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The black flag over Israel's democracy

Israelis are relinquishing their democracy through their silence and actions.
An Israeli right-wing activist holds a black flag with the Hebrew words for "High Court" during a rally to protest a recent court decision ordering Israel to release thousands of African migrants from detention, in Tel Aviv October 5, 2014. Israel's high court last month outlawed a detention centre where African migrants are held without trial and ordered some 2,000 inmates there released over the next three months. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) - RTR490U7

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the massacre carried out by soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces against the Arab Israeli village of Kafr Qasim, during which 49 residents died, including women and children, who were making their way home from their fields. In anticipation of the 1956 military campaign over the Sinai Peninsula, Israel had declared a curfew for Arab villages on that day. The villagers were returning from the fields half an hour after the declaration, unaware of the curfew.

Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Halevy, in his famous ruling concerning the massacre, determined that the order to shoot the villagers had been “patently unlawful.” He said, “The hallmark of manifest illegality is that it must wave like a black flag over the given order, a warning that says: forbidden!" Halevy added, “Illegality that pierces the eye and revolts the heart, if the eye is not blind and the heart is not impenetrable or corrupt — this is the measure of manifest illegality needed to override the soldier's duty to obey and to impose on him criminal liability for his action.” Eleven officers and soldiers were sentenced to jail terms of 3-14 years, eventually downgraded by reduced sentences and clemency.

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