces indiscriminately killed between 80 and 100 males villagers, blew up houses together with their occupants, murdered women and children, and committed rape. According to eyewitness testimony, these acts were committed “not in the heat of battle and inflamed passions, but out of a system of expulsion and destruction. The fewer Arabs remained — the better.”

3. On October 29, 1956, during the Suez Crisis, Israeli Border Police started at 4 pm what they called a tour in Kafr Qasim town (also known as Kafr Qassem, Kufur Kassem and Kafar Kassem). They told the Mukhtars (Aldermen) of the town that the curfew from that day onwards was to start from 5 pm until 6 am next morning. They reached Kafr Qasem around 4:45 pm and informed the Mukhtar who protested that there are about 400 villagers working outside the town and there is no enough time to inform them of the curfew timings. An officer assured him that they will be taken care of.

The guards waited at the entrance to the town. 43 Kafr Qasem inhabitants were massacred in cold blood by the army as they returned from work. Their crime was violating a curfew they did not know about. On the northern entrance of the town 3 were killed and 2 were killed inside of the town. Amongst the dead were men, women, and children. Lutanat Danhan was touring the area in his jeep reporting the massacre, on his wireless he said “minus 15 Arabs” after a while his message on the radio to his H.Q. was “it is difficult to count.”

Interestingly enough, on Nov. 11, 1956, Prime Minister Ben Gurion told the cabinet about the Kfar Qasim massacre. He said:

“We have a wonderful army, but it appears that sometimes there are incidents and circumstances that make people lose their minds.”

On March 28, 2001, Ha’aretz published some excerpts from this cabinet meeting.

Ha’aretz March 28, 2001

Excerpts from the State Archives, Jerusalem.

The Kfar Kassem massacre took place on October 29, 1956, but it reverberates through Israeli political culture to this day. The following transcripts, from the state archives, depict David Ben-Gurion’s government as shocked, contrite – and worried about how the news of the event will reflect on Israel overseas. At one point, Ben-Gurion regrets that Israel “gave up the death penalty too soon.” At one point, he indicated that he was inclined to accept the idea of the two sergeants in the case being hanged in the village square of Kfar Kassem.(Please note that the initials G.M. that occasionally appear in this text refer to Guy Ma’ayan, a historian. His review of “Kfar Kassem: Events and Myths,” by Rubik Rosenthal, appears in today’s Hebrew Book Review.)

Protocols of the government session, 7 Heshvan, 5757, (November 11, 1956).

Source: State Archives, Jerusalem.

Participants: Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (Mapai), Finance Minister Levi Eshkol (Mapai), Foreign Minister Golda Meir (Mapai), Interior Minister Yisrael Bar-Yehuda (Ahdut Avoda), Health Minister Yisrael Barzilai (Mapam), Police Minister Bechor Shalom-Sheetrit (Mapai), Housing Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam), Welfare Minister Peretz Naftali (Mapai). Central District IDF Commander Zvi Tzur.

Ben-Gurion: I now must report on a uniquely horrible and regrettable incident, the scandal that took place in three villages in the Triangle: Kfar Kassem, Jeljoulya, and Taibe. On October 29, the central command issued an order to place a curfew on the villages in that area. The order itself was proper. The villagers (who knew of the curfew – G.M.) obeyed the order. There was a curfew from five in the afternoon until six in the morning. But there were villagers who were outside the villages and they returned in the morning, after the curfew went into effect – they were shot and killed. There were children and women. I first heard about this on November 1.

Barzilai: What’s the overall number?

Ben-Gurion: Forty-seven. Seventeen were women and children. I immediately decided to order an inquiry. I immediately asked the Supreme Court President to name a judge. He advised me to take Binyamin Zohar, whom I named as chairman and added attorney Hoter-Yishai and Abba Hushi. I asked them to quickly investigate: a) the circumstances of the events in the villages on October 29; b) the degree of responsibility of the Border Patrolmen, officers, sergeants and troops, and if they should be charged and tried. I received word that everything done was the responsibility of the Border Patrol, but that’s not true, because the Border Patrol at the time was under the command of the army; c) The compensation the government must pay to the families that suffered as a result of the Border Patrolmen’s behavior.

The committee delivered a report. According to the report, Brigade 17 commander (Col. Yashka Shedmi – G.M.) gave the order (to kill the curfew breakers – G.M.). He denies he gave such an order, since the order was given in private to regimental commander 2 (sic) Shmuel Melinki. The order said apply the curfew from five in the evening to six in the morning – and notify everyone in the village. But the bus showed up and it knew nothing about the matter. When the passengers alighted, they were shot and killed. According to the inquiry, one thing remains in doubt. The committee have given the brigade commander the benefit of the doubt, because the brigadier denies he gave such an order to the regiment commander. But they decided the regimental commander is responsible for the order to shoot. They also found that those who followed the orders are responsible for obeying an illegal order. All of them were court martialed. I am sorry there are also Druze among the accused. In my view, they are not guilty. They got an order. It’s impossible to demand of a Druze that he decide if the order is legal or illegal.

Bentov: How many people were put on trial?

Ben-Gurion: The regimental commander, his deputy (Gavriel Dahan – G.M.), sergeants and troops. Those who gave the order and those who obeyed. Since I asked the committee to prepare the report quickly, they did not accomplish one request, concerning who should get compensation. They suggest the immediate appointment of another committee to look into the matter, but that meanwhile a base sum of IL 1,000 be paid to every family that suffered in this matter, and that the IL 1,000 later be discounted from the overall compensation.

I want to commend the police minister, who immediately went to the village and spoke with the village leaders expressing the government’s sorrow, telling them that an inquiry had been appointed, informing them that the people would be tried, and severely punished, and the families would get compensation. Now I suggest the treasury make ready the entire amount. There will certainly be a need of IL 50,000 or IL 60,000, and that every family be paid immediately. It may turn out that the new committee decides on more money. I suggest the justice minister appoint the compensation committee.

Meir: Is the court martial over?

Ben-Gurion: Not yet.

Bentov: Will their be an announcement about this?

Ben-Gurion: We have to take counsel on this. I doubt whether it is possible to hide such an affair, even though it is so shameful. How can people from among us do such a thing? It is horrifying.

Eshkol: What did the regimental commander say?

Ben-Gurion: He said the brigadier gave him an order in the following manner: He asked what to do if the curfew is violated. The brigadier said, I don’t want sentimentalism. The regimental commander wasn’t satisfied. He asked, but what if? The regimental commander says the brigadier brushed him off with the Arabic phrase, may Allah be merciful. The regimental commander understood that to mean to do what he thought necessary. The brigadier denies this. Since there is doubt, the committee decided to accept the brigadier’s version. We have a wonderful army, but apparently there are incidents and circumstances in which people lose their minds. How can an order be given to shoot children.

[…]

Enough of this crap… can’t take any more… read the rest here

“How can an order be given to shoot children?” B-G is wondering! I don’t know if I should laugh or cry here.

The Israeli ELECTED TERRORISTS are wondering for ages now, but they are still giving orders to shoot children, women, infants, even a handicapped didn’t escape their terror massacres. And they still wonder!!

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