The Uses of Lydda

How a confusing urban battle between two sides was transformed into a one-sided massacre of helpless victims.

Lydda and the Church of St. George, taken between 1900 and 1920. From the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.
Lydda and the Church of St. George, taken between 1900 and 1920. From the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.
Response
July 6 2014
About the author

Efraim Karsh is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London, and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. He is the author most recently of The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2015).


In “What Happened at Lydda,” Martin Kramer has performed a signal service by putting to rest the canard of an Israeli massacre of Palestinian Arab civilians in that city in July 1948. The charge has been most recently circulated by Ari Shavit in his best-selling My Promised Land. But Lydda is hardly the only instance of such allegations at the time of the founding of the Jewish state—or, for that matter, long afterward. As Kramer suggests at the outset of his investigation, “time and again over the decades, Israeli soldiers have stood accused of just such wanton killing when in fact they were doing what every soldier is trained to do: fire on an armed enemy, especially when that enemy is firing at him.”

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More about: Ari Shavit, Lydda, Martin Kramer, Massacre, My Promised Land, Zionism