Education Minister Orders Schools to Commemorate Kafr Qasem Massacre

Education Minister Yuli Tamir has ordered schools to commemorate the Kafr Qasem massacre, in which border policemen killed 47 Arab civilians some 50 years ago as they were returning home from work.

Tamir has instructed schools to dedicate time this coming Sunday to a discussion on both the massacre and the court's subsequent ruling - that the order to shoot was "a clearly illegal order over which a black flag flew," and that the border policeman should have disobeyed it.

"The massacre and the subsequent trial have become a cornerstone of Israeli society's national consciousness, and have inculcated into generations of Israel Defense Forces officers and soldiers the moral limits according to which they must act," Tamir wrote in her directive.

She ordered the commemoration following a request from the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.

The ministry also plans to post material relevant to the discussion on its Internet site, though it has not yet done so.

The incident occurred on October 29, 1956, the first day of the Sinai Campaign, when three border policemen were ordered to shoot anyone found violating the curfew that had been imposed on Kafr Qasem. Pursuant to these orders, the soldiers opened fire on 47 laborers, including women and children, who were returning home from work unaware that a curfew had been imposed. The soldiers were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, but received presidential pardons. The brigade commander received a purely symbolic penalty - a fine of 10 prutot (a coin equal to 1/1000 of an old Israeli pound).

Kafr Qasem Mayor Sami Issa said that a museum commemorating the massacre would also open in the town on October 29. Various other memorial events are also planned, including a conference in Kafr Qasem on Friday and a march on Sunday.

Meanwhile, at a press conference yesterday, Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Chair Shawki Khatib compared Avigdor Lieberman's planned entry into the government to the massacre, arguing that the massacre, like Lieberman's plan to transfer Israeli Arab towns to the Palestinian Authority, ultimately stemmed from a desire to expel Arabs.