Cite: Orbach, The Kafr Qasim Political Trial

Orbach, Danny. “Black Flag at a Crossroads: The Kafr Qasim Political Trial (1957–58).” International Journal of Middle East Studies 45.3 (2013): 491-511.





A political trial, according to Steven E. Barkan, is a trial revolving
around highly publicized legal controversies. In some cases, such a
trial may determine fundamental political questions, exceeding the legal
realm, which are in debate inside a given polity. The 1957–58 trial
related to the 1956 massacre in Kafr Qasim, Israel certainly belongs to
this category. The trial established the doctrine of a “manifestly
unlawful order” in Israeli military law, contributed considerably to the
reshaping of civil–military relations, and influenced the civic status
of the Arab minority in Israel. In this article, using hitherto
underexamined primary sources, I argue that the most important
contribution of the trial, the doctrine of a “manifestly unlawful
order,” was not only a creation of the bench but also a result of a
complicated interaction between the actors present in the courtroom: the
defendants, their defense lawyers, the prosecutors, and the judges.
Above all, the article shows how the bitter struggle between the two
main attorneys helped shape the doctrine of a “manifestly unlawful
order,” that is, an order that is illegal for a soldier to obey.

ToC: Jewish Social Studies 18,3 (2012): Special issue; History and Responsibility: Hebrew Literature Facing 1948

Volume 18, Number 3, Spring/Summer 2012

History and Responsibility: Hebrew Literature Facing 1948, edited by Amir Eshel, Hannan Hever, and Vered Karti Shemtov

Table of Contents


 Introduction        pp. 1-9

        Amir Eshel, Hannan Hever, Vered Karti Shemtov


Abba Kovner: The Ritual Function of His Battle Missives    

pp. 99-119

        Michal Arbell


Unraveling the Wars of 1948    

pp. 120-135

        Uri Cohen

pp. 136-152

        Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi


 Sovereignty and Melancholia: Israeli Poetry after 1948    

pp. 164-179

        Michael Gluzman


pp. 225-227


                      In Forthcoming Issues    

p. 228

Reviews: Pedahzur and Perliger, Jewish Terrorism in Israel

Pedahzur, Ami and Arie Perliger. Jewish Terrorism in Israel. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

book cover


  • Brown, L. Carl. “Review.” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2010.
  • Rubner, Michael. “Book Review.” Middle East Policy 17.2 (2010).
  • Rubenberg, Cheryl A. “Review.” Middle East Book Reads, September 15, 2010.
  • Torstrick, Rebecca L. “Violence in the Name of God.” H-Net Reviews, March 2011.
  • Cohen-Almagor, Raphael. “Review.” Terrorism and Political Violence 25.3 (2013): 501-503.