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Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre

October 27, 2017 at 8:10 am

  • Book Author(s): Samia Halaby
  • Published Date: November 2016
  • Publisher: Schilt Publishing
  • Hardback: 264 pages
  • ISBN-13: 978-9053308745

An important contribution to the preservation of Palestinian memory, Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre confronts Israel’s efforts to consign it to oblivion through the dimensions of textual narrative and art. Palestinian artist Samia Halaby describes her work in this book as “documentary drawing”; she 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.

Progressing though a compelling foreword by Raja Shehadeh, an impeccable historical analysis by Salman Abu Sitta and the core of the book itself — which is a skilful weaving of testimonies, narratives, historical documents and compelling art — one notes a strong depiction of the divide between Palestinian memory and the network of oblivion imposed upon the people who have consistently struggled against disappearance. Halaby exhibits a profound consciousness of such contrasts, portrayed through her decision to eliminate or limit the presence of Israeli police officers in her artistic depictions. Given that the Israeli colonial narrative has functioned by eliminating Palestinians from the wider picture, focusing upon the colonial entity in any form would diminish the importance of Palestinian remembrance. In most drawings and paintings within the book, the aggressors are indicated through the presence of their rifles aimed at the Palestinian victims of their violence.

The Kafr Qasem Massacre is an example of how Israel utilised an international diversion to extend further its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. On 29 October 1956, the same day that it launched a surprise attack on Egypt’s Suez Canal along with the French and British (the so-called “Suez Crisis”), a curfew was imposed by Israel upon eight Palestinian villages, including Kafr Qasem. The late communication of the curfew to the villagers, which occurred between 4:30pm and 4:45pm, ensured that Palestinians returning home from work at 5pm, which was the imposed restriction time, would be slaughtered. The book includes testimony by an officer present during the curfew briefing which indicates premeditated murder: “It would be desirable to have a few people killed in each village.”

This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book awards 2017, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site.