Sunday, October 29, 2006

October 29

Picture3184Around 5:00 p.m. on 29 October 1948, Israeli planes bombed the grain silos and the mill in the northern Galilee village of Safsaf, a prelude to the capture of the town several hours later. As part of Operation Hiram, a 60-hour campaign that occurred just prior to the final cease-fire in Israel's "War of Independence," the IDF concentrated its attention on thirteen Palestinian Arab communities where the Arab Liberation Army was entrenched. Beginning with Safsaf, four IDF brigades deliberately "purged" the Palestinian population and -- in so doing -- committed numerous massacres against unarmed peasants left behind after the ALA withdrew.

Over 40 years later Abu Ismail, a Safsaf refugee who was twelve years old at the time of the war, recalled the scene as villagers crowded into the storehouses, "intending to surrender to the Jews, since we were defenceless."
The Jews came into the building. No one moved. 'Get out, get out, get out' they cried -- they took out all the men. They closed the door on us. And then we heard shooting. After a while, we opened the door and went outside. There was a line maybe fifty metres, of men. Dead. They had lined them up against the wall and shot them with machineguns.

Yosef Nahmani, director of the Jewish National Fund in Eastern Galilee from 1935 to 1965, toured the conquered region in early November with Immanuel Friedman of the Minority Affairs Ministry. As Nahmani recorded in his diary, Friedman described some of the "cruel acts of our soldiers" during Operation Hiram:
In Safsaf . . . after the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the [soldiers] collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-six fellahin and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several women. . . . At Eilaboun and Ferradiya the soldiers had been greeted with white flags and rich food, and afterwards had ordered the villagers to leave, with their women and children. When the [villagers] had begun to argue . . . [the soldiers] had opened fire, and after some thirty people were killed, had begun to lead the rest [towards Lebanon]. At Saliha, where a white flag had been raised[,] . . . they had killed about sixty-seven men and women.
Nahmani wondered if there were not "some more humane way of expelling the inhabitants." Internal investigations were conducted by the IDF into the Safsaf, Hula, Salifa and other massacres in 1948 and 1949; the results of those investigations remain classified and unpublished.


Eight years later, on 29 October 1956 -- the day the Suez War began -- the IDF ordered all Israel Arab villages near the Jordanian border to be placed under a rigid curfew lasting from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.; the curfew was prompted by terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians by fedayeen infiltrating from Sinai and Jordan. The orders, however, were given to local police units a mere hour and a half before they were to take effect. Delivering the orders to subordinate officers, Major Shmuel Malinki explained (as court transcripts later determined) that curfew-breakers -- including those who were as yet unaware of the curfew order itself -- were to be shot and killed "without discrimination and without mercy." In seven of the villages under the curfew order, local unit commanders disregarded Malinki's orders and allowed Arab workers to return from the fields unmolested. At Kafr Qassem, however, in nearly a dozen separate incidents between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., nineteen men, six women, ten teenage boys, six girls, and seven young boys were shot by an IDF platoon led by Lt. Gabriel Dahan. Arabs from the nearby town of Jaljuliya were brought to Kafr Qassim to dig a mass grave for the dead.

At their trials in 1958, Dahan and Malinki were sentenced to 15 and 17 years imprisonment, respectively. Those sentences were each commuted in November 1959.