As It Was Told: Kafr Qasim 60 Years Later

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As It Was Told: Kafr Qasim 60 Years Later


On the eve of the 1956 War, strict security measures were imposed on Arab villages near Israel's borders. At Kafr Qasim in Israel on the Jordanian frontier, the army decreed a curfew to come into effect almost immediately whilst most of the workmen of the village were still out in thefields and could not be informed. As they returned to Kafr Qasim in the early evening of October 29, 1956, forty-nine villagers were shot by Israeli soldiers. In the August 1973 issue of Shu'un Filastiniya, the eminent Palestinian author, Mahmoud Darwish, published for the first time the account of one of those who managed to escape, Salih Khalil 'Isa, as it was told ten years after the event to the poet Ziad Taufiq.

"That day I was working in an orchard with two of my cousins. We finished work a little after 4 p.m, and got on our bicycles to go back to the village. On the way we met some other workers who told us that there was a curfew and shooting in the village. No one knew why, but that was what they had heard. After some hesitation we decided to go on. Our numbers increased until we were fifteen altogether. We got to about a kilometre from the village, not seriously afraid. The only possibility I thought of was that an officer of the Frontier Force - Blum by name - might stop us, and perhaps insult us and knock us about a bit, as usual. I did not expect anything else.

A little later we heard firing, and I began to feel that there was something serious going on. I said to my cousin: 'Let's go back,' but he encouraged me. There was a sheikh of about sixty who encouraged us with verses from the Koran. So we went on until we were a hundred metres from the nearest house in the village. Suddenly a Frontier Guardsman appeared and blocked our way: 'Stop!' Until that moment the worst I had expected was a blow - not death. We got off our bicycles, and the soldier ordered us to line up in a row. 'Where are you from?' 'From Kafr Qasim,' we all shouted with one voice. 'Where have you been?' 'At 'work.

He moved about five metres away from us to where there were two other soldiers carrying submachine guns and shouted: 'Mow them down!' I didn't believe it until the bullets started streaming towards us. The first burst was at our feet, the second a little higher. I fell along with the others. Beside me was a horse-cart whose owner they had arrested and shot along with us. I fell down behind the cart. I don't know how. I realized that I was alive only after I had fallen down. That's all. The three soldiers went about ten metres away from us.

In a few moments a truck arrived. They stopped it, and ordered those who were in it to get down. It was carrying a number of workers (twenty-three, as I learned later) of the 'Usamia agricultural company. The man who had given the order for us to be shot stepped forward and ordered them to get down and line up behind the truck. When they were lined up close together behind the truck, he moved away from them, and yelled: 'Mow them down!' Some ran away, the majority fell.

The three killers came back to where I was, with the other dead cyclists and started piling them up three metres away from me. They were using torches and firings hots. They were finishing off the wounded. They came close to me and pulled the cart away. The whole weight of its iron wheel went over my feet. I gritted my teeth to stop myself screaming I pretended to be dead. They pulled me away and put me on the pile. Then they went away."

Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 3 No. 1, Autumn, 1973; (pp. 165-166)