The Massacres of Lydd (Lod) and Ramle During the 1948 Nakba
The Massacres of Lydd (Lod) and Ramle During the 1948 Nakba
July 11, 2023
(1) What were Israel's most notable policies, statements, and legislation during Palestine’s 1948 Nakba?
Upon the UNGA Resolution 181 in 1947, and later the withdrawal of the British Mandate from the land of historic Palestine, the Zionist forces continued the implementation of Plan Dalet. This led to the Nakba of the people of Palestine, the seizure of their properties, and the creation of colonial Jewish settlements on their lands after they were displaced and replaced by Jews.
The Jewish National Fund's Land and Afforestation Department director Yosef Weitz founded the "Transfer Committee" in 1948 to wreak havoc on Palestinian villages during military operations to prevent them from returning to their homes. David Ben-Gurion documented in his memoirs a conversation with Yosef Weitz on 26 September 1948. As it turns out, they were afraid that Palestinian refugees would attempt to return home: “There are cases of refugees from Ramle and Lod who reached Gaza through Ramallah, believing that from Gaza it will be easier to return to Ramle or Lod. What should we do?” The answer was: “We have to ‘pester’ them relentlessly… we need to pester and motivate the refugees in the south to move eastward as well since they won’t go towards the sea and Egypt won’t let them in.” His diary also discusses pushing Palestinian refugees into Jordan. And when Ben-Gurion asked: “Who will take care of this pestering?” The answer was: “Shiloah, with the help of Weitz’s Committee.”
As part of the destruction and erasure process, a second committee was formed to name places so that a Hebrew topography could be aligned with a new map of the terrain and locations. In his testimony after 1948, Meron Benvenisti said: “The country has turned into a white board on which the Committee can put names as it wants.” According to Professor Aaron Shai of Tel Aviv University, “only in the spring of 1965 a clear policy was adopted to level the abandoned towns to clean up the country.” Simultaneously, the Green Wash campaign was launched to restore and hide the destroyed villages by planting millions of trees and even entire forests.
The massacres committed by Zionists militias played a significant role in eliminating the Palestinian existence and ensuring that indigenous Palestinians would be prohibited from returning to their land and homes. Further, Israeli legislation and regulations have been passed to deal directly and indirectly with displaced lands, villages, and people, the most prominent of which were the Law of Return and the Absentee Property Law.
(2) Why would Ben-Gurion mention the Palestinians of Lydd and Ramle in his memoirs?
“Operation Dany” which took place from 9-13 July 1948 aimed to control the region extending from Latrun to Ramallah, clear the roads and grant access to the Jewish villages along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, which were still part of the Palestinian Arab territory. Lydd and Ramle were occupied as part of the plan to expand the territory of the new "Jewish state" territory beyond the lines established by the UN Partition Plan. As instructed by Yigal Alon and his deputy Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli air force began bombing Lydd on 10 July. Lydd was the first Palestinian city to be air bombed by the Zionist militias that later directly attacked the city center.
On 11 July, the Israeli warplanes launched intensive raids on Lydd and Ramle while the people broke their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The Zionists militias seized control of both cities on 12 July. Several testimonies confirmed that the Israelis detained, shot, and killed dozens of civilians, and the males were called on to gather in the Great Mosque, the Dahmash Mosque, and the churches. It was also confirmed that the Israelis shot and killed dozens of those who took shelter in the Dahmash Mosque. In support of these testimonies, and according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, the Israeli forces killed 426 men, women, and children in a local mosque and nearby streets. In total, 176 bodies were found inside the mosque, and the rest were found outside.
On what happened after the expulsion of Lydd and Ramle, Benny Morris quoted Yitzhak Rabin saying: “What would they do with the 50,000 civilians living in the two cities ..... Not even Ben-Gurion could offer a solution.... and during the discussion at operation headquarters, he [Ben-Gurion] remained silent, as was his habit in such situations. Clearly, we could not leave [Lydda's] hostile and armed populace in our rear, where it could endanger the supply route [to the troops who were] advancing eastward.” He added: “Ben-Gurion would repeat the question: What is to be done with the population? waving his hand in a gesture that said: Drive them out! [garush otam in Hebrew]. 'Driving out' is a term with a harsh ring ... Psychologically, this was one of the most difficult actions we undertook".
On 13 July, the Israeli soldiers forced approximately 70,000 residents of Lydd and Ramle to leave within half an hour and drive to Ramallah on a bumpy road, where hundreds died due to thirst, drought, and fatigue. While the Palestinians lined up on the path to death, a small Israeli military plane hovered overhead at a low altitude, forcing them to keep moving. A Palestinian boy’s testimony, Raja’i Bseileh, from Lydd reinforces this testimony, recalling that “Jews were everywhere with rifles and loudspeakers”. To avoid what happened at the mosque, the loudspeaker kept warning them to get out as soon as possible when they had no idea where to go. The boy added that they primarily used their rifles to fire and stole a great deal of cash, gold, jewelry, and timepieces. A related poem by Natan Alterman, which Haaretz reprinted, also described the perpetrated mass killings and war crimes in Lydd and the Hebron village of Al-Dawayima. Haaretz noted that “other such testimonies were made to disappear.”
(3) Was the Lydd and Ramle Massacres the only ones to take place during the Nakba?
No, Israel has perpetrated dozens of massacres in order to guarantee the escape of Palestinian survivors. As a matter of utmost secrecy, the details of the murders, rapes, and thefts were kept in the Israeli archive.
In accordance with documents revealed by the Akevot Institute and published by Haaretz, the Deir Yassin massacre was not the only massacre. There were the massacres of Hula and the village of Al-Rina near Nazareth, the village of Al-Burj (known today as the settlement of Modi’in), and the (Miron) area where terrible atrocities took place. According to a testimony by the communist Israeli politician and Knesset member Shmuel Mikunis, who demanded David Ben-Gurion clarify what the underground Irgun militia had done, “A. They annihilated with a machine gun 35 Arabs who had surrendered to that company with a white flag in their hands. B. They took as captives peaceful residents, among them women and children, ordered them to dig a pit, pushed them into it with long French bayonets, and shot the unfortunates until they were all murdered. There was even a woman with an infant in her arms. C. Arab children of about 13-14 who were playing with grenades were all shot. D. A girl of about 19-20 was raped by men from Altalena [an Irgun unit]; afterward she was stabbed with a bayonet and a wooden stick was thrust into her body.”
In the village of Al-Dawayima near Hebron, there was no fighting or resistance when the Eighth Brigade slaughtered 100 men, according to a soldier who later testified about the incident to a Mapam member. The initial occupants slaughtered 80 to 100 Arab women and children by smashing their skulls with sticks. There was not a house without dead persons, the soldier added.
The film “Tantura,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in the United States of America in the middle of January 2022, suggested that Palestinians might have been buried beneath a parking lot near Tantura Beach in northern Israel. As well as confirming that the burial lasted longer than a week, the experts estimated the grave's length and width at 35 meters and 4 meters, respectively, based on aerial images taken before and after the invasion.
(4) What documents/ testimonies on Nakba Massacres were made public?
Akevot Institute, a nonprofit working to make government records more accessible, sought to force the Israeli government to release banned confidential documents through the Israeli courts. After 74 years of the Nakba, the Israeli government agreed to reveal a large amount of these documents that primarily deal with the operations of the Zionist military organizations that forced Palestinians from their homes and villages and prevented them from returning. These ethnic cleansing operations took place before 15 May 1948 and after.
The atrocities carried out by the Israeli military forces were also revealed by evidence received from minutes of government meetings and inquiry committees after the founding of the State of Israel. These atrocities are no longer mentioned in published records, which only contain remarks from Ministries and Knesset members.
It is important to note that the 1948 Nakba was not the only station of the Israeli massacres. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, it was reported that Palestinian refugees from that war were killed while trying to cross the Jordan River in an attempt to return to the West Bank.
(5) What actions could the international community take to put an end to the ongoing Nakba?
Considering the ongoing Nakba, which began in 1948 and continues through ethnic cleansing and apartheid practices since 1967, especially in occupied Jerusalem, the international community should coordinate efforts to have a UNGA resolution criminalizing the denial of the Nakba. Under the UNGA resolution, Israel should be obligated to make public its secret archives related to its crimes during the Nakba and afterward.
In light of the disclosure of new Israeli official records on the Nakba, which constitute a primary source to hold Israel accountable, the international community must take responsibility for stopping the ongoing Nakba. Furthermore, it is imperative to put pressure on Israel so that it recognizes the Nakba and takes responsibility for creating the Palestine Refugee Problem. Reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region is possible through the recognition of responsibility, the implementation of UNGA resolution 194, and the reparations for Palestine refugees. The international community should also mobilize support to encourage the United Nations to establish international mechanisms to hold Israel, the occupying Power, accountable for the war crimes and crimes against humanity it committed against the land and people of Palestine.
According to PCBS, the Seventy-Fourth Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, May 2022, “Displacement of 957,000 Palestinians, the occupation of 744 Palestinian towns and villages, the destruction of 531 villages, and the conversion of the remaining villages into Jewish colonies and parks. Because of these activities, there were about 70 massacres carried out against Palestinians. Around 15,000 Palestinians were also killed because of these operations. https://www.pcbs.gov.ps/postar.aspx?lang=ar&ItemID=4235
 Institute for Palestine Studies, Refugees in their Homeland: Present Absentees in Israel, Wakim Wakim, 2001, p. 97. “Israel built more than (109) settlements, the most of which were built on grounds in the area of the abandoned villages.”
 Shiloah is Reuven Shiloah, one of the intelligence chiefs and the Mosssad first commander.
 Institute for Palestine Studies, Environmental Injustice and the Scene of Denial of Palestinian Existence, Sari Makdisi, Studies, Statements and Facts, 2018, p. 116.
 Lydd is the largest and oldest historical city in Palestine, located 5 kilometers northeast of Ramle and 38 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem. Approximately 22,000 people lived there in 1948. Ramle is located 38 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem. The city's population increased to 78,500 in 1948. From 1949 to 1967, Ramle Road connected Tel Aviv's commercial district with Jerusalem. Thus, it was important for Zionist forces to occupy it and displace its people.
 Tantura originally is an Arab Palestinian village, about 30 kilometers south of Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast. In 1947, nearly 1,500 people lived there, and the village's total area was 119 dunums. On the ruins of Tantura, whose beaches were designated as nature reserves, a tourist village called “Dur” was constructed over it. The cooperative settlement (kibbutz) Nahsholim currently occupies its lands. https://www.palestineremembered.com/Articles/Biladuna-Filisteen/Story25591.html