A Fake Massacre Serves as Historical Backdrop to a New Palestinian Novel

June 24 2019

In the novel Children of the Ghetto: My Name Is Adam—recently published in English translation—Elias Khoury tells the story of a Palestinian who fled the city of Lydda during Israel’s war of independence and takes as its theme the “silence” of members of that generation. The subject of a fawning review in the New York Times, the book employs as its central conceit an exercise in Holocaust inversion (made clear by the title), comparing the plight of the Palestinians to that of the Jewish victims of Nazism. But the supposed massacre perpetrated by the Haganah at Lydda—which had a formative impact of the protagonist of Children of the Ghetto—never happened, as Martin Kramer demonstrated in Mosaic in 2014:

Lydda, along the route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was an Arab city of some 20,000, swollen by July [1948] to about twice that size by an influx of refugees from Jaffa and neighboring villages already occupied by Israeli forces. The 5th Infantry Company of the Transjordanian Arab Legion (approximately 125 soldiers) was deployed in the city, supported by many more local irregulars who had been making months-long preparations for battle.

On July 11, . . . the 3rd Battalion of the [Haganah’s] Yiftaḥ brigade moved into southern approaches to the city. . . . By the next day, as Israeli forces were strengthening their hold on the city, two or three armored vehicles of the Arab Legion appeared on the northern edge and began firing in all directions. This encouraged an eruption of sniping and grenade-throwing at Israeli troops from upper stories and rooftops within the town, and from [what was known as] “the small mosque” only a few hundred meters from the armored-vehicle incursion.

Israeli commanders feared a counterattack by the Legion in coordination with the armed irregulars still at large in the city. The order came down to suppress the incipient uprising with withering fire. The Great Mosque and the church, [crammed with male Arab civilians], were unaffected, but Israeli forces struck the small mosque with an antitank missile.

In short, a fierce battle took place, and Israeli troops fired on a mosque that had become an enemy outpost, but, as Kramer goes on to prove, there is no evidence of a massacre.

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More about: Israeli War of Independence, Literature, Lydda, Palestinians

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship