Had author Franz Kafka not died about 100 years ago, we might have thought that he, rather than Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Piles, signed the recent Military Court of Appeals ruling. First, he imposed a gag order on the fact that a ruling had been made in the case he heard, which focused on a request to publish materials related to the 1956 massacre in Kafr Qasem. Later, the gag order was loosened, so that now the fact that a ruling was made can be published, but not its contents.
This decision must be read twice in order to understand that it is not a mistake. Nor did anyone bother to explain the twisted logic behind it.
The case at the center of the affair that was revealed in Haaretz on Tuesday (by Ofer Aderet) involves a familiar and well documented event, which was investigated and led to a trial, a conviction and the coining of the expression “patently illegal order.”
On the first day of the Sinai Campaign, Border Police officers shot and killed about 50 innocent, unarmed Arab civilians. The only crime these civilians committed was that they were unaware that the nighttime curfew was starting earlier. Some of the soldiers involved were convicted and imprisoned, but were later granted an early release in circumstances that are difficult to understand.
The Kafr Qasem massacre was one in a series of incidents that has stained the righteousness of Zionist history over the past century. Regarding some of these incidents, like the ones that took place in Tantura and in Deir Yassin in 1948, there is still a stormy argument raging; but there is no dispute regarding the murders in Kafr Qasem. Only on the lunatic fringes of the extreme right do some people dare to deny this massacre.
No big secret is hiding behind this affair, and in any case, heads of state have apologized for it in the past. Therefore, the question must be asked: Why are documents that record the story of the murders of those Israeli citizens still being concealed from the public eye, 66 years after their deaths?
And if there has been a decision to release, or not to release, those documents – unfortunately, only made in response to the appeal of historian Adam Raz, and not on the initiative of the state – by what right does the military court refuse to release the actual decision?
This conduct is typical of regimes that the State of Israel does not want to resemble. Releasing these documents is much more than an issue of research and documentation. For the families of those murdered, it represents the state’s moral obligation to provide them with all information about the terrible circumstances and background for the murder of their loved ones. The state must stop censoring its history.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.