Qibya, a long forgotten massacre but not for Palestinians

John Bennett is student co-ordinator of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and an activist in the International Socialist Group in Glasgow. He is on twitter.

John Bennett

Israel’s Ofer Prison is located to the North of Jerusalem and to the West of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Housing over 1000 Palestinian political prisoners it has been the scene of weekly demonstrations throughout the year as Palestinian youth, including students from nearby Bir Zeit university took their solidarity with the hunger strikers directly to the occupation forces. Today, they were again protesting at Ofer for the prisoners, two of whom, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna are critically ill after months on hunger strike.

Today, however they are also protesting in commemoration of the 1953 massacre carried-out by the Israeli colonisers in the nearby village of Qibya. By doing so they are coming-up against one of the most brutal armies in the world and will be facing tear-gas (the canisters have killed demonstrators on several occasions), sound bombs, rubber-coated steel bullets and probably live ammo not to mention the ever-present threat of them too being snatched out their beds and becoming political prisoners. With this in my mind it seems the bare minimum we can do is to tell our readers of a village called Qibya, that it was the scene of one in a long-line of Israeli massacres. It happened a long time ago in 1953 but the Palestinians do not forget and neither should we.

The Qibya Massacre

On the night of October 14-15, 1953, this village was the object of an Israeli attack which was carried out by units from the regular army and in which a variety of weapon types were used. On the evening of October 14, an Israeli military force estimated at about 600 soldiers moved toward the village. Upon arrival, it surrounded it and cordoned it off from all of the other Palestinian villages. The attack began with concentrated, indiscriminate artillery fire on the homes in the village. This continued until the main force reached the outskirts of the village. Meanwhile, other forces headed for nearby Palestinian towns such as Shuqba, Budrus and Ni’lin in order to distract them and prevent any aid from reaching the people in Qibya. They also planted mines on various roads so as to isolate the village completely. As units of the Israeli army were attacking the village residents, units of military engineers were placing explosives around some of the houses in the village and blowing them up with everyone in them. This attack continued until 4:00 A.M., October 15, 1953, at which time the Israeli forces withdrew to the bases from which they had begun.

This terrorist attack resulted in the destruction of 56 houses, the village Mosque, the village school and the water tank. Moreover, 67 citizens lost their lives, both men and women, with many others wounded.

Terrorist Ariel Sharon, the commander of the “101″ unit which undertook the terrorist aggression, stated that his leaders’ orders had been clear with regard to how the residents of the village were to be dealt with. He says, “The orders were utterly clear: Qibya was to be an example to everyone.”

The government of Israel claimed that the massacre was carried out by “civilian Jewish settlers”. But records showed that it was sanctioned by acting Prime Minister Moshe Sharrett, and was planned by Defence Minister Pin Has Lavon, the Chief of General Staff Mordacai Maklet, and Chief of Operations, General Moshe Dayan. On October 26, General Van Bennike testified before the UN Security Council. He gave irrefutable evidence that the attack on Qibya was undertaken by regular army units of Israel and not by irregulars as claimed by official Israeli sources (Palestine History).

Historical context

Operation Shoshana, as the Israelis codenamed this blatantly calculated massacre, was carried-out in the context of attempting to crush any lingering resistance from Palestinians in the years immediately after the Nakba of 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands to make way for the newly declared Israeli State. Mainly, however, as Ariel Sharon says, it was done to serve as an example, a warning. Just like Deir Yassin, Al-Dawayma, Al-Tantoura and Eilaboun and the many other massacres carried out during the 1948 Nakba (BADIL) served as warnings and as examples as to what would happen to any Palestinian communities who resisted this massive project of ethnic cleansing, so too would Qibya. Despite that fact a condition of Israel being recognised as a State by the United Nations (to their great shame) was Israel adhering to and facilitating UN resolution 194. (the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948) it was not only refusing to do this but shooting dead any Palestinians who dared attempt to return home. Around 5000 unarmed Palestinians were killed in this way for simply attempting to return home, in the Orwellian Zionist terminology they were ‘infiltrators’ killed, of course, by ‘the most moral army in the world’.

So this is the context in which the people in Qibya died, ‘the most moral army in the world’ was quite happy to use Palestinian blood to write its’ messages and the message sent from that village called Qibya was very clear; Resistance, whether armed or by way of simply attempting to return home will be met with Zionist brutality, that was the warning in the message, Qibya was the example of that Zionist brutality.

That was 1953 and it is now 2012, evidence of the fact that although the message may have been received the warning it contained went unheeded. Fifty-nine years and many more Qibyas later the Palestinians are still resisting, they are still trying to return to their homes.

They do not ask us for charity, they certainly don’t want our pity, they ask only for our solidarity. That solidarity demands that we actively support them in the roles that they alone set-out for us and know that although tactics and strategies may vary, supporting the Palestinian resistance means ultimately one thing:

Resistance until Return.

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