An article in The Times (“SNP politician Richard Lyle reported for comments on Palestine”, May 26), by Scottish political editor Kieran Andrews, was based on recent comments by Richard Lyle (member of the Scottish Parliament) referring to the ‘Nakba’ as a “self-inflicted tragedy”.
First, the article provides selections from the speech in question that helps put the comments in context. Lyle said that the “mass eviction of over 750,000 people from historic Palestine land, which included the destruction of over 500 towns and villages . . . led to generations of pain for the Palestinian people, who continue to live under a state of occupation”.
Further, Lyle’s ‘controversial’ comments about the “self-inflicted tragedy” were in this longer sentence, cited in the article:
“The conclusion can only be that the Naqba, the Arabic word for tragedy, resulting in the 1948 Palestine refugee crisis was sadly a self-inflicted tragedy, which must, after all these years, be finally resolved by peaceful means and discussions between the parties involved.”
Though Lyle’s use of the term “self-inflicted tragedy” is not entirely clear, he may have merely been referring to the fact that the original Palestinian refugees where used as pawns by Arab leaders, who cynically chose to keep them stateless rather than granting them full citizenship in the countries to which they fled. This cycle continues to this day, with UNRWA’s policy of granting all subsequent generations of Palestinians (even those who have citizenship elsewhere) refugee status.
He may also have been alluding to the fact that if Palestinian leadership had (as Jewish leaders did) accepted the 1947 partition plan, there wouldn’t have been a single Palestinian refugee.
Further, after quoting pro-Palestinian activists labeling Lyle’s comments as “racist”, The Times editor, in his own voice, provides background on cause of the flight of Palestinians during the war – to help put Lyle’s comments in context:
Historians argue that it was largely driven by Israeli aggression, including rape and torture, and to a much lesser degree by local Palestinian authorities urging people to flee.
However, quite tellingly, The Times editor doesn’t provide the names of historians who made such a risible claim. (Also, note that this sentence is, word for word, a copy and paste from an article published the previous day at The Herald)
Further, let’s remember that the 1948 war was fought by Israel to fend off Arab campaigns to annihilate the Jewish state immediately after its birth – a mere three years after one out of every three Jews on the planet were murdered in the Holocaust. Their objective wasn’t to adjust the borders, but another genocide. As the Arab League’s first secretary-general warned, the war against the Jews would be “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”
To refer to Jews’ efforts to defend themselves from annihilation as Jewish aggression represents a moral and historical inversion of the highest order.
Respected historian Benny Morris has demonstrated that there was no Israeli plan to ethnically cleanse Palestinian Arabs, and that most Palestinians who fled did so to escape the fighting or because Arab leaders ordered them to do so. “Had the Israelis committed systematic ethnic cleansing”, he argued in 2004, “there would not be 1.4 million Arabs in Israel today”.
And, whilst Morris has said there were a few cases of rape during the war, that’s vastly different than suggesting a widespread, systematic rape (and torture) of the populace resulting in a mass Palestinian exodus. Moreover, research conducted by Elisabeth Wood, an expert on wartime sexual violence from Yale University, demonstrated that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict actually represents a rare example where rape during wartime is extremely rare “if not totally absent”.
The ugly caricature of Israeli Jews and egregious distortion of the Arab-Israeli War presented to Times readers’ represents another example of crude Palestinian propaganda seeping into the coverage at serious news outlets.
If you want to complain to editors, as we did, here are The Times’ complaint procedures.