The Knesset struck down on Wednesday, October 27, proposed legislation that would have seen the state formally accept responsibility for the 1956 Kafr Kassem massacre. The bill was put forth by Hadash MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Ofer Cassif and Ayman Odeh. “The ‘government of change,’ the unity government, the supposed Jewish-Arab government, toppled the bill to memorialize the Kafr Kassem massacre,” fumed MK Touma-Sliman following the debate. The bill fell in a vote of 93-12 with no abstentions.
Knesset security personnel eject Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej (Meretz) from the Knesset plenum during the debate of the Hadash-sponsored bill to memorialize the 1956 Kfar Kassem massacre, Wednesday October 27, 2021. (Photo: Knesset)
Hadash parliamentarians regularly propose the law near the massacre’s October 29 anniversary. But the Knesset has repeatedly rejected proposals to acknowledge state responsibility for the crime.
Touma-Sliman’s bill would have seen the state formally accept “full moral responsibility for the massacre” and mandate an hour of instruction on the incident in Israeli schools. It would also require that the state work to publicize any remaining classified documents relevant to the massacre.
“You want to turn our pain into internal politics,” said the coalition’s Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej (Meretz) from the Knesset plenum, gesturing at the Joint List parliamentarians. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Touma-Sliman called back at Frej. “You are sitting in the government quietly, at the expense of your people, whom you are not helping at all.” Even after he was expelled from the plenum, Frej continued to shout at the Hadash MKs.
Last year, the Knesset debated a similar bill proposed by Touma-Suliman that would have conferred full state recognition on the event and added mandatory instruction about the massacre into school curricula. Then the bill was struck down by the Knesset with 51 against and 21 in favor. The Joint List voted in favor, joined by a smattering of parliamentarians from Meretz and Blue & White. Shas, Likud and Yamina MKs opposed the measure.
Following last Wednesday’s vote, in a statement he released, the head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, attacked two parties within the coalition, Meretz and Ra’am: “This time, the coalition has within it lawmakers who submitted the bill in previous Knessets. But their coalition toppled the bill and continues to deny the massacre,” he said.
On October 29, 1956, on the eve of the Israel’s Sinai campaign against Egypt, Israeli Border Police shot to death 49 unarmed Kfar Kassem residents, Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, returning home from work during a curfew which had been imposed earlier in the day, after they had already left their homes in the morning and of which they were therefore unaware. Among those killed were six women and 23 children aged 8 to 17.