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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem

CHAPTER TEN Part 2 of 3



The massacre was carried out by the Frontier Guard, which had been formedin theearly 1950's to protect Israel's borders. A description of the events at Kafr Kassim follows, as recorded by the Israeli military court:

"On the eve of the Sinai War...a battalion attached to the Central Area Command was ordered to prepare itself to defend a section of the Israeli-Jordanian frontier. (With this end in view) ... a unit of the Frontier Guard was attached to the said battalion and the commander of this Frontier Guard unit, Major Shmuel Melinki, was placed under the orders of the battalion commander, Brigadier Yshishkar Shadmi. In the morning of 29 October 1956, the Commander of the Central Area, Major General Zvi Tsur informed Brigadier Shadmi and the other battalion commanders, of the policy it had been decided to adopt toward the Arab population.

"The area commander went on to emphasize to the battalion commanders that the safeguarding of the operation in the south (the Suez campaign) required that the area coterminous with Jordan be kept absolutely quiet.

"... Brigadier Shadmi requested that he be empowered to impose a night curfew in the villages of the minorities in the area under his command in order to: (a) facilitate the movements of his forces, and (b) prevent the population being exposed to injury by the reserve troops. These arguments convinced the area commander, who empowered Brigadier Shadmi to impose a curfew ....

"On the same day Brigadier Shadmi summoned Major Melinki to his headquarters, informed him of the duties of the unit under his command, and gave him instructions about the execution of these duties. One of the duties of this Frontier Guard unit was to impose the curfew ... in the villages of Kafr Kassim, Kfar Barra, Jaljulya, Tira, Tayba, Qalansuwa, Bir al Sikka, and Ibtin during the night. The two commanders agreed that the curfew would be enforced between 5 P.M. and 6 A.M.

"The battalion commander (Shadmi) also told the unit commander (Melinki) that thecurfew must beextremely strict and that strong measures must be taken to enforce it. It would not be enough to arrest those who broke it - they must be shot. In explanation he said, 'A dead man' (or according to other evidence 'a few dead men') is better than the complications of detention.

"When Melinki asked what was to happen to a man returning from his work outside the village, without knowing about the curfew, who might well meet the Frontier Guard units at the entrance to th; village, Shadmi replied: 'I don't want any sentimentality' and "That's just too bad for him.'

"Shadmi gave his orders to Melinki verbally, while they were alone, and Melinki wrote the following words in his diary during the interview: 'Curfew imposed from evening till morning (1700-0600). Strict policy.'"19

Similarly, the order drafted by Melinki and handed to the reserve forces attached to his group, shortly before the curfew was imposed, contained the following words under the heading "Method": "No inhabitant shall be allowed to leave his home during the curfew. Anyone leaving his home shall be shot; there shall be no arrests."(20)

Armed with these instructions, Major Melinki returned to his headquarters, where with the help of his officers, he prepared a series of orders for his forces. During this meeting,

"He informed the assembled officers that the war had begun, that their units were now under the command of the Israeli Army, and that their task was to impose the curfew in the minority villages from 1700 to 0600, after informing the mukhtars to this effect at 16.30, With regard to the observation of the curfew, Melinki emphasized that it was forbidden to harm inhabitants who stayed in their homes, but that anyone found outside his home (or, acwrding to other witnesses, anyone leaving his home, or anyone breaking the curfew) should be shot dead. He added that there were to be no arrests, and that if a number of people were killed in the night (according to other witnesses: it was desirable that a number of people be killed as) this would facilitate the imposition of the curfew during succeeding nights.

" While he was outlining this series of orders, Major Melinki allowed the officers to ask him questions. Lieutenant Frankenthal asked him, 'What do we do with the dead?' (or, according to other witnesses 'with the wounded?'). Melinki replied, 'Take no notice of them' (or, acwrding to other evidence, 'There will not be any wounded.') Arieh Menches, a section leader, then asked, 'What about women and children?' to which Melinki replied, 'No sentimentality' (according to another witness, 'They are to be treated like anyone else; the curfew covers them too.'). Menches then asked a second question: 'What about people returning from their work?' Here Alexandroni tried to intervene but Melinki silenced him and answered: 'They are to be treated like anyone else' (according to another witness, he added, 'It will be just too bad for them, as the commander said.'").(21)

In the minutes of the meeting, which were taken down and signed by Melinki a short time after he signed the orders, the following appears: "As from today, at 1700 hours, curfew shall be imposed in the minority villages until 0600 hours, and all who disobey this order shall be shot dead."(22)

After this psychological preparation, and the instructions given to the policemen-soldiers to "shoot to kill all who broke the curfew," the unit went out to the village of Kafr Kassim to start its work. There Lieutenant Gabriel Dahan divided his unit into sections of three or four men each (including their leader) armed with submachine guns, rifles, and automatic rifles, and posted each section in a place overlooking one of the quarters of the village, at the entrance to the village, and at its end. He made the leaders of each section responsible for the enforcement of the curfew and authorized them to shoot according to his previous instructions, which he repeated.

On the same day at 16.30 hours, a Frontier Guard sergeant informed the mukhtar of the village that a curfew was to be imposed from 5 P.M. to 6 A.M. the following morning and warned him that it would be strictly enforced and would involve danger of death, telling him to inform the village. The mukhtar, Wadi Ahmad Sarsur, informed the sergeant that there were four hundred villagers who worked outside the village, some of them in the neighborhood or in nearby places, while the remainder were in more distant places like Petah Tikvah, Lydda, Jaffa and elsewhere, so that he could not inform them all of the curfew in time. After an argument the sergeant promised the mukhtar that he would let all men returning from work pass on his own responsibility and that of the government. The mukhtar, assisted by his relations, announced the imposition of the curfew in the center and to the north and the south of the village, saying that everyone inside the village must enter his home before 5 P.M.(23)

In other words, the curfew, of which the mukhtar was informed at 4.30 P.M., came into force half an hour later when dozens of the villagers were in different places of work, so that they could not possibly know of the curfew. And a bitter fate awaited them when they returned to the village. In the first hour of the curfew, between 5 and 6 P.M., the men of the Israeli Frontier Guard killed forty-seven Arab citizens in Kafr I Kassim. The killing was carriedout in cold blood and for no reason. Of the forty-seven, forty-three were killed at the I western entrance to the village, one in the center, and three to the north; several other villagers were wounded.

The forty-three killed at the western entrance included I seven boys and girls and nine women of all ages - one sixty-six years old. Most of them were inhabitants of Kafr Kassim, returning from their work outside the village, nearly all by the main road, a few on foot, the majority on bicycles or in mule carts or lorries. In most cases the villagers were met by I sections of the Frontier Guard who ordered the passengers to get down from their transport. When it was clear that they were residents of Kafr Kassim returning from their work, the order to fire was given, and shots were immediately fired at short range from automatic weapons and rifles, "and of every group of returning workers, some were killed and others wounded; very few succeeded in escaping unhurt. The proportion of those killed increased, until, of the last group, which consisted of fourteen women, a boy and four men, all were killed except one girl, who was seriously wounded.

"The killing might have gone on like this but Dahan who had personally taken part in the killing and who had seen what was going on as he went round the village in his jeep, informed the command several times over the radio of the number killed. Opinions differ as to the figure he gave in his reports, but all agree that in his first report he said 'one less' (one killed), and in the next two reports 'fifteen less' and 'many less'; 'it is difficult tocount them.' The last two reports, which followed each other in quick succession, were ...p assed on to Melinki who was at Jaljulya. When he was informed that there were 'fifteen less' in Kafr Kassim, Melinki gave orders, which he was unable to transmit to Dahan before the report of 'many less' arrived, for the firing to stop and for more moderate procedures to be adopted in the whole area.... This order finally ended the bloodshed at Kafr Kassim."(24)

This is an outline of the principal events in Kafr Kassim, but the details are no less important as reported in the files of the Israeli military court:

"The first to be shot at the western entrance to the village were four quarrymen returning on bicycles from the places where they worked near Petah Tikva and Ras al Ayin. A short time after the curfew began these four workmen came round the bend in the road pushing their bicycles. When they had gone some ten to fifteen meters ... they were shot from behind at close range or from the left. Two of the four were killed outright. The third was wounded in the thigh and the forearm, while the fourth, Abdullah Samir Badir, escaped by throwing himself to the ground. The bicycle of the wounded man fell on him and covered his body, and he managed to lie motionless throughout the bloody incidents that took place around him. Eventually he crawled into an olive grove and lay under an olive tree until morning. Abdullah was shot at again when he rolled from the road to the sidewalk, whereupon he sighed and pretended to be dead. After the two subseauent massacres, which took place beside him, he hid himself among a flock of sheep, whose shepherd had been killed, and escaped into the village with the flock.

"A short time after the above incident, a two-wheeled cart drawn by a mule arrived at the bend. Sitting in it were Ismail Mahmud Badir ... andhis littledaughter, agedeight, who were coming back from Petah Tikva in the cart, with three people, one of whom came from Kfar Barra, walking beside or behind the cart, carrying vegetables. One of these was a boy of fourteen, Mohammed Abdul Rahim Issa. At this moment Dahan arrived at the bend in the jeep with the mobile squad ... on a tour of inspection. Dahan ordered his men to get out of the jeep .... He then told Ismail to get out of the cart and stand in a row with other two men (who had been walking beside the cart) at the side of the road. Dahan then ordered the boy Muhammed to get into the cart, and sent him off to the village with the weeping girl. Dahan ordered the three men to be shot, shooting them with the Auzi he was carrying. The three men fell under the rain of bullets and the firing continued after they had fallen. Two of them ... were killed, while Ismail was seriously wounded, with several bullets in his hips and thigh -he survived only because the Frontier Guards believed him dead.

"A short time after this killing a shepherd and his twelve year old son came back from the pasture with their flock. They approached the bend ... the shepherd throwing stones at sheep that had strayed to turn them back onto the road. Two or three soldiers, standing by the bend, opened fire at close range on the shepherd and his son and killed them ....(25)

"A man in a lorry was killed, then a four-wheeled cart carrying two men arrived at the bend. Near the bend, a soldier stopped the car, ordered the two men to get down and to stand beside it in the road .... Immediately after the arrival of this cart, several groups of workers started arriving, riding bicycles with lighted lamps. The soldiers ordered them all to lay their bicycles beside the cart and stand in a row with the two men.... There were thirteen men in this row, and when one of them ... tried to stand at the end of the row, the soldier shouted at him: 'Dog, stand in the middle of the row.' He thereupon moved to the middle.

"When no more bicycle lamps were visible on the horizon, the same soldier asked the men standing in the row where they came from. They all answered that they came from Kafr Kassim, whereupon the soldier took a step backwards and shouted to the soldiers lying opposite the row: 'Mow them down.' All the men in the row fell under the hail of bullets that followed, except for (one) who escaped by jumping over the wall. The soldiers continued firing at any of the fallen men who showed any signs of life. When it was clear that they were all dead, or almost so, the soldiers cleared the road of the bodies, piling them on the side of the road. Of these thirteen men, six were killed, while four were seriously injured ....(26)

"A short time after the killing of the cyclists, a lorry with its lights on approached the bend. Ten to fifteen meters before the bend it was stopped by a soldier, who ordered the driver and passengers (eighteen persons) to get out and stand in a single group to the left of the road, in front of the vehicle. The soldier then asked them where they came from, and when they said they were from Kafr Kassim, he ordered two of his men, who were lying beside the road between this group of workers and the bend, to open fire. They killed ten of the nineteen ....

"(A survivor) Raja (Hamdan Daud) said in his evidence that at five o'clock, his little son Riyadh came with the boy Jamal and told him that there was a curfew in the village and that his mother had said that he must hurry home .... Nineteen people got into the lorry, including the driver ... and set out for the village. The people in this lorry, unlike most of the other people returning to the village, knew of the curfew, but they did not see that this prevented them from returning to the village. On the contra ry... they tried to get back to their homes as soon as possible because of the curfew. Indeed, it was Raja who persuaded the driver, who had no license to carry passengers, to take them because he thought that it would be safer to go by lorry rather than on foot during the curfew. After the lorry had been stopped, and Raja and his companions got out, his little son shouted: 'Father, take me down.' This was why Raja went back and took his son down from the back of the lorry, and rejoined the group on the road.

"Raja held out his identity card to the soldier and was about to ask him why they had been detained, but at that moment the soldier gave the order to fire, and a hail of bullets mowed down the workmen. When Raja jumped over the wall, the Bren gun was fired at the wall, and this is perhaps how some of the workmen escaped. But Raja's son, Riyadh, aged eight, and his friend Jamal, aged eleven, were among those killed.(27)

"Two more men in a lorry were killed, and then a third lorry arrived, carrying four men and fourteen women, aged twelve to sixty-six years, on their way to Kafr Kassim. The lorry went on past the bend without stopping, whereupon a soldier who was still at the site of the previous incident ran behind it shouting 'Stop!' The lorry had already passed the bend and was making for the school road; the soldier crossed the space between the two roads and again shouted 'Stop! Stop! ' At the same time he called to two or three other soldiers who were standing in the space between the two roads to follow him, which they did.

"The lorry stopped in the road that passes near the school, whereupon the first soldier ordered the driver and the passengers to get out. The driver hooked the steps on to the back of the lorry, and said to the women: 'Get out sisters, and have your identity cards ready.' The women had already seen the dead bodies of people from their village as the lorry turned the bend, and started imploring the soldier in command to let them stay in the bus. But he took no notice of the identity cards or of the women's entreaties, and insisted on their getting out. As soon as the fourteen women and four men had got down from the lorry he ordered the other soldiers, who had by then joined him, to fire. They obeyed and continued firing until seventeen of the total of eighteen persons were killed. The sole survivor was a girl of fourteen, Hannah Suleiman Amer, who was seriously wounded in the head and leg and appeared to be dead ....

"Two of the girls who were killed were twelve years old, and two others fourteen."(28)

The government took great pains to remove all traces of the crime in Kafr Kassim and to hide the truth from the Jewish population, despite the fact that certain circles spread news of the massacre throughout the Arab sectors, apparently to "encourage" the Arabs to leave. A three-member committee headed by Benjamin Zohar, a district court judge in Haifa, was appointed to investigate the incident. The two other members, in whom the authorities had great confidence, were Abba Hoshi, mayor of Haifa and head of the Arab department in the ruling Mapai, and Aharon Hotar Yshay, who had once been a lawyer for the Haganah. When the committee had concluded its investigation, some ten days after the massacre, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion issued a brief press release in which he referred to the fact that some people in the Triangle had been "injured" by the Frontier Guards and stated the government's determination to bring the matter before the courts and to pay compensation.

This did not stop rumors about the extent of the crime from spreading. Tawfiq Tubi made his way to Kafr Kassim as soon as news of the crime reached him in order to see for himself what had happened. On his return he gave his information to Uri Avneri, the editor of the periodical Haolam Hazeh, which devoted a special issue to it. The story was taken up by the press, there was a great uproar, and a wide range of Jewish groups expressed concern. The poet Nathan Alterman, a close friend of Ben-Gurion's, was moved to publish a poem censuring the deed and calling for a trial of all those responsible, with detailed disclosures of what had taken place.(29) A special session of the Knesset was held, lasting twelve minutes, during which Ben-Gurion spoke of the "shocking incident in the villages of the Triangle," and cited his appointment of the fact-finding committee as soon as he had heard of the event - three days after it occurred. He added that the government had paid compensation ranging between one thousand and five thousand pounds to the families of the dead, but clearly that "no sum of money could compensate for the loss of human life."(30) At the end of the session, all members present stood in mourning for the dead.

Following the recommendations of the committee, eleven officers and soldiers of the Frontier Guard were brought to trial for "carrying out illegal orders."

"The trial was lengthy; judgment was finally given on 16 October 1958, two years after the incident.

"The court found Major Melinki and Lieutenant Dahan guilty of killing forty-three citizens and sentenced the former to seventeen years imprisonment and the latter to fifteen years. The third accused, Sergeant Shalom Ofer, who perpetrated most of these terrible killings, was found guilty, with Dahan, of killing forty-one citizens, and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. The accused Private Makhlouf Hreish and Private Eliahu Abraham were found guilty of killing twenty-two citizens, while Corporal Gabriel Olial, Private Alber Fahimi, and Private Edmond Nahmani were found guilty of killing seventeen citizens. All these five were sentenced to eight years imprisonment and deprived of their ranks. The remaining three accused, including two young Druze volunteers, were acquitted."

These light sentences (premeditated murder incurs a sentence of life imprisonment or twenty years) astounded many Jews as well as Arabs and gave rise to deep fears that similar incidents might occur in the future. On the other hand, there were many in Israel who thought that the trial of the killers, and even their arrest, seemed a grave injustice. They argued that these men were performing their duty and were therefore in no way responsible for their deeds. An extensive campaign for the release of the killers was launched as soon as it was known that they would be brought to trial. This was intensified after the sentencing. The Israeli press was clearly involved in the campaign.

"With two or three exceptions, the press has been party to a conspiracy of silence, throwing a veil over the incident. It wrote of condemned men instead of killers; instead of a killing or a crime in Kafr Kassim it wrote of a 'misfortune' and a 'mistake' and a 'regrettable incident.' When it mentioned the victims of the calamity, it was difficult to tell whom it meant, the dead or the killers. When the sentences were handed down, a cowardly campaign against the judge was begun ...."(31)

What was remarkable about the official Israeli attitude was that various authorities made efforts to lighten the killers' sentences. An appeal was brought before the Supreme Military Court, which rendered a judgment that the sentences were harsh and should be reduced. Thus Melinki's sentence was reduced to fourteen years, Dahan's to ten years, and Ofer's to nine years. The chief of staff then proposed to reduce Melinki's sentence to ten years, Dahan and Ofer's to eight years, and the rest of the killers' to four years each. The president of the state followed suit; he granted a "partial pardon" to Melinki and Dahan and reduced their sentences to five years each.(32) Finally it was the turn of the "Committee for the Release of Prisoners," which ordered the remission of a third of the prison sentences of all those convicted. Thus, the last man was released at the beginning of 1960 - about three and a half years after the massacre. They reportedly did not spend the time in prison but were held in a sanatorium in Jerusalem.

Moreover, in September 1960 the municipality of Ramle engaged Gabriel Dahan, convicted of killing forty-three Arabs in one hour, as officer for Arab affairs. Melinki, ten years after the event, felt no embarrassment about boasting of his services to Israel in the field of security, both before and after the massacre.(33)

But the Kafr Kassim affair would not go away. Particular concern was aroused by the part played by Brigadier Yshishkar Shadmi, the man under whose command Melinki's unit had operated. Shadmi was not originally brought to trial and the part he played became known only after the military court had rendered its judgment. During the trial, public indignation was aroused by certain comments Brigadier Shadmi had made during his briefing concerning the imposition of the curfew, particularly his replies to the officer who asked what was to happen to people returning from work: "I don't want any sentimentality" and "Allah have mercy on them." In its judgment, the military court (presided over by Dr. Benjamin Halevy, president of the District Court in Jerusalem, who was on loan to the army for the trial) stated indisputably that Shadmi was responsible to a greater degree than any of the others. This put the Israeli authorities in an embarrassing situation. They were forced to bring Shadmi to trial, with the knowledge that in self-defence he would reveal the instructions he must have received from his immediate superiors, including Major General Zvi Tsur, commander of the Central Area, and Moshe Dayan, army chief of staff. The military court found the following in assessing Shadmi's role in the massacre of Kafr Kassim:

"The defendant Melinki, when he gave his orders to his unit, was not acting on his own initiative or according to his own judgment. He was obeying orders. It was not he who initiated the imposition of the curfew -either as a curfew or as regards the manner of its enforcement. He only passed on the order he had received from his responsible commander, Brigadier Shadmi .... There can be no doubt that the order given by Melinki was only one link in a chain of firm orders given in detail by the brigade commander. The orders given by Melinki were the direct result of the placing of a Frontier Guard unit under the orders of the brigade of the Israel Army commanded by Brigadier Shadmi and of the assignment to that unit of a task in accordance with the wishes of the brigade commander and with the direct order he gave in connection with the curfew and the way in which it was to be carried out.

"Shadmi not only entrusted Melinki with the 'task'; he also informed him of the 'method' by which the curfew was to be enforced. The method ... was defined, as stipulated by the brigade commander, as one of 'stringent severity' and 'decisive policy,' the enforcement of the curfew by firing rather than by arrests. We are satisfied that the 'method' prepared by Melinki before the bloody incidents at Kafr Kassim, as a summary of the orders of the brigade commander and for the purpose of including it in the orders to be given to the units ('No villager shall leave his home during the hours of curfew'; 'Anyone leaving his home will be killed'; 'There will be no arrests') was a true reflection of the order given by the brigade commander. There was no misunderstanding by Melinki as to how the curfew was to be enforced, as decided by the brigade commander, and the harsh distinction made in the order given by the unit commander, Melinki, between villagers in their homes, who were to come to no harm, and persons out of doors, to whom the principle of shooting was to be applicable in its full severity, derived from the order given by the brigade commander, Shadmi. The unit commander's statement that, 'It would be better that several people should be killed' was derived directly from the statement of the brigade commander to the effect that 'It is better to get rid of some in this way' (his words being accompanied by a gesture with his hand as described by Melinki) 'than to have the complications of arrests.' ... Our conclusion is that the method of enforcing the curfew, as decided by Melinki in his orders (before the questions and answers), corresponded in all important aspects with the methods of enforcing the curfew stipulated in the order given by the brigade commander. It was Brigadier Shadmi who initiated and ordered, in a manner that could not be disobeyed, the enforcement of the illegal instructions; it was he who ordered the shooting of citizens as a way of enforcing the curfew, and Melinki, in submitting to the'orders of his commander, was only transmitting these instructions to his subordinates."(34)

This is a very clear indictment of Shadmi, and when it was published it aroused several demands that he be brought to trial. Opposing the trial was a group led by officials of Shadmi's own party, Achdut Haavoda, who warned of the consequences of such action. A week after the court decision, an article appeared in the party's daily newspaper signed by a "Hebrew prisoner," the nom de plume of Knesset member Moshe Carrnel, one of Achdut Haavoda's leaders and then Minister of Transportation.

"It is essential that we should ask whether the ultimate responsibility was Shadmi's and his alone. A brigadier commanding a brigade in the Israel Army who is charged with the task of supervising an area of operations does not act in accordance with his own personal opinions; he is restricted to a framework of plans, orders, and instructions drawn up somewhere and imposed on him by the authority of a higher command. And in as much as the court has disclosed the facts to the people at large, the people have the right to know, and insist on knowing, what orders and instructions were given to Brigadier Shadmi by those responsible for him, in accordance with which orders he acted, and then gave his own more detailed orders in the light of conditions as he saw them and in the field in which he had experience, and also from whom he received his orders.

"If it is indeed found that the orders given by Brigadier Shadmi, whether oral or written, were a cause of the tragedy that took place, the following questions must be asked: Were these orders incompatible or compatible (italics in the original) with the orders he received? It is on this basis that the problem must be considered."(35)

The warning behind these words is clear. If Shadmi were brought to trial it would lead to the exposure of the role of his superiors, who no doubt briefed him and gave him the instructions which led to the massacre. But the authorities soon found a way out. Shadmi was hurried into court, but there was a change in the formation of the court. Justice Halevy had stepped down. The second court tried Shadmi rapidly, found him guilty of a "technical error," and sentenced him to a reprimand and a fine of one Israeli piaster. (Since then "Shadmi's piaster" has become proverbial among the Arabs in Israel.) And so the curtain was lowered on the massacre at Kafr Kassim.36


Even though the United States, beguiled by Zionist propaganda and fearful of domestic political pressures by the Israeli lobby in the United States, has been the major supporter of Israel and has become an accessory to Israeli crimes by providing the financial backing and sinews of war used by the Israelis, Americans, and even American servicemen, are not exempt from Israeli-perpetrated massacres if the highest Israeli authorities consider them to be in the way of their objectives.

During the June 1967 war of aggression unleashed by Israel against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, it was vitally important to the Israeli leaders that their plan for aggression against the Arab countries should not be monitored. They were exceedingly upset at the presence of an American intelligence ship, the USS Liberty, in the Eastern Mediterranean monitoring communications traffic in the area.

According to CIA Intelligence Reports, General Moshe Dayan ordered the June 8,1967, strafing by Israeli aircraft of the USS Liberty and the resultant massacre of her defenseless crew of American sailors. In the words of Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, United States Navy, "During this unprovoked attack, 34 U.S. Navy men were killed and 171 wounded.''

General Dayan was a hero to the media in the United States. They never mentioned his complicity in such massacres as Kibya, as we have previously seen. They swept under the rug his direct responsibility for the USS Liberty massacre. Even worse, the United States Government, for domestic political reasons, conducted a massive cover-up of the crime - making it an accessory after the fact to this slaughter of American servicemen.

If the same criteria were used to investigate and try those responsible for the USS Liberty massacre as had been used on German and Japanese war criminals, the entire Israeli War Cabinet and General Staff would have been convicted for the crime. For his direct order of the massacre of defenseless sailors on an unarmed communications vessel sailing in neutral waters, General Dayan would have been hung, and then President of the United States Lyndon Johnson would have been sentenced to many years of incarceration in prison for obstructing justice in a criminal cover-up of the USS Liberty massacre.

Although Minister of Defense General Moshe Dayan was principally responsible for the USS Liberty massacre, then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol also shared responsibility. Because the USS Liberty was an intelligence monitoring vessel, it is also certain that Meier Amit, head of Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) in 1967, and Gen. Aharon Yariv, then head of Military Intelligence, had to give clearance for the attack. Amit had previously been a participant in the Kibya massacre, as we have seen. Further, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces in 1967, General Yitzhak Rabin, had legal responsibility to ensure that Israeli aircraft did not fire upon neutral vessels in neutral waters. General Mordekhai Hod, then Commander of the Israeli Air Force, and later president of Israeli Aircraft Industries, Ltd., also was legally responsible for the crime committed by his pilots, as were the pilots themselves for carrying out obviously unlawful orders to strafe an unarmed neutral vessel in international waters. The same criteria of judgment rendered on the German and Japanese war criminals of World War II would have held these as well as other Israeli political and military leaders individually responsible and accountable for their acts of omission and commission regarding the USS Liberty massacre.

Following are details on the massacre recounted by the distinguished former U.S. Congressman from Illinois, Paul Findley :

The day of the attack began in routine fashion, with the ship first proceeding slowly in an easterly direction in the eastern Mediterranean, later following the contour of the coastline westerly about fifteen miles off the Sinai Peninsula. On the mainland, Israeli forces were winning smashing victories in the third Arab-Israeli war in nineteen years. Israeli Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, announcing that the Israelis had taken the entire Sinai and broken the blockade on the Strait of Tiran, declared: "The Egyptians are defeated." On the eastern front the Israelis had overcome Jordanian forces and captured most of the West Bank.

At 6 a.m. an airplane, identified by the Liberty crew as an Israeli Noratlas, circled the ship slowly and departed. This procedure was repeated periodically over an eight-hour period. At 9 a.m. a jet appeared at a distance, then left. At 10 a.m., two rocket-armed jets circled the ship three times. They were close enough for their pilots to be observed through binoculars. The planes were unmarked. An hour later the Israeli Noratlas returned, flying not more than 200 feet directly above the Liberty and clearly marked with the Star of David. The ship's crew members and the pilot waved at each other. This plane returned every few minutes until 1 p.m. By then, the ship had changed course and was proceeding almost due west.

At 2.00 p.m. all hell broke loose. Three Mirage fighter planes headed straight for the Liberty, their rockets taking out the forward machine guns and wrecking the ship's antennae. The Mirages were joined by Mystere fighters, which dropped napalm on the bridge and deck and repeatedly strafed the ship. The attack continued for over 20 minutes. In all, the ship sustained 821 holes in her sides and decks. Of these, more than 100 were rocket size.

As the aircraft departed, three torpedo boats took over the attack, firing five torpedoes, one of which tore a 40-foot hole in the hull, killing 25 sailors. The ship was in flames, dead in the water, listing precariously, and taking water. The crew was ordered to prepare to abandon ship. As life-rafts were lowered into the water, the torpedo boats moved closer and shot them to pieces. One plane concentrated machine-gun fire on rafts still on deck as crew members there tried to extinguish the napalm fire. Petty Officer Charles Rowley declares, "They didn't want anyone to live."37

Paul Findley continues:

At 3:15 p.m. the last shot was fired, leaving the vessel a combination morgue and hospital. The ship had no engines, no power, no rudder. Fearing further attack, Captain Mc- Gonagle, despite severe leg injuries, stayed at the bridge. An Israeli helicopter, its open bay door showing troops in battle gear and a machine gun mounted in an open doorway, passed close to the deck and then left. Other aircraft came and went during the next hour.

Although U.S. air support never arrived, within fifteen minutes of the first attack and more than an hour before the first assault ended, fighter planes from the USS Saratoga were in the air ready for a rescue mission under orders "to destroy or drive off any attackers." The carrier was only 30 minutes away, and, with a squadron of fighter planes on deck ready for a routine operation, it was prepared to respond almost instantly.

But the rescue never occurred. Without approval by Washington, the planes could not take aggressive action, even to rescue a U.S. ship confirmed to be under attack. Admiral Donald Engen, then captain of the America, the second U.S. carrier in the vicinity, later explained: "President Johnson had very strict control. Even though we knew the Liberty was under attack, I couldn't just go and order a rescue."The planes were hardly in the air when the voice of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was heard over Sixth Fleet radios: "Tell the Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately." They were to have no part in destroying or driving off the attackers.

Shortly after 3 p.m., nearly an hour after the Liberty's plea was first heard, The White House gave momentary approval to a rescue mission and planes from both carriers were launched. At almost precisely the same instant, the Israeli Government informed the U.S. naval attache in Tel Aviv that its forces had "erroneously attacked a U.S. ship" after mistaking it for an Egyptian vessel, and offered "abject apologies." With apology in hand, Johnson once again ordered U.S. aircraft back to their carriers.38

The callous attempt by the Israeli airforce to ensure that there would be no survivors to their crime constituted an offence in its own right. Lord Russell of Liverpool, who was legal adviser to the Commander-in-Chief in respect of all trials of German war criminals in the British Zone of Occupied Germany, reports a similar crime committed by German submarine U-852's commander Kapitanleutnant Heinz Eck, who had ordered his crew to open fire on the rafts of the Greek vessel SS Peleus in 1943:

The commander and four members of his crew were tried by a British Military Court in Hamburg in October 1945 for being concerned in the killing of members of the crew of the Peleus by firing and throwing grenades at them. All were found guilty of the charge and the commander and three others sentenced to suffer death by shooting.39

Details on CIA documents indicting the Israeli leadership for murder of the defenseless crew of the USS Liberty were uncovered through the painstaking research of James M. Ennes, Jr., an officer of the USS Liberty and an eyewitness to the massacre:

The CIA reported a conversation with a confidential Israeli source who strongly implied that the attack was no error. The message read in part:

He said that "you've got to remember that in this campaign there is neither time nor room for mistakes," which was intended as an obtuse reference to the fact that Israel's forces knew what flag the Liberty was flying and exactly what the vessel was doing off the coast. (The source) implied that the ship's identity was known at least six hours before the attack but that Israeli headquarters was not sure as to how many people might have access to the information the Liberty was intercepting. He also implied that there was no certainty or control as to where the information was going and again reiterated that Israeli forces did not make mistakes in their campaign. He was emphatic in stating to me that they knew what kind of ship USS Liberty was and what it was doing

offshore. This report gains credibility when we recall that Israel did identify the ship six hours before the attack. Hence, the informant does indeed have access to inside information.

On November 9, 1967, a confidential source reported clearly and unequivocally that General Moshe Dayan ordered the attack. The message read:

"(The source) commented on the sinking (sic) of the US Communications ship Liberty. They said that Dayan personally ordered the attack on the ship and that one of his generals adamantly opposed the action and said, 'This is pure murder.' One of the admirals who was present also disapproved the action, and it was he who ordered it stopped and not Dayan."40


On February 21, 1973, Israeli aircraft shot down a peaceful Libyan civil Boeing 727 airliner, murdering 106 innocent passengers. This brazenly criminal act was perpetrated over the then illegally occupied Egyptian territory of Sinai. The airliner was in distress, and Israel's leaders, not caring about its civilian passengers of many different nationalities, had their fighters shoot it down.

The decision to shoot down this Libyan airliner in distress was made by then Chief of Staff of the IDF General David Elazar, acting on erroneous intelligence data supplied by Mossad and cleared with Military Intelligence. Then Head of Mossad, General Zvi Zamir, and Head of Military Intelligence, General Eli Zeira, share General Elazar's responsibility for the brutal massacre of these innocent civilian airline passengers.

The responsibility of then Minister of Defense General Moshe Dayan and then Prime Minister Golda Meir in this crime is also clear and established.

The following is from the United Nations Security Council Documents in an account of the Libyan Boeing 727 airliner massacre sent by the Ambassador of Egypt (41):

Upon urgent instructions from my Government and in view of the seriousness of the situation arising from the most brazenly criminal act perpetrated by Israeli fighters over the occupied Egyptian territory of Sinai against a Libyan civil Boeing 727 airliner in distress and carrying civilian passengers of different nationalities, I would like to bring the following points to your attention, as well as to the attention of the members of the Security Council.

On 21 February, 1973, a Libyan airliner proceeding on a scheduled flight from Benghazi to Cairo, deviated from its original course owing to navigational difficulties as well as to bad weather conditions. The airliner, therefore, accidentally overflew the occupied Egyptian territory of Sinai. Thereupon the civil aircraft was intercepted by four Israeli fighters and, in spite of the fact that the aircraft was unmistakably civilian, the Israeli fighters, upon direct instructions, cleared with the highest authorities in Israel, treacherously and without warning attacked the airliner with cannon fire and missiles while it was heading west. This flagrant premeditated and barbaric act of aggression resulted in the crash of the civil aircraft and caused the death of 106 helpless and defenseless victims.

It is worthwhile to note that the aircraft deviated into Sinai, which is illegally occupied by Israel, in defiance of the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and the numerous resolutions of the world Organization. Had Israel respected and implemented its obligations under the Charter and the United Nations resolutions, the said massacre would have been avoided and the innocent lives would have been spared.

The Egyptian Government considers the Israeli act of shooting down a civilian aircraft to be another aggression carried by Israel to new heights, as well as acrime committed in cold blood against acivil air transport vehicle, and, as such, it is a flagrant and serious threat to the safety of international aviation.

The Egyptian Government draws attention to the fact that Israel is callously engaged in a premeditated campaign of massacre and mass killings in the occupied Arab territories in particular and in the region in general. The recent unprovoked aggression against Lebanon which resulted in the killing of tens of civilians is a case in point. It occurred on 2 1 February, the day that the horrible crime against the civil aircraft occurred. Other official Israeli terrorist operations in the Middle East need not be enumerated in this respect. It is a matter of criminal record and common indignation.


The massacres detailed in this chapter - the King David Hotel, the Semiramis Hotel, Deir Yassin, Dawayma, Kibya, I Kafr Kassem, the USS Liberty and the Libyan Boeing 727 Airliner - practically pale into insignificance compared to the carnage perpetrated at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camps in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The mass murder of more than 2,750 men, women and children (according to a body count taken in the camps by the International Committee of the Red Cross on September 23, 1982) -whose only "crime" was to be homeless exiles from their native land- by the Phalangist puppets of the Israelis has been studied exhaustively.

The studies disclose that any rational person would place responsibility on the Israelis for inspiring the massacres. Without question it has been established that the Israelis bear responsibility for the killings.

The principal war criminal bearing legal responsibility for the massacres is the then Israeli Minister of Defence, General Ariel Sharon- the perpetrator of the Kibya Massacre nearly thirty years before. He was aided and abetted in this criminal responsibility by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Yitshak Shamir, who previously had criminal responsibility associated with the Deir Yassin Massacre and other massacres and the assassination of United Nations Representative Count Bernadotte. Responsibility was shared by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, guilty of war crime atrocities in both the King David Hotel Massacre in 1946 and that of Deir Yassin and other massacres.

Three senior Israeli Generals were found to have Command Responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila war crime. Chief of Staff General Rafael Eitan, Commanding General of the Northern Command, General Amir Drori, and the Field Commander for the IDF division occupying West Beirut, Brigadier General Amos Yaron, were all found guilty of criminal responsibility related to the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

Issue No. 107 of Military Law Review, the official legal periodical of the U.S. Department of Defense issued by the Department of the Army, published an exhaustive 118 page analysis by Lieutenant Commander Weston D. Bumett, Judge Advocate General's Corps, United States Navy, on the Israeli responsibility for the massacre. In his study, entitled, "Command Responsibility and a Case Study of the Criminal Responsibility of Israeli Military Commanders for the Pogrom at Shatila and Sabra," Commander Bumett concluded:

The screams of the victims at Dubno, My Lai and Sabra and Shatila should never be forgotten. In assessing the blame - - for such atrocities, command responsibility must play a key role.(42)

The verdict, established by all the precedents established in the history of warfare and by the International War Crimes Tribunals after World War 11, can only be guilty in regard to the Israelis.

The following is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour chronology of the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatila massacre(43):

September 13
The last French contingent of the multinational peacekeeping force departed Lebanon.

5:10 p.m. Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Sharon, without Cabinet consultation, decided to implement "Operation Iron Brain," which includes the occupation of West Beirut in order to "prevent dangerous developments and to preserve tranquility and order."

September 14
A bomb blast kills president-elect Bashir Gemayel with 50-60 colleagues in Phalangist headquarters in East Beirut. 350 members of rival Phalangist factions arrested by the SKS, the Kitaeb (Phalange) security service. Before the announcement of Gemayel's death is officially made, Begin and Sharon, without cabinet consultation, set in action "Operation Iron Brain": it involves the occupation of West Beirut.

6.00 p.m. An Israeli air bridge was set up at Beirut Airport, and tanks and men disembarked. Later, following the announcement of the death of Bashir Gemayel, Sharon talked to Begin and the decision was made to invade West Beirut. Only Foreign Minister Shamir was informed and he endorsed the plan. The Israeli forces made their last preparations.

7.30 p.m. Even before the meeting between Israeli and Phalangist leaders at which the Phalangists were told to enter the camps, the first Hercules C-130 transports began landing at the Beirut Airport from Israel. Sharon had ordered the supplies and material for the operation within ten minutes of learning of Gemayel's death.

8.30 p.m. Approximately four hours after Bashir Gemayel's death, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan finalized the decision to send the Phalangists into the camps. The reason, according to Eitan, was "because we could give them orders whereas it was impossible to give the Lebanese Army orders." Contrary to Israeli government statements, the Israeli Army command did not first urge the Lebanese Army to enter the camps, but directly approached the Phalangists. Only Major Gen. Amir Drori, who feared a massacre, urged the Lebanese army to enter the camps.

11.00 p.m. A public announcement of Bashir Gemayel's death was made by Radio Lebanon and Lebanese Forces Radio.

11.00 p.m. General Eitan, chief of staff, arrived at Israeli headquarters at Kofhr-Sil and again reviewed the plan to occupy West Beirut.

12.30 a.m. Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Sharon, in consultation with Foreign Minister Itzhak Shamir, further discussed the decision to occupy West Beirut. This decision, made one hour after the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, was later claimed by the Israeli Army to have been made to "prevent bloodshed."

12.40 a.m. General Drori, commander of the region north of Israel received an order to take all key points in West Beirut. (On Israeli television Friday, September 24, Sharon acknowledged for the first time that this reason, provided by the military command, was only a "smoke screen" to hide Israel's real intentions - the destruction of the remaining Palestinian guerillas claimed to be still in the city.)

2.00 a.m. Israeli armed forces began their move forward into West Beirut.

Sometime between midnight and 3.30 a.m. the Phalangist General staff acting in the absence of its 13-man political "war council" met for a second time and decided to order some 1,500 of their special troops to assemble the next day (Thursday) at Beirut airport.

3.30 a.m. Generals Eitan and Drori met with the leaders of the 'Christian Militia,' including Fadi Frem, Lebanese Forces and Phalangist commander-in-chief, and Elias Hobeika, Phalangist chief of intelligence. The meeting place was the roof of the seven-story observation building which served as headquarters for both the Israeli Army and Hobeika, who was the leader of the massacre. Also present were Dib Anastas, head of the Phalangist military police, Col. Michel Oun, the pro-Phalange Lebanese army commander in West Beirut, and Joseph Edde, commander of the militia forces in southern Lebanon. Together they reviewed details of the operation to invade West Beirut. Also discussed was the Phalangist assault on the refugee camps. At the end of the meeting, a Phalangist military leader told the Israelis present, "For years, we have waited for this moment." (This statement was confirmed to the Knesset on September 22 by Sharon.)

September 15
During the day, the preparations for the killer units to enter the camps were accelerated by the Israeli Army. Among them was the painting by Israeli soldiers of the letters MP (Military Police), and a triangle drawn inside a circle, the symbol of the Phalangist forces. The purpose was to show the route to be taken from Choueifat and the Beirut Airport to the Kuwait embassy across the road from Sabra and Shatila camps. Phalangist forces from East Beirut and Damour as well as Saad Haddad forces followed these directional signs.

Approximately 4.30 a.m. The Israeli bombardment of West Beirut began.

5.00 a.m. Ninety minutes after Eitan and Drori met with Phalangist leaders, the Israeli Army, in violation of the August 20 ceasefue and freeze-in-place, moved its forces into West Beirut. Between 11.45 a.m. and noon it occupied areas encircling Sabra and Shatila camps.

Between 5.00 and 5.30 a.m. Israeli planes made low-level flights over the camps. From the roof of Gaza Hospital, artillery bombardment of Sabra and Shatila camps is witnessed by hospital staff.

By 4.00 p.m., the shelling zone is estimated by hospital Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem staff to be less than a kilometer from the hospital and by nightfall, the staff observes that the camps are entirely surrounded by Israeli troops.

8.00 a.m. Israeli 15 mm artillery shelling of Sabra and Shatila began. Israeli snipers fired on the camps from the sports stadium with 800-type high velocity rifles. The sixth story of the Mukhalalati building at Shatila square was shelled.

9.00 a.m. Sharon arrived on top of the seven-story Israeli headquarters overlooking Sabra Ad Shatila camps. In the presence of Generals Eitan and Drori, he telephoned Menachem Begin and told him, "Our forces have advanced towards their target, I can see them with my naked eye."

9.30 a.m. Special U.S. Envoy Moms Draper visited Prime Minister Begin in Jerusalem to discuss the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon under the Habib Accords. Begin greeted him as follows, "Mr. Ambassador, I have the honor to advise you that since 5 a.m. this morning our forces have advanced and taken positions inside West Beirut. Our goal is to maintain order inside the city. With the situation created by the assassination of Bashir Gemayel it was necessary to protect the camps." On September 24, Sharon changed the explanation and stated that the reason was in fact that 2,000 "armed terrorists" were left behind with huge arms supplies. General Eitan added that the "armed terrorists" who had stayed behind were in the refugee camps.

(Earlier, on September 15, 1982, Eitan had told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset that "there remain in West Beirut only a few terrorists and a small PLO bureau." Indeed, during the two weeks' occupation of West Beirut, the Israeli Army conducted a systematic search but arrested only a few dozen people.)

Approximately 10.00 a.m. The Israeli Army sealed off the north boundaries of the camps and at approximately noon they sealed off the east side of Shatila, completing the encirclement of Sabra and Shatila with tanks, their cannons pointed towards the camps. Shortly thereafter, Israeli soldiers set up control points at the entrances and exits of the camps. The Israeli Defense Force Headquarters was located approximately 500 meters from the main street of Sabra and Shatila camps, and from the headquarters the Israeli Army had extensive visibility of the inside of the camps.

12.00 noon. Foreign doctors at Gaza Hospital reported the first 25 casualties from within Shatila, thought to be from two Israeli tanks positioned close to the sports stadium with their guns trained on the camp.

12.00 noon. Reports began circulating from residents at Choueifat that trucks belonging to Phalangist units were moving towards the Israeli base on Runway 2 at Beirut airport.

Wednesday Afternoon. According to one Phalange participant in the massacre, quoted by Der Spiegel in its February 21, 1983 issue, "300 Phalangists from East Beirut, South Lebanon, and from Akkar Mountain in the North met in the Wadi Shahrour (Valley of the Birds) Southeast of Beirut."

At this meeting one of the Phalange officers announced that men were needed for a "special operation." He stated: "You came voluntarily to avenge the abominable assassination of Bashir Gemayel. You are tools of God. Each one of you is to seek vengeance."

"The Phalange participant continued to say that during the meeting "more than a dozen Israelis in green fatigues, without designation of rank, showed up. They had maps, and their Arabic was pretty good, only they pronounced the hard 'h' like 'ch' as all Jews do. They were talking about the Palestinian camps Sabra and Shatila. We all had to look at the maps for hours - it was a waste of time because it was clear to us what we were supposed to do, and we looked forward to it."

During late afternoon, the Israeli Army fired several artillery and tank rounds into the Sabra and Shatila camps. Also in the afternoon, Israeli planes made low-level flights over the camps. (Dr. Per Maehlumshagen, a Norwegian surgeon at Gaza Hospital, testified that approximately 15 persons came to the hospital Thursday, having been wounded by these shells. Other casualties arrived at Akka Hospital which is located at the southern end of Shatila camp.)

Shortly after nightfall, the electricity was suddenly cut in West Beirut. At 10.00 p.m., an Israeli soldier, he later testified, had received orders to begin firing flares over Sabra and Shatila camps. Close to midnight, sporadic gunfire began in the camps.

The Lebanese State Radio announced that Israeli forces controlled Sabra and Shatila camps.

Thursday, September 16

Between 5.00 - 5.30 a.m. Low-level flights of Israeli planes over the camps were followed by artillery shelling. Throughout the morning, Gaza Hospital staff heard distinct small-arms fire from within the camp. By mid-morning, approximately 150 casualties with high-velocity gunshot wounds had entered Gaza Hospital. Approximately 30 died while receiving treatment. By nightfall, an estimated 2,000 refugees had entered Gaza seeking refuge.

Approximately 10.00 a.m. The Phalangists completed I I their preparations to enter the camp. After a conversation with , Sharon, Eitan asked General Drori to check to see if the Phalangists were ready to enter.

11.20 a.m. The Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem issued the following statement: "The IDF controls 1 all the strategic points in Beirut. The refugee camps harboring terrorist concentrations are encircled and closed." Israeli forces occupied the commercial districts of Harnra, and Corniche Mazra.


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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem
By Issa Nakhleh

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