Israel’s President Apologizes for 1956 Massacre in Kafr Kassem

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog apologized on Friday, October 29, on behalf of himself and the State of Israel for the 1956 Kafr Kassem massacre of Arab-Palestinians in the Israeli village, at a ceremony commemorating the victims. “I bow my head before the memory of the 49 victims. I bow my head before you, their families, and before the inhabitants of Kafr Kassem throughout the ages,” Herzog said, “and on behalf of myself and the State of Israel, I ask for forgiveness.”

Thousands demonstrated in Kafr Kassem on Friday, October 29, to mark the 65thanniversary of the massacre there. (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Thousands demonstrated in Kafr Kassem on Friday to mark the 65thanniversary of the massacre, among them Joint List lawmakers, Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and Adel Amer, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Israel.

Joint List head MK Aymen Odeh (Hadash) praised Herzog for his apology, which he described as a “correct, important step” taken by the president. “It is high time the government formally recognizes the massacre and the culpability of Israeli institutions in it,” the Joint List head wrote on Twitter.

Israel, however, has never taken formal responsibility for the massacre. On Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset voted down a bill proposed by Hadash MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Ayman Odeh and Ofer Cassif from the Joint List. 

The draft law, which proposed that the Israeli government recognize its responsibility for the massacre and introduce its commemoration as part of Israeli school curricula, was opposed by a majority of 93 Knesset members and was supported by only 12. The primary provisions of the defeated bill include the following.

  1. Moral recognition of the massacre in Kafr Kassem: The Government of Israel recognizes its moral, political, and social responsibility for the massacre committed by its security forces in Kafr Kassem on October 29, 1956, and to the families of the victims.
  2. Homeroom discussion hour in the schools: The Ministry of Education will make mandatory the dedication of one homeroom discussion hour on or near the date stated in section 1, to mark the massacre and to draw lessons from it, in all schools throughout the country.
  3. Budget: The State Treasury will allocate funding for the Association to Commemorate the Victims of the Massacre in Kafr Kassem so that the latter can bring the lessons of the massacre in Kafr Kassem to the attention of the general public.