In his much-vaunted book My Promised Land, the Israeli journalist Ari Shavit devotes a chapter to a “massacre” of Arabs that he claims took place in the town of Lydda during the 1948 war of independence. Last July, the historian Martin Kramer demonstrated in Mosaic that Shavit’s account was unfounded. Kramer recently presented his analysis in Israel, where a Hebrew translation of My Promised Land has yet to be published. The response of his audience, filled with veterans of the 1948 war, many of whom had taken part in the conquest of Lydda, was telling:
I could have dispensed with my own analysis. The reactions tumbled forth in immediate response to Shavit’s text. I heard gasps of disbelief and angry asides. I didn’t ask for a show of hands as to how many thought Shavit’s account had any credibility, and in retrospect I wish I had. But to judge from the audible responses, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this audience was surprised and offended.
[N]othing I heard, either in the lecture hall or outside of it, added to the store of testimony about the “massacre” component of Shavit’s Lydda tale. The conquest of Lydda had many moving parts, and most of the veterans I met served in the 89th Battalion under Moshe Dayan. That meant that they were not in the city when the “massacre” supposedly took place, but fought the day before, mostly on the road between Lydda and Ramleh. But I wasn’t looking for new testimony, because there are plenty of recorded recollections from people who witnessed the events. . . . I did want these veterans to know what much of the world (Israel excepted) has been reading about their battle for over a year now. And I wanted them to start to talk about it among themselves and with others.