In Stormy Debate, Knesset Votes Down Kafr Kassem Memorial Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister Issawi Frej reacts during a discussion on the Kafr Kassem massacre, during a plenum session in the Knesset on Wednesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Knesset on Wednesday voted down – by 93 MKs to 12 – a bill to establish a national day of mourning to commemorate the victims of the 1956 Kafr Kassem massacre in which 48 Arab Israelis were shot dead by Border Police officers.

In the stormy debate, the bill’s sponsor, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, said if the coalition defeated the bill, it would prove the left-wing parties in the government are merely a “paper tiger” with no real influence.

Meretz Minister Esawi Frej told the plenum that his own family members were killed in the massacre. He said the Joint List was raising his own bill from the past in an effort to embarrass him.

“Shame on you for trying to use my family’s pain to get a few votes,” Frej said in an anguished voice.

Touma-Sliman responded that she was not trying to shame anyone but to insist on justice for the victims.

“You are sitting in the government quietly, at the expense of your people who you are not helping at all,” she said to Frej.

Frei excoriated the Joint List for bringing the bill directly to the Knesset plenum, where he said it was guaranteed to fail, rather than to the Knesset’s Education Committee.

“The desire to get the state to accept its responsibility has followed me my entire life. It is the most important issue for my public work; ever since I was first elected to the Knesset I have tried to advance the bill we have before us, but we agreed to advance it in the Education Committee.”

Touma-Sliman shouted back at Frej, prompting Frej to yell at her to “quiet down already. You should be ashamed.”

Even after he was escorted from the rostrum, Frej continued to shout at the Joint List MKs.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said the bill was not needed, because the Kafr Kassem incident was studied in schools.