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The Scottish politician who blames the Palestinians for the Nakba must be held to account

A Palestinian mad holds the keys to his house in Bi'r Muin town, which he and his family were forced to leave during the Nakba, 12 May 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
A Palestinian man holds the keys to his house situated in Bi'r Muin town, which belonged to his family before they were forced to leave during the Nakba [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Long before Sir Winston Churchill said that history is written by the victors there were variations on the theme; the winners of any conflict get to write the definitive version of what happened. Those on the losing side are more often than not silenced simply because the winners have the loudest voice and, in the modern age, access to the most compliant mainstream media.

Occasionally, though, the inhumanity of the winning side is so heinous that no amount of airbrushing or rewriting of history can erase the atrocities which undoubtedly took place. That is why the facts of the 1948 Nakba remain inconvenient truths for the pro-Israel lobby, whose members try to push the twisted narrative that the people of Palestine left their land in response to calls to do so made by neighbouring Arab governments. This is total nonsense, as is the Zionist myth that Palestine was a desert until Jewish settlers arrived and "made it bloom" in the run up to and ever since the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.

Far from such a romantic claim, the truth is that the Zionists knew that Palestine was never "a land without a people for a people without a land" as they alleged; and that in order to create their state they had first to drive the Palestinians from their homes. The deliberate ethnic cleansing led to 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children being driven at gunpoint from their ancestral homes in villages, towns and cities across Palestine. Those who resisted the arrival of the largely European colonial settlers were killed; indeed, many who did not resist were also killed in order to create terror in the minds of the survivors so that they too would pack up and leave. The Zionist militias were nothing less than terrorists. Israel was not created on a desert wasteland; it was built on land so fertile that Palestine was one of the world's top exporters of citrus fruit. The people who performed this miracle were ethnically cleansed from their own land by Zionist Jewish immigrants.

READ: The Nakba in its 72nd year

The facts, though, have been ignored by one member of the Scottish parliament who has taken the Zionist narrative one step further and claimed that the Nakba (Catastrophe) was "self-inflicted" by the victims of Israel's ethnic cleansing. Richard Lyle MSP, of the Scottish National Party (SNP), is now facing calls for him to be suspended pending an investigation into what have been described as his "racist" remarks.

Lyle's offensive comments were contained in an amendment to a motion submitted to the parliament in Edinburgh marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba. The tragedy is remembered annually by Palestinians and their supporters around the world.

Richard Lyle during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on February 7, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. [Ken Jack/Getty Images]

Richard Lyle (C) during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on 7 February 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. [Ken Jack/Getty Images]

The stark facts are that more than 50 per cent of the indigenous Palestinian population were forced out of their homes by Zionist militias and the Israeli army between 1947 and 1949 in a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing. The operation was even given a name by those in charge: Plan Dalet. Lyle has ignored that this was clear gerrymandering to force a Jewish majority upon Palestine, using violence in the process.

The Zionist euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is "transfer". We still hear talk of this today, with references to the "transfer" of Palestinians to the neighbouring Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for example. In 1948, the Zionists knew that the only way to create a Jewish majority state in territory where Palestinian Arabs were the overwhelming majority of the population was to clear out the indigenous people. According to Lyle, though, this was the fault of the Palestinians.

READ: How We Became Refugees: The Day My Grandfather Lost His Village in Palestine 

On its website, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) has described the MSP's proposed amendment to Motion S5M-21739 marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba as disgraceful and racist. "The Israel lobby believe that they have successfully shielded Israel from criticism about its apartheid and settler-colonial nature, and ensured that anyone that supports and implements BDS is smeared as an anti-Semite. Now, predictably, they are going directly for the Palestinians, blaming the victims for the programme of ethnic cleansing that Israel continues to this day."

SPSC co-founder Mick Napier says that the group is calling on the SNP to suspend Richard Lyle "with immediate effect, to investigate his racism toward Palestinians and his involvement with the racist state of Israel."

Citing the SNP-led Scottish government's work on streamlining hate crime legislation, Napier added: "They must act to ensure anti-Palestinian racism is not normalised but dealt with firmly within their own party and wider Scottish society. This is not a debate about history; today Israeli forces are attacking Palestinians. Richard Lyle is an active defender of this project. It is time the SNP took action against the foul racism that drives such advocacy."

Lyle is the deputy convener of a cross-party group called "Building Bridges With Israel" (BBI) and has visited the Zionist state on a trip organised and paid for by the Israeli Embassy in London. Such visits are organised so that politicians will go on to defend Israel even as it treats international laws and conventions with contempt and kills, wounds and displaces Palestinians with the impunity provided by people like the MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill.

READ: On the Nakba anniversary, the two-state politics hold more value for the PA

The original Nakba Day parliamentary motion submitted by Lyle's SNP colleague Sandra White MSP recognised the "mass eviction of over 750,000 people from historic Palestine land, which included the destruction of over 500 towns and villages" which "led to generations of pain for the Palestinian people, who continue to live under a state of occupation."

Lyle's amendment described the Nakba as a "self-inflicted tragedy, which must, after all these years, be finally resolved by peaceful means and discussions between the parties involved." As far as Mick Napier is concerned, "This is an insult to every Palestinian worldwide. It is nothing more than a disgusting piece of revisionist history."

Individual SNP members and branches have inundated the party's head office with calls for Lyle's suspension pending an investigation into what SNP Friends of Palestine has described as his "abhorrent… racist and hate filled" narrative which appears to have drawn support from only one other MSP, the Conservative Adam Tomkins.

Ross Greer, co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Palestine, told the Morning Star: "I am disgusted, but not surprised, Mr Lyle has attempted to amend a parliamentary motion marking the Nakba to label it a 'self-inflicted tragedy'. Blaming the victims of ethnic cleansing for the crimes committed against them is vile."

Vile, indeed. The Scottish parliamentarian must be held to account without delay. Failure to do so will besmirch the good name not only of the party he represents, but also the nation it governs.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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