The slaughter began at dawn. The perpetrator, a messianic Jew from a nearby colony dressed in an Israeli Army uniform and carrying a Galil assault rifle, entered the Ebrahimi Mosque, in the heart of the old city of Hebron, where roughly 800 worshippers knelt in prayer, threw a hand grenade into the middle of the hall and then opened fire, killing 29 people (several as young as 12) and wounding 125 (several left with paralysing wounds).
Later in the day, as the sun rose and Hebronites dealt with the unspeakable, the inexplicable, the unbearable, they began to tell each other, much in the manner of people in a collective trance, of reported sightings of sundry angels who had come down to carry home the souls of the dead, led by Angel Gabriel, who was seen administering to the wounded with healing messages from Heaven. It was the middle of the month of Ramadan.
The reported sightings may have been consolation to elderly, traumatised folk in the town, but not consolation enough to young activists throughout the West Bank, who immediately took to the streets in mass protests, which led to clashes with Israel’s occupation forces, which in turn led to a further 26 Palestinians killed and 120 injured. The mosque massacre took place on February 25, 1994, exactly 25 years ago on Monday this week.
You cannot write a column commemorating this event, on the very day it took place a quarter century ago, as I find myself doing now, without finding yourself reflecting on how, though the bloodbath at the Ebrahimi Mosque was seemingly the act of a lone wolf, the killer in fact was driven by, and was the product of, the very deep-rooted hatred and zones of darkness that have defined Zionism’s core view of Palestinians as putrid vermin to be squashed underfoot in order for Israel to prevail. And certainly seven decades of brutality attest to that.
Consider the unimpeachable, and by now well known, evidence. On the night of April 8, 1948, units of the Urgun and Stern gangs entered the sleepy village of Deir Yassein, on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem, and massacred 252 men, women and children, throwing some of the bodies in the village well. Why the wanton savagery? Let Menachem Begin, leader of the Urgun Gang and later prime minister of Israel, tell you how the butchery there was in reality part of a political strategy.
“The massacre was not only justified,” he wrote in his autobiography, The Revolt (1977), “but there would’ve been no Israel without the victory of Deir Yassein... The Arabs began fleeing in panic, shouting Deor Yassein”.
Then consider the blood-letting, again employed as strategy, in the village of Qibya, in the West Bank, on the Green Line between Israel and Jordan, then inhabited by many Nakbi refugees who often, in their innocence, crossed the border to rejoin families left behind or to pick fruit from fields that had belonged to them before the war. On the night of October 14, 1953, Israeli troops, led by the notorious Ariel Sharon, entered Qibya, in the dead of night, where they killed 69 villagers — men, women and children included. Later Sharon gloated: “Qibya was to be an example for everyone.” In short, no border crossings, do you hear?
Then consider the massacre at the village of Kafr Qassim, also on the Green Line, but this inside Israel, that took place in the early evening of October 29, 1956, carried out by Israel’s border police, who killed 48 villagers returning home from their fields, unaware that the authorities had allegedly imposed a curfew that day. The policemen involved were brought to “trial” and sentenced to prison terms, only to be later pardoned. But wait! The highest ranking official prosecuted for the massacre, one Issachan Shadim, stated, shortly before his death — as reported in a lengthy article in the liberal Israel paper Ha’aretz in October 11, 2018 — that the curfew and the massacre were planned as phases within an operation aimed at ethnically cleansing “Israeli Arabs” [Palestinians in 1948 areas] from the village, and that his trial was staged to protect Israel’s political and military elite from taking responsibility
For other massacres, before, in-between and since, check the history books.
Will we, the native people of Palestine, ever forgive? Perhaps, when Israelis express remorse and the accounts between us and them are balanced. Will we ever forget? Never — and certainly not on a day like this, marking the 25th anniversary of an event meant to rub our noses in the vomit of Zionist racism.
Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.