An Arab minister excoriated a group of Arab lawmakers in the Knesset plenum Wednesday afternoon, following a vote on a controversial bill to recognize the killings of dozens of Israeli Arabs as a massacre.
The Knesset voted 93 to 12 Wednesday to reject a bill drafted by the Joint Arab List which called for the government to recognize the killings of 48 Arab civilians in 1956 as a massacre.
The killings, which took place at the beginning of the Suez-Sinai War, occurred after Israel imposed a strict nighttime curfew on a dozen Arab towns at the outset of the war.
Hundreds of day laborers from the central Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qassem returned home from work on the evening of October the 29th, 1956, after the curfew was imposed.
IDF soldiers ordered to enforce the curfew opened fire on laborers who returned home in violation of the curfew, killing 48.
The army later tried 11 soldiers involved in the incident, convicting and jailing eight.
Three MKs from the Joint Arab List, including party chief Ayman Odeh and Aida Touma-Sliman, drafted the bill, calling to have the government recognize the killings as a massacre, to release confidential documents regarding the incident, and to require the massacre to be taught to Israeli schoolchildren.
After the bill failed to pass, Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Freij, a resident of Kafr Qassem, denounced the Joint Arab List party from the rostrum, blasting what he said was a political stunt which had no chances of passing in the Knesset.
Freij excoriated the Joint Arab List for bringing the bill directly to the Knesset plenum, where he said it was guaranteed to fail, rather than to the Education Committee.
“I am so saddened, as a member of a family which lost a relative in the massacre. I grew up with this pain,” said Freij.
“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.”
One of the bill’s sponsors, Touma-Sliman, shouted back at Freij, prompting Freij to yell at her to “Shut up already. You should be ashamed.”
Even after he was escorted from the rostrum, Freij continued to shout at Joint Arab List MKs.