On October 29 1956, the Israeli government used the then ongoing war against Egypt as a pretext to impose a curfew on eight Palestinian villages, including Kafr Qasem. The residents of this village were only told about the curfew around 15-30 minutes before Palestinian workers were due to return from work; when they subsequently returned, 48 (23 children aged 8-17 years-of-age, 19 men, 6 women) plus an unborn child, were shot dead by the Israel Border Police. Abu Sitta observes that this was by no means an exceptional occurrence and was just one of 232 incidents that occurred in the period 1947-56; indeed, he suggests, it was just one item on a long list of “atrocities, massacres, destruction, plunder and looting”.
The Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion imposed a total ban on newspaper coverage of the massacre and only lifted it after two months. The public would probably have remained unaware of it had Tawfik Toubi not begun an initial investigation two weeks after the events.
Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre is based on interviews with survivors of the massacre, which the author, who is also an artist, describes as ‘documentary drawings’. The book also features testimonies from Israeli
One remarks how it would be “desirable” to have a few people killed in each village, and another is even more candid, noting: “We were like the Germans. They stopped trucks, took the Jews out and shot them. Same with us. No difference.”
Raja Shehadeh’s compelling forward and Salman Abu Sitta’s thorough historical analysis extensively document these events in a way that provides new insight and perspective. Ramona Wadi, a Palestinian researcher and journalist, observes that Halaby “has produced a work of immense importance which highlights the psychological repercussions experienced by Palestinians through her sketches and drawings depicting innocent victims of Israel’s murderous brutality”.