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The Suez-Sinai Campaign: Incident at Kfar Kassem

(October 29, 1956)

On October 29, 1956, on the eve of the Sinai Campaign, the Israeli army ordered all Israeli Arab villages near the Jordanian border placed under a wartime curfew that was to apply from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day. Any Arab on the streets was to be shot. The order was given to the Israeli border police at 3:30 before most of the Arabs from the villages could be notified. Many of them were at work at the time. Villagers began to arrive from work to their homes in Kfar Kassem and Israeli troops opened fire on them. A total of 47 Israeli Arabs were killed. The news of the killings was censored and the general Israeli public did not learn what happened until several weeks later when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the findings of a secret inquiry. Eleven border policemen were eventually charged with crimes and eight were convicted. Those who were imprisoned had their terms reduced; no one served more than three and a half years in jail. The brigade commander received a symbolic penalty — a fine of 10 prutot (a coin equal to 1/1000 of an old Israeli pound).

In 2006, Israel’s Edcuation Minister, Yuli Tamir, ordered schools to commemorate the event. In addition, the mayor of Kfar Kassem announced plans to open a museum commemorating the massacre.

Sources: Shipler, David. Arab and Jew. NY: Penguin Books, 1987; Haaretz, (October 25, 2006)