And history is coming full circle: this pattern increasingly applies within Israel itself, whose population remains about one fifth Arab. In 2018, Israel formally declared the right of national self-determination to be “unique to the Jewish people.” The next year, its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on social media, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens” but only of its Jews. Arab citizens have unequal rights, according to rights groups.
Much as with the expulsions of 1948, there is a blurry line between matters of top-down policy and bottom-up actions by Israel’s citizens. Settlers flow into parts of the West Bank that are considered crucial for the establishment of a Palestinian state, making that less viable. In recent years, according to Israeli media reports, Israeli nationalists have begun moving to mixed cities like Lod in large numbers, making them more Jewish.
Violent Palestinian groups like Hamas also help drive the cycle. In any conflict, the extremists on one side empower those on the other, creating conditions where force seems like the only option against an implacable foe. Still, even in Gaza, Israel exercises significant control, dictating which goods and people can enter or leave and, with drones circling overhead, which buildings can stand and which will crumble.
A Painful Cycle
The violence in Lod this week is a continuation of that cycle. It is a reaction, by both Arabs and Jews, to the violence playing out yet again in East Jerusalem and Gaza, heightening a sense of existential sectarian conflict. Residents say it is also a reaction, more specifically, to the escalating demographic contest for control of mixed cities, and growing hostility to the Arab minority.
Perhaps most significantly, Lod, both in 1948 and today, represents what may be one of the biggest hurdles to lasting peace: the status of millions of Palestinians considered by the United Nations to be refugees from their homes in what is now Israel — from towns like Lod. Many demand the right to return, which Israel opposes because it could reduce, or even imperil, Jews’ numerical supremacy.