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Covering for a war criminal from the Kafr Qasim massacre
By: Shraga Elam
5 November 2010

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

Fifty-four years have passed since the terrible massacre at Kafr Qasim (29
October 1956) on the first day of the Sinai-Suez war Israel launched against
Egypt, in which Israel was quickly joined by its co-conspirators, Britain and
France. Since the Israeli Establishment has a tendency to deny, it is our duty
to remember, to expose, and to keep investigating. Recall what Tamar Trablusi-
Haddad wrote on 10 October 1999: “Kafr Qasim? Never heard of it.”

This year on 23 October 2010, the subject boiled over again on Moshe Timor’s
programme “Shishi Ishi” [“Personal Friday” – trans.] on Channel 2 of the Voice
of Israel [state radio]. In the program journalist and former Mossad agent Gad
Shimron took pride in the fact that he covered and continues to cover for one
of the main perpetrators of the massacre: Lieutenant Gabriel Dahan. He did not
explicitly mention Dahan’s name, but provided enough identifying details. It
was indeed that same Dahan who commanded the platoon that deployed in Kafr
Qasim and who implemented to the letter the order that had been given to him,
which was not done in other places. Consequently his soldiers stopped
residents as they were returning to the village from their places of work on
foot and in vehicles, shot 49 of them to death, including 9 women and 17
children and youths, and wounded 13 others. Some of what happened on that day
was recounted on 23 October 2010, when the testimony of some of the residents
was read out in a memorial evening that took place in Kafr Qasim on 24 October
2009.

Eleven soldiers and officers who were involved in the massacre at Kafr Qasim
were put on trial. Eight of the accused, including Gabriel Dahan, were
convicted and sentenced from 7 to 17 years. Dahan himself was sentenced to 15
years in prison. But like the other convicts, he did not serve his full
sentence – far from it. Two months after the verdict, the military appeals
court, of which the leftist Meir Pe’il was one of the judges, reduced the
sentences of the murderers. Dahan’s sentence was reduced to ten years. In May
1959 the Chief of Staff reduced his punishment by two more years. By the end
of 1959 all of the convicts were released from prison due to an amnesty given
to them by the President of the State, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. The convicts spent
their term of “incarceration” – before, during and after the trial – under
quite comfortable conditions, and not in some stinking prison.

In an investigative article that the journalist Dalia Karpel published 30
years after the massacre under the heading: “We are from the same village:
what happened to the Kafr Qasim murderers” (Ha-‘Ir, 10 October 1986, in
Hebrew), Private First Class Shalom Ofer, one of the those who were sentenced
for their part in the Kafr Qasim massacre, revealed that “we had a wild time
in Schneller [military base in Jerusalem – SE]. We would go to shows every day
accompanied by a policeman. We went to the market, we made wonderful meals. We
had everything we wanted. We went out with female soldiers from the base, we
wore uniforms and received our salaries. If anybody gave us any trouble,
Melinki (the battalion commander and the primary defendant in the trial) would
write a letter to Ben-Gurion and the matter was taken care of. Chaim Ben-
David, Ben-Gurion’s military aide, was our liaison.”

In the same 1986 article, Karpel indicated further that “today Ofer is still
sure that the orders that he received back then came from above,” and quoted
him as saying that “during the trial it became clear that if a substantial
investigation were done, it would reach the head of the Central Command,
General Zvi Tzur, Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan and Defence Minister David Ben-
Gurion. After the trial we were made to sign secrecy forms. Anyone who talked
would get 15 years in prison.” After the trial, Ofer further revealed that “we
sat for a year in Tel-Mond. The conditions were good. We lived together and
ate in the guards’ kitchen. We got whatever we wanted.”

Ofer, who did not regret the criminal acts that he and his comrades had done,
admitted to Karpel in the article, “thirty years after he ordered his soldiers
to ‘mow them down,’ Shalom Ofer says with frightening and shocking dryness:
‘we were like the Germans. They stopped trucks, took the Jews out and shot
them. Same with us. No difference. We carried out an order like German
soldiers carried out orders during the war, when they were ordered to
slaughter Jews.’ ”

Gad Shimron did not and does not intend to minimize the seriousness of the
crime at Kafr Qasim, but he is misguided by dubious journalistic and moral
considerations. He related that in 1996 the Maariv editors wanted him
to find Dahan, who meanwhile had changed his name, and interview him, because
there were reports that he was working for a governmental organization.
Through his contacts Shimron succeeded in finding out Dahan’s new name, but he
took care not to divulge it or the place where he was living. For some unknown
reason, a conversation with Dahan convinced the journalist that the man had
paid his debt to society and that he was also a private person who was of no
interest to the public. Shimron also claims that not he did not find evidence
that Dahan worked for a governmental institution. Despite heavy pressure from
his editors, Shimron decided not to publish the story in order not to harm
unnecessarily a private man. To this very day he is proud of that decision.

That protection accorded to a confirmed war criminal who certainly did not
receive the punishment he deserved and has not been forgiven by the relatives
of the victims is more than a little puzzling. Recalling the parallel drawn by
Shalom Ofer, we may very well ask Shimron if he would do the same for a Nazi
criminal. We must recall that one of those who refused to obey the manifestly
illegal order that led to the massacre at Kafr Qasim, Nimrod Lampert, said in
an interview in Haaretz that Dahan was very extreme and even during the trial
alleged that Lampert was “not a man” because he had not opened fire. Lampert
also received death-threats for two years after the trial. Although Lampert
did not disclose the names of those who threatened him, he indicated that they
were people who had been impacted (by the trial).

After his release from prison Dahan returned to Ramle where his family lived,
and the municipality appointed him head of special security functions, which
included dealing with the Arab residents of the city. Only after a protest
from members of the municipal council was the appointment revoked. Shortly
afterwards he moved to Europe and according to the family he began to work as
a cutter in a men’s clothing factory. Allegedly he did not receive any
assistance from Israel and got rich and became an important man through his
own efforts. Dahan’s lawyer in the trial, the retired judge Yitzhak Oren, met
him around 1971 and related to Karpel that “as part of his duties he met
people whom in his wildest dreams he had not dreamed that he would get to
shake their hands. I was at a reception that he arranged for one of the
richest Jews in the world in a luxurious hotel. Pinchas Sapir [1] was also
there, wearing a black suit and brown shoes. Gabriel Dahan acted as if he was
a special emissary of the State. That was the image he wanted to project.”

Journalists like Dalia Karpel, Ruvik Rosenthal and Tom Segev did not share Gad
Shimron’s approach and they all divulged that Dahan had changed his name and
lived in Paris where he apparently worked for Israel Bonds, the organization
that since 1951 has been selling bonds to the Jews of the world for the
purpose of helping to finance the budget of the State of Israel. Former Deputy
Minister of Finance Yossi Beilin put it this way: “it is an organization that
pays insane and irrational salaries.” Because as far as is known the
appointments were probably decided in Israel, apparently there was a “good
soul” in the Establishment who took care of the war criminal Dahan. To this
very day that scandal has not been investigated.

Unlike the others, Segev disclosed Dahan’s new name in Paris: Dagan. Karpel,
who spoke with Dahan/Dagan on the telephone, chose not to indicate his new
name. In her 1986 article in Ha’Ir that is quoted above, she wrote:

“Gabriel Dahan lives in a European capital, where he is a manager for Israel
Bonds. He is the only one of the perpetrators of the Kafr Qasim massacre who
changed his family name. Today his younger sister Gracia lives in a moshav in
central of Israel. Like other members of the family, she requests that her
identity not be disclosed. At the beginning of the conversation she exhibited
full willingness to talk about her brother’s successes in Europe. She did not
manage to say much. Her husband burst out in anger from the other room and
ordered her in French to talk about anything, but not about Gabriel. Before
that she had managed to say, “David Ben-Gurion shook my brother’s hand and
told him, ‘you were the sacrificial victim of the state.’ [2] Menachem Begin
also honoured him, and many other important people.”

Karpel writes further: “some of the accused at the Kafr Qasim trial remember
that when the verdict was handed down, members of Dahan’s family exploded in
the courtroom and had to be restrained. His mother and sisters cried and
shouted and cursed the judge Binyamin Halevy, and tore up their identity cards
in protest.”

In Karpel’s opinion, it is hard to determine how Dahan acquired his position
in the Israel Bonds. A spokeswoman of the organization in Israel refused to
answer, but the man who was the deputy general manager at the time, Zion
Mizrahi, did not deny the hiring of a war criminal but told the journalist:
“the issue is very sensitive. You know that there has been this story of Kafr
Qasim over the years. It makes the subject very delicate and also liable to
harm the man’s security.”

In a conversation with Karpel, Dahan expressed no remorse and tried to portray
himself as a victim:

“It is a matter that hurts me very much … I think that I paid a very high
price. (…) Do you think that any of us deliberately did something wrong? Fate
took us to that place. It hurts me and will hurt me until my last day. Time
cannot heal the pain.”

“With his own eyes Dahan saw that the people returning to the village, whom he
ordered to be killed, were not combatants,” read the judgement against him,
“but peaceable civilians, unarmed and defenceless. According to the order
itself that instructed to kill men, women and children indiscriminately, there
was no room for doubt that it was not a military or battlefield order, but an
order for murder that we have here … the acts that he ordered to be executed,
in the execution of which he participated and, clearly showed him that what he
was executing, in compliance with the battalion commander’s orders, was
literally murder. The cruel and systematic murder of helpless people.”

According to a report in a French Internet website that provides information
on commercial enterprises Dahan/Dagan manages a company called Antiquité et
Décoration. http://bilans.lesechos.fr/static/483598199-ANTIQUITE-ET-
DECORATION.html

Is it possible to cancel an amnesty once it has been given?

*** *** ***

For more information on the subject of the Kafr Qasim massacre, see:

Meir Vilner and Tawfiq Toubi, `The Sinai War and the Kafr Qasim massacre`.
(Milhemet Sinai ve-tevah Kafr Qasim) [3]

Dalia Karpel, “Yes, we are from the same village: what happened to the
murderers of Kafr Qasim” (Ken, anahnu mi-oto ha-kfar: ma ‘ala be-goralam
shel rotzhei Kafr Qasim
), Ha’Ir, 10 October 1986.

Rubik Rozental (editor), Kafr Qasim: events and myth (Kafr qasim:
iru’im ve-mitus
), Hakibutz Hameuhad, 2000.

Yehiam Weitz, Every man has a name (Le-khol ish yesh shem), summary of:
Rubik Rozental (editor) Kafr Qasim: events and myth, Hakibutz Hameuhad, 2000.

Tom Segev, “Return to Kafr Qasim” (Hazara le-Kafr qasim),
Haaretz, 27 October 2006.

Yehiam Weitz, “Too bad we abolished the death penalty,” (Haval she-bitalnu
et ‘onesh ha-mavet
) Haaretz, 31 December 2007.

Dalia Karpel, “The massacre at Kafr Qasim: we did not shoot: testimony of
refusers who were present at the massacre,” (Ha-tevah be-Kafr Qasim: lo
yarinu: ‘eduyot sarbanei ha-peequda she-nakhahu ba-tevah
) Haaretz,
8 October 2008.

Gadi Elgazi, “The Kafr Qasim massacre, 1956: Operation Mole: the Kafr Qasim
massacre was part of a comprehensive political plan for the expulsion of the
Triangle to Jordan,” (Tevah Kafr qasim, 1956: tokhnit hafarperet: tevah
Kafr Qasim haya heleq mi-tokhnit kolelet ke-gerush ha-meshulash le-Yarden
)
(24 October 2009). Internet: http://www.tarabut.info/he/articles/article/Kufr-
Kassem-1956/

Translator’s notes

1. Israel’s Minister of Trade and Industry at the time.

2. The phrase “you were” in this quotation (one word in Hebrew:
heyitem) was in the plural form in the original Hebrew text.

3. The items in this reference list are all in Hebrew.

Shraga Elam is an Israeli journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland:
http://shraga-elam.blogspot.com/2010/11/covering-for-war-criminal-from-
massacre.html

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