Violence in an Israeli town bears bitter echoes of 1948 for Palestinians.


On the afternoon of July 11, 1948, the Israeli regiments carried out an operation in the city of Lydda which became formative of their new state, and echoed the violence that rages this week in this same city, now known. under the name of Lod.

Civil war between Jews and Arabs erupted in 1947, after the United Nations approved a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two new independent states, Palestine and Israel. In May 1948, after Israel’s declaration of independence, neighboring Arab states invaded.

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Two months later, Israeli forces arrived in Lydda, the city posing a dilemma for their newly formed state. Its residents were Palestinians. But, geographically, it had to be Israeli.

Historians still debate the extent to which what happened next was planned, spontaneous, or a mixture of the two. Israeli forces, breaching the town, exchanged fire with local militiamen. The assault left nine Israeli soldiers dead and killed more than 100 residents, according to one estimate.

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David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, ordered his forces to expel the remaining residents. Although a thousand of them remained in place, tens of thousands were driven to the Jordanian lines 17 km away.

Some Israeli historians claim that the mass expulsion was a premeditated policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at driving Palestinians away. Others argue that Lydda’s purge was done in the heat of battle.

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The mob violence this week shows how a decision in 1948 to treat Palestinians in the city as a threat to Israel’s existence still resonates powerfully today.