Suffering of the Palestinians was certainly not self-inflicted

AS Covid-19 continues to dominate column inches, it was welcome to see The National (May 26) cover Richard Lyle’s attempt to rewrite the history of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel by tabling an amendment to Sandra White’s motion marking the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba – the “Catastrophe” – in 1948.

In his amendment, Lyle asserts that the tragedy was “self-inflicted”, making Palestinians responsible for their own sufferings.

To emphasise the notion that Palestinians had been urged to leave their own homes by their own people, thus implying their own culpability, is misleading to say the least. History is littered with examples of populations being forced to flee their homes in times of war or violence, but never before have I heard these populations being blamed for their own victimhood.

READ MORE: SNP MSP Richard Lyle ‘insults all Palestinians’

I live in a small village in Fife and it is not too difficult to imagine how word of massacres and terror by Zionist militia would spread fear and panic through neighbouring villages.

These massacres were real, not imagined, not made up.

Deir Yassin and Kafr Qasem are only two examples amongst hundreds of such systematic murder and destruction of whole villages and their populations.

Many Palestinians took with them only those possessions they needed to tide them over for a few days or weeks until they could return in safety.

Ramzy Baroud, renowned Palestinian writer, recounts how his grandfather and his family fled their village, but decided to take only their old blankets as they would be home in a few days. The good blankets were left at home. He died, decades later, a refugee in Gaza, never to set his eyes on his village again, like hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians. Was this his own fault?

Many still hold the keys to the homes they expected to return to and the key remains a potent symbol of the Palestinian right to return.

This right is enshrined in international law for those who have been expelled or displaced through conflict or war. Millions of Palestinians are still waiting.

Helen SkulinaStrathmiglo, Cupar

MARTIN Hannan writes generally entertaining and informed articles. However, when he says in his article on Dunkirk that the 51st Highland Division “were not deliberately sacrificed – they were just too far from Dunkirk”, he misrepresents history (Dunkirk miracle was not just down to luck, May 27). It is correct that they were indeed too far from Dunkirk, being south of the Somme and under the command of the French. So evacuation from Dunkirk was never an option.

READ MORE: Operation Dynamo: Why the Dunkirk miracle was not just down to luck

However, evacuation from Dieppe, or Le Havre or even St Valery-en-Caux, where they were eventually captured, would have all been possible if the order had been given earlier and Churchill had acceded to the requests of their senior commanders to allow the division to act independently of the command of the French. The fact is that following Dunkirk and the initial failure of the British high command to inform their allies of that planned evacuation, Churchill, fearing that another evacuation would lead to the surrender of the French and an armistice with the Germans, refused to give that permission. His decision was a calculated act of political expediency which was to end in failure when France duly signed an armistice with Germany.

Belatedly, a rescue mission was mounted and 4,300 British soldiers and 900 French were evacuated from Le Havre and Veules-les-Roses, but it came too late for around 10,000 men. For historical accuracy I commend to Martin After Dunkirk – Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division and Dunkirk by Joshua Levine.

Gill TurnerEdinburgh

MARTIN Hannan writes about the Finns citing the “Winter War Spirit” in facing the problems of Covid-19, referring to their defence against the Soviet Union in 1939-40 (May 27). In 1939 my father, a consultant physician in Glasgow, was asked to examine a leading

Scot for fitness to command a detachment of Scottish ski troops to help the Finns defend their country. The outbreak of war with Germany later in 1939 prevented the Scottish ski troops from going to help the Finns. We may hope that Scottish independence will facilitate peaceful co-operation with Finland, and other Nordic countries, in the future.

David StevensonEdinburgh

MARTIN Hannan’s piece in yesterday’s National brought back a lovely memory of my late father. Although he brought me up with the story that Churchill called the troops out on striking miners at Tonypandy, he had considerable admiration for him as a wartime leader. My dad always spoke in his own accent when he told me what Churchill allegedly said after the “We shall fight on the beaches” speech: “And we’ll hit them ower the heid wi’ bloody bottles!” I’ve always known that since my father told me this, it had to be true, but it’s lovely to see it confirmed.

Maggie Craigvia email

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