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BLACK FLAG AT A CROSSROADS: THE KAFR QASIM POLITICAL TRIAL (1957–58)

Abstract
Abstract

A political trial, according to Steven E. Barkan, is a trial revolving around highly publicized legal controversies. In some cases, such a trial may determine fundamental political questions, exceeding the legal realm, which are in debate inside a given polity. The 1957–58 trial related to the 1956 massacre in Kafr Qasim, Israel certainly belongs to this category. The trial established the doctrine of a “manifestly unlawful order” in Israeli military law, contributed considerably to the reshaping of civil–military relations, and influenced the civic status of the Arab minority in Israel. In this article, using hitherto underexamined primary sources, I argue that the most important contribution of the trial, the doctrine of a “manifestly unlawful order,” was not only a creation of the bench but also a result of a complicated interaction between the actors present in the courtroom: the defendants, their defense lawyers, the prosecutors, and the judges. Above all, the article shows how the bitter struggle between the two main attorneys helped shape the doctrine of a “manifestly unlawful order,” that is, an order that is illegal for a soldier to obey.

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Danny Orbach is a PhD candidate in the Department of History, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; e-mail: dannyorbach@gmail.com
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NOTES

Author's note: The author is grateful to Mr. Ruvik Rosenthal for access to his private archive, and to Colonel (ret.) Misha Shauli for his information on the police academy curriculum in 1974. The protocol of the Kafr Qasim trial, one of the most important sources for this article, is located in two different archives. The official version is kept in the IDF archives, but an additional, partial copy is held in Tel Aviv University Archives, as part of the Oren Papers. In both places, the protocol is not always well ordered, and some parts are still classified. Some of the classified parts are preserved in the Oren Papers but not in the IDF archives, and others are absent in both places. As a rule, I have used the official version in the IDF archives. For some passages I could not find there, the Oren Papers are quoted instead.

1 Barkan Steven E., “Political Trials and the ‘Pro Se’ Defendant in the Adversary System,” Social Problems 24 (1977): 324.

2 Ronald P. Sokol, “The Political Trial: Courtroom as Stage, History as Critic,” New Literary History 2, no. 3, Performances in Drama, the Arts, and Society (Spring 1971): 497.

3 Kordov Moshe, Ahat ʿEśreh Kumtot yerukot ba-Din: Parashat Kefar-Kasem (Tel Aviv: A. Narkis, 1959).

4 Elam Yigal, Memalʾe ha-Pekudot (Jerusalem: Keter, 1990), 5371.

5 Rosenthal Ruvik, ed., Kefar Kasem: Eruʿim u-Mitos (Tel Aviv: ha-Kibbutz ha-Meuhad, 2000).

6 Ibrahim Sarsur, “Ben ha-Sulha ve-ha-Andarta,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 196.

7 Morris Benny, Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 128–30.

8 Aviv Lavie, “Uhlat ve-Kuyam,” Haaretz, 28 October 2005.

9 Ibid. For an English summary of the research see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/nov/04/israel1.

10 Captain Tavor, Batallion Operation Officer, 12 November 1958, “Mivtsa Kadesh,” 79/2006–143, IDF Archives, Tel ha-Shomer, Israel (hereafter IDFA).

11 Col. Shadmi's testimony to Maj. Holder, Military Police, 1 November 1956, Justice (ret.) Yitzhak Oren, Private Papers (hereafter Oren Papers) box 46.27, file 22, Tel Aviv University Archives (hereafter TAUA); Avraham Tamir to Ruvik Rosenthal, Ruvik Rosenthal Private Archive (hereafter RRPA); “Military Prosecutor vs. Major Malinki and others—Protocol of the trial” (hereafter Protocol), session 22, 9 May 1957, IDFA 165/1992–21, p. 16.

12 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 14–16.

14 Ibid; Dalia Kerpel, “Anahnu me-Oto ha-Kefar,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 184–85; Rot-Levi to Rosenthal, RRPA.

15 Shadmi to Holder, 1 November 1956, Oren Papers 46.27/22.

16 Captain Tavor, Batallion Operation Officer, 12 November 1958, “Mivtsa Kadesh,” IDFA 79/2006–143.

17 Shadmi to Holder, 1 November 1956, Oren Papers 46.27/22.

18 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 25.

19 Ibid, 39.

20 Col. Shaham's testimony to Col. Bar-Yosef, 2 December 1956, Oren Papers 46.27/22; Protocol, session 43, 26.6.1957, pp. 7–8, Oren Papers 46.21. Shadmi testified later that he ordered subordinates to “treat courteously law abiding Arabs,” and that Malinki did not understand and distorted his orders. That, however, should be seen as post facto apologetics. If it was indeed Shadmi's intention, he clearly did not pass it on correctly. See Shadmi's testimony to Holder, in Oren Papers 46.25/20.

21 “Military Prosecutor vs. Major Malinki and others—Verdict,” 57/3 רמ 90 ז”י מ”פ (hereafter Verdict), 140–50, 154–6; Lt. Menashes’ testimony to Sergeant Gross, 9 July 1957, Oren Papers 46.27/22; Protocol, session 18, 1 May 1957, p. 7, Oren Papers 46.21.

22 Protocol, session 18, 1 May 1957, p. 8, Oren Papers 46.21.

23 Verdict, 167–70.

24 Ibid, 7. Lt. Cole's testimony to Danai, 17 January 1957, Oren Papers 46.27/22; Protocol, session 43, 26 June 1957, pp. 23, 29, 46.

25 Verdict, 170–73.

26 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 46–47. In a handwritten report for his attorney, Dahan wrote that he hated Arabs not because they were Arabs, but because they were enemies. In Morocco, his country of origin, he had “no problems” with them. See “Sipur Dahan,” Oren Papers 46.27/22.

27 Verdict, 173–74.

28 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 28.

29 Ibid., 31.

30 Verdict, 120.

31 Protocol, session 43, 26 June 1957, p. 33, Oren Papers 46.21; Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 32.

32 Keighly v. Bell (1896) 176 E.R. 781, 793.

33 Verdict, 213–14. English translation from Solis Gary D., The Law of Armed Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 360.

34 Protocol, session 55, 18 July 1957, pp. 12, 26, IDFA 165/1992–12.

35 Protocol, session 15, 25 April 1957, IDFA 165/1992:1.

36 Protocol, session 11, 9 April 1957, p. 41, Oren Papers 46.21/1.

37 Protocol, session 44, 27 June 1957, p. 21, IDFA 165/1992–23; session 45, 1 July 1957, p. 72 and session 47, 3 July 1957, p. 52, Oren Papers 46.21.

38 Dalia Kerpel, “ha-Tevah be-Kefar Kasem: Anahnu lo Yarinu,” Haaretz, 5 October 2008, http://www.haaretz.co.il/misc/1.1353519.

39 Protocol, session 15, 25 April 1957, pp. 87–92 and session 18, 1 May 1957, p. 6, IDFA 165/1992:1.

40 Verdict, 173–74.

41 Protocol, session 60, 28 July 1957, p. 33, IDFA 165/1992:25.

42 Protocol, session 59, 25 July 1957, pp. 17–18, IDFA 165/1992:25.

43 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 26.

44 Protocol, session 18, 1 May 1957, p. 66, IDFA 165/1992–2.

45 Protocol, session 44, 27 June 1957, p. 21, IDFA 165/1992–23; session 45, 1 July 1957, p. 72, session 47, 3 July 1957, p. 52, Oren Papers 46.21.

46 Verdict, 153.

47 Protocol, session 83, 1 December 1957, pp. 6–9, IDFA 165/1992–15; compare with session 55, 18 July 1957, pp. 12–26, 165/1992–12.

48 Kordov, Kumtot, 101.

49 Hasid to Oren, 12 June 1957, Oren Papers 46.25/20.

50 Protocol, session 44, 27 June 1957, pp. 21, 77, IDFA 165/1992–23.

51 Protocol, session 45, 1 July 1957, p. 72, IDFA 165/1992–23; “Personal Note—Questions to Shadmi,” 8 April 1957, Oren Papers 46.27/22.

52 “Contradictions in Malinki's testimony and confessions,” Oren Papers 46.27/22. See also Protocol, session 44, 27 June 1957, pp. 1–11, IDFA 165/1992–23.

53 Protocol, session 99, 5 January 1958, p. 2, IDFA 165/1992–17.

54 Protocol, session 2, 25 March 1957, IDFA 165/1992–18, p. 28; session 48, 4 July 1957, IDFA, 165/1992–24.

55 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 43–46; Shadmi to Bar-Yehuda, 26 February 1961, Yad Tavenkin Archive, Ramat Efʿal, Israel (hereafter YTA).

56 Protocol, session 48, 4 July 1957, pp. 62, 64–70, IDFA 165/1992–24.

57 Verdict, 184.

58 Ibid., 185.

59 Verdict, 91.

60 Ibid., 90.

61 Kordov, Kumtot, 252.

62 Elam, Memalʾe, 60–61; Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 50.

63 “Special Court Martial: Colonel Yissachar Shadmi” (hereafter Shadmi Trial Protocol), vol. 8, p. 71, IDFA 317/1960–11.

64 Shadmi Trial Protocol, 134–6, 54, IDFA 317/1960–11.

65 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 13.

66 Protocol, session 56, 22 July 1957, IDFA 165/1992–12, p. 2.

67 Protocol, session 22, 9 May 1957, IDFA 165/1992–21, pp. 16, 26, 30–31. Goldfeld also said that “no one told us whether these are citizens or Arabs,” expressing the exclusion of the Arabs from the general community of Israeli citizens. See Protocol, IDFA 165/1992–21, p. 9.

68 Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 17–18.

69 Verdict, 106.

70 Ibid., 156–59.

71 Ibid.; Protocol, session 43, 26 June 1957, pp. 7–8, 26, IDFA 165/1992–23.

72 Protocol, session 18, 1 May 1957, pp. 12, 48, IDFA 165/1992–2.

73 Protocol, session 22, 9 May 1957, p. 7, IDFA 165/1992–21.

74 Protocol, session 22, 9 May 1957, p. 12, IDFA 165/1992–21.

75 Oren Papers 46.25/16, pp. 254(12)–257(15).

76 “What a soldier must think about during hostilities?,” Oren Papers 46.25/16.

78 Oren Papers 46.25/16, 254–5 (12–13), 265–6 (3–4). Oren made a similar argument in his appeal to the Military Court of Appeals. See 46.25/20, 94.

79 Ibid., 46.25/16, 254–5 (12–13).

80 Protocol, session 2, 25 March 1957, IDFA 165/1992–18, pp. 21–22.

81 Yedioth Ahronot, 13.12.1956.

82 Protocol, session 66, 28 October 1957, p. 3, session 82, 28 December 1957, p. 8, Oren Papers 46.25/17; see also Oren Papers 46.35/20, 3–7, 184(3).

83 Protocol, session 22, 9 May 1957, p. 101, IDFA 165/1992–21.

84 Verdict, 186.

85 Ibid., 221.

86 Ilan Schiff, “be-Zehut Mivhan ha-Degel ha-Shahor,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasm, 124.

87 Ziv Borer, “Barur ve-galui? Ketsad yezahe Hayal Pekuda bilti-hukit be-ʿalil,” Mishpat ve-Tsava 17, nos. 1–2 (1994), http://www.law.idf.il/SIP_STORAGE/files/0/310.pdf.

88 Adi Parush, “Bikoret Mivhan ha-Degel ha-Shahor,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 131–47.

89 Elam, Memalʾe, 59–61.

90 Verdict, 162. To see how Malinki's and Dahan's interpretations of “murder” influenced the troops, compare with Ben Pordo's testimony, in Protocol, session 15, 25 April 1957, p. 79, IDFA 165/1992:1.

91 Merav Schnitzer-Maimon, “Ben Zaʿzuʿah le-Shikhehah,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 58–65.

92 Daykan Paltiel, “Parashat Kefar Kasem be-Aspaklariah historit,” Gesher 4, no. 21 (1959): 3945, YTA.

93 Natan Alterman, “Im Pesak ha-Din,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 230–31.

94 Verdict, 248–52.

95 Summary of the verdict in “Military Prosecutor vs. Colonel Shadmi,” BDM 5/58, p. 877, attached to Shadmi to Bar-Yehuda, 26 February 1961, YTA. In fact, even the prosecutor, Brig. Gen. Moshe David, did not hold Shadmi responsible for the murders in Kafr Qasim, accusing him of only minor procedural offences. See Shadmi Trial Protocol, p. 11, IDFA 317/1960–11.

96 Lt. Gen. Haim Laskov, “Igeret le-Mefakdim be-Tsahal,” YTA.

98 Ibid.

99 Schnitzer-Maimon, “Ben,” in Rosenthal, Kefar Kasem, 80–81.

100 Chief education officer (Katsin Hinuch Rashi), information branch, “Rashe Perakim” (May 1959), IDFA 853/1960–57, 704/1960–150.

101 Police Colonel (ret.) Misha Shauli, discussion with the author, 25 May 2012.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
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