What really happened in the conquest of Lod?

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Article/book #: 94940
Title: What really happened in the conquest of Lod?
By: Tom Segev  
Published in: Ha’aretz
Date of issue: Friday, 12 May 2000
Timeline event(s) mentioned in this item:
   11 Jul 1948:Israelis occupy al-Lydd
   12 Jul 1948:Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd
   13 Jul 1948:Expulsion of the population of Lydda and Ramleh



As the sun set on Sunday, July 11, 1948, IDF troops entered the town of Lod (Lydda), and its notables surrendered. Lod was conquered in the course of the Dani campaign; Ramle and some villages were taken as well. The objective was to take control of the airstrip and secure the route to Jerusalem. The significance of this story goes beyond the military results of the campaign, because the battle for Lod gave luster to the biographies of a number of army officers who subsequently became part of Israel's political leadership - including Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon. Battles fought during this stretch of the 1948 conflict became the crux of the political and moral arguments about what is permissible and what is forbidden in war, and about the future of relations between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. As the battle for Lod drew near, and then as the town's fate was sealed, local residents - 30,000 of them - left. They became refugees. Their story represents a central chapter in the Palestinian tragedy.The Haganah Archive and the Defense Ministry press are currently sponsoring the publication of a new book about the conquest of Lod. It is to be the first in a series, "The War for the Cities," whose publication is an important event. The intention is apparently to issue a book for each city, and together, they should constitute the most significant effort to consolidate an official military historiography since the publication of "Toldot Hahaganah."

The authors of the volume on Lod are two well-known historians from the Hebrew University, Alon Kadish, formerly the head of the university's history department, and Avraham Sela, a Middle Eastern studies expert. A section devoted to the city of Lod was written by a Haifa University geographer, Arnon Golan. The publication's political and moral importance should not be underestimated. A "peace of the brave" requires Israel to courageously recognize its own part in the tragedy that befell the Palestinians. This means disclosing war crimes committed in the past; any attempt to conceal those wrongs is liable to pave the way for crimes in the next war. With justification, the book's jacket says that the story of the conquest of Lod is of considerable interest. The discussion revolves around two fundamental questions: Did Palmach fighters massacre Arab prisoners who were taken after the city was conquered? And were the town's residents made to flee on the basis of a pre-prepared plan?

The formulation of the questions reflects a punctilious, almost legalistic, approach. The same can be said for the answers supplied: "There is no evidence" of a massacre; "There is no possibility of reconstructing with certainty" who initiated the deportation. Regrettably, however, such answers are inadequate.

The State of Israel has, over the years, been a prolific publisher of history books. The Defense Ministry and the IDF run their own publishing house to produce these histories. The Education Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Israel State Archives also release official histories. Such publishing efforts are, of course, perfectly legitimate, because the struggle over history-telling has been paramount in the struggle for control of the Land of Israel. By the same token, it's natural that the official version of history is rife with mythology, apologetics, and ideology. In fact, books about Israel's wars published by the Defense Ministry must be perused with the same critical attitude applied to publications of the Red Army press.

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