Herzog to speak at the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre memorial

President Isaac Herzog will speak Friday at the annual memorial to the Kafr Qasim massacre in 1956, his office announced.

Herzog will be the second Israeli president to address the event. His predecessor, Reuven Rivlin, attended in 2014 and condemned the massacre, in which border police officers killed 48 Israeli Arab men, women and children for violating a wartime curfew near Kafr Qasim.

In 2007, then-President Shimon Peres formally expressed his regret over the massacre, but he was not at the memorial.

A statement Thursday from the president’s office gave no indication of what Herzog might say in his comments.

Israel has not assumed formal responsibility for the massacre and a bill proposing that the state do so was overwhelmingly rejected on Wednesday. Arab-Israeli MPs regularly propose the bill around the 29th anniversary of October, but the Knesset has repeatedly rejected proposals to recognize state responsibility.

The Kfar Qasim massacre was a pivotal event in the relationship between the Arab citizens of Israel and the young Israeli state. On October 29, 1956, the first day of the Suez Crisis, a curfew was imposed on Arab villages near the Green Line, which served as the effective border with Jordan, due to fears of unrest. Border Police officers were ordered to shoot to kill anyone who violated the curfew.

Many locals had not heard of the curfew, and later that night, the Border Police shot and killed 48 men, women and children outside. Almost all were from Kafr Qasim and one of the victims was pregnant.

A memorial marking the 1956 massacre in the village of Kafr Qasim, in central Israel, where 49 villagers were killed by border police officers. (Avishai Teicher / Public Domain / Wikipedia)

Subsequently, the Supreme Court convicted and convicted several members of the Border Police for the killings. As long as they had been following orders, the court ruled, it should have been clear to officers that the orders were patently illegal. In the end, the officers’ sentences were reduced and none spent more than a few years in prison.

In Kafr Qasim, the memories of those killed in the massacre are still alive. A monument in the center of the city commemorates the dead, and an annual mourning march has been a ritual for decades.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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