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Knesset faction heads are willing to consider voting in favor of a bill that seeks to strengthen official recognition of the Kafr Kasim massacre that took place exactly 50 years from this coming Sunday, Israeli Arab leaders told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
The bill, presented to the Knesset plenum on Wednesday by Hadash head MK Muhammad Barakei, calls on the government to "recognize its responsibility for the massacre, bring its study into the educational system and participate in funding projects to remember those killed," Barakei told the Post shortly after presenting the bill.
"I've been working on this for six years," Barakei said, adding that "there is reason to believe that this year it will move forward," since Knesset faction heads have promised him "they would seriously consider [supporting the bill]."
On October 29, 1956, a Border Police platoon shot and killed 48 unarmed Arab civilians in the village of Kafr Kasim east of Petah Tikva because the residents were unknowingly in violation of a curfew imposed on the village due to the onset of the Sinai Campaign.
The subsequent trial and conviction of the border policemen created a legal precedent that determined that certain military orders - such as those to shoot unarmed curfew violators - are so manifestly illegal that they must be disobeyed.
Kafr Kasim Local Council head Sami Esa also spent Wednesday at the Knesset.
"We met with Knesset faction chairmen to try to garner support for the bill," he told the Post. Based on what he heard at the meetings, Esa said he was optimistic that the bill would pass its first reading by next week.
Knesset faction heads who met with Barakei and Esa could not be reached by press time, with some refusing to comment on the issue.
Barakei and Esa also met with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who expressed public support for their initiative and offered to study the bill further.
"The events at Kafr Kasim are learned as part of [regular high school] citizenship studies," read a statement released by Tamir's office. "Since 2001, this has been part of the obligatory studies on the issue of obedience to the law in a democratic regime, which includes the issue of impermissible orders and the specific example of what happened in Kafr Kasim.
"The minister of education has instructed schools to mark the 50th anniversary of the events," the statement continued, quoting Tamir as saying, "'The massacre and the trial that followed have become a cornerstone in Israeli national consciousness and have embedded among generations of commanders and soldiers in the IDF the moral limits in which they operate.'"
Asked why the current awareness of the event and its implications in the IDF and in school curricula was not enough, Kafr Kasim Remembrance Committee spokesman Ola Issa told the Post that the teaching of the incident in Israeli schools always centered around the lessons learned in the trial, and not on remembering those who actually died in the incident.
The new initiative, he explained, aimed to memorialize the dead, not merely examine the legal or moral ramifications of the events.
While Barakei, Esa and Issa all welcomed Tamir's interest in the issue, they were guarded in their optimism.
"This step taken by Yuli Tamir is positive," said Esa, "but very preliminary."