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2008-05-15

As Palestinians Mark 60th Anniversary of Their Dispossession, a Conversation with Palestinian Writer and Doctor Ghada Karmi

Guests

Ghada Karmi, Palestinian writer and doctor, one of the hundreds of thousands forced to flee in 1948. She is currently a research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. She has written several books about Palestinian history and her own experience, including In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story and, most recently, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine.

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Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, that resulted in the expulsion and dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians from their cities and villages. Ghada Karmi is a well-known Palestinian writer and medical doctor from Jerusalem who lives in Britain. She has written several books about Palestinian history and her own experience as a refugee, including In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story and, most recently, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, that resulted in the expulsion and dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians from cities and villages.

Tomorrow, a discussion with Israeli historian Benny Morris. Today, I talk to Palestinian writer and doctor Ghada Karmi, one of the hundreds of thousands forced to flee in 1948. Ghada Karmi is a well known Palestinian writer and medical doctor from Jerusalem who lives in Britain now. She is currently a research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. She has written several books about Palestinian history and her own experience, including In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story and, most recently, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine.

I began by asking Ghada Karmi what happened to her family in 1948.

    GHADA KARMI: I was in a house in West Jerusalem. I had been born in that part of Jerusalem. And I was a child. I was eight, and I didn’t understand actually what was happening. Nobody talked to us really or told us what was really happening. But what I do remember is that everybody was very scared. And I wrote about this in my memoir, In Search of Fatima.

    It was a very bad period in my life, because as a child, the things that mattered to me were what was familiar: my home, my dog. I had a lovely — well, a dog, which I loved dearly. We all loved him. He was called Rexy. And the thing that is very vivid in my mind is a scene of the morning that we left the house. It was in April 1948. And I knew that we had to leave the dog behind. And for me, that was the most painful thing I could imagine. I knew I couldn’t talk to him. I couldn’t make him understand that we wouldn’t be away for long, because my mother said, “We’re not going to be away for long. Don’t worry. It’s only because it’s very, very bad now, and we’re going to be back, not to worry.” And they believed that, of course.

    But the situation around us was so dangerous. You could hardly go out of the front door, because there were Jewish militias, armed men who roamed the streets, who were in empty buildings, who took shots at people. And it was absolutely terrifying. So my parents thought, “Right, we’ll evacuate. We have a young family. We can’t leave them in this danger. It’ll be a couple of weeks, the whole thing will settle down.”

    But for me, as a child, two weeks is an eternity. And as I embraced the dog, I hugged him, and I said to him, “Don’t worry. It’s OK. We will be back. We will. It won’t be long.” But I had a feeling somehow, a terrible feeling, that there was something wrong, and we — maybe we wouldn’t be back. And so it turned out to be.

    We left in a taxi, very hurriedly, because the neighborhood was so dangerous. No taxi would come near it, but somehow we got a taxi. It was pretty old. It was very decrepit. And we got into it, and it drove us as fast as possible down to the old city, where there was a big bus depot where you could take transport out of Palestine. So we had a car from there, and we drove over to Damascus to my grandparents’ house, with the feeling — my mother constantly saying, “Look, don’t worry. We’re going to be back in a couple of weeks.” And that’s what we thought. But my memories were — some kind of dread. I don’t know what it was, some kind of child’s intuition — who knows? — that it was — we wouldn’t be —- there was something wrong that was very, very serious. And we went to my grand—-

    AMY GOODMAN: And who is “we”?

    GHADA KARMI: There was my mother, my father; there were three children. I was the youngest.

    But the worst part, of course, was that Fatima — was a woman who used to come and clean the house. She was a village woman. She used to look after my — she looked after me. She looked after our house. She used to help my mother cook. And I loved her dearly. She really was my mother, actually. I loved her. And leaving that morning, I left the dog, I left Fatima, in that order, and it was the most terrible thing. I can’t even think about it, it was so painful. And then we went, and we never returned. Israel never allowed us to go back.

    Many years later, in the 1970s, just for the heck of it, I wrote a letter to the Israeli embassy in London, where of course we were living. I said I lived in Jerusalem, my house was there, I would like to go back to live there. And he wrote back — they wrote back, and they said, “No, that is not possible for you. You can come in as a — on a tourist visa as a visitor.” And that was it.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever?

    GHADA KARMI: Yeah, I did. I wanted to find the house. I looked for it desperately in the early 1990s, couldn’t find it, because I didn’t remember. My brother and my sister, who did remember, weren’t with me.

    But then I tried again, and I did find it. And we went in. There was a Canadian Jewish family living in it, Orthodox, and they didn’t speak Hebrew. I didn’t speak Hebrew either, but I had an Israeli friend in case I couldn’t make myself understood. So, however, we needn’t have bothered, because they spoke English. And they went — they were very uncomfortable. They didn’t want me to look around. I said, “Can I look around? This was my home.” And they said, “It’s nothing to do with us. It’s nothing to do with us.” In fact, they were tenants. And I went around, but they hurried me out. I didn’t have much time to look around, to relive the memories, to get the feelings, the feelings back, because as a child, you know, it’s the feeling that comes back. You don’t really remember where that chair was, where that wall was, where that — you know. I had to leave, and it was terribly — as you can imagine, it was extremely upsetting.

    But then a very strange thing happened. I returned to Palestine in 2005, where I worked in Ramallah for the Palestinian Authority. I wanted to live in Palestine for a while, and I had a visa, and I went in there to do work. I was working for the United Nations. And one day, I got a message from a man called Steven Erlanger, whom I had never met. I didn’t really know who he was, but of course I realized he was the bureau chief for the New York Times, saying “I have read your marvelous memoir, and, do you know, I think I’m living above your old house.” And it was amazing. He said, “From the description in your book, it must be the same place.” Anyway, we arranged to meet. I went over to Jerusalem, and I met him. And indeed, it was my house.

    And what had happened was somebody at some point had built a story above the old house, which was of course a one-story place, a villa, typical of that kind of architecture. But somebody had built a floor above it, and that belonged to the New York Times. And the incumbent at the time was Steven Erlanger, who had been moved by the memoir and said, “This is your house?” And I said, “Yes, it is.” And he took me — I remember he took me — he had made friends with the people downstairs, who were not the Canadian Jewish family. They were somebody else. They were really quite nice people, Jewish, and — Israelis, in fact. And they — he told them, “Look, this lady used to live here.” And they said, “Please, come in.” And I had all the time in the world. I went around. I felt terribly sad. He took loads of photographs of me.

    And actually, we talked, he and I. I said, “Look. Look at what’s happened. You’ve seen this — you’ve seen me. You know what happened here. How do you feel about Israel now?” And I couldn’t get him to say that what happened in 1948 was an iniquity and an injustice. He didn’t say anything like that. He remained diplomatic, I suppose you would say, noncommittal, very pleasant to me, but it was a very strange episode.

    AMY GOODMAN: The narrative in this country of that period when you left was that the Arab governments called on the Palestinians to leave, not that you were forced out by the Israeli government or, before that it wasn’t Israel, by Jewish settlers.

    GHADA KARMI: I can’t believe that anybody still believes this narrative. Is that so? I grew up with this nonsense, and I always used to wonder how sane human beings could actually believe that people would get up, leave their belongings, leave their home, their land, their livelihood and just walk away because somebody told them to. Now, of course, later — first of all, this was completely untrue. There was no such instruction. It was not — on the contrary, the leaders told the Palestinians to stay put, not to leave, but then they said, look, get the women and children out, evacuate them temporarily, but the men were not allowed to leave.

    And, in fact, when we left in that April of 1948, they stopped our taxi. They stopped it. These were militia, Arab militias. And they said, “Where are you going?” And he said, “Look, this is my wife. These are children. I am returning,” which was perfectly true. He said, “I’m returning the next — tomorrow morning. I just have to take them to my in-laws’ house just for safety, and I will be back.” And they took his name and so on.

    So, of course, this was all nonsense. But the thing, you know, that used to get me is that you’d say to friends of Israel and devoted friends of Israel — you’d say to them, “OK, supposing — alright, supposing we, the Palestinians, left either because we were told to or because we just felt like it, why were we never allowed back? Why? People go on holiday. They do. They leave their houses, and they go away for a bit. They go and visit somebody. So, does it mean they can’t be allowed back to their homes?” And, of course, they never had an answer for this.

AMY GOODMAN: Palestinian author and physician Ghada Karmi. She has written the book Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine. We’ll come back to this conversation in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return now to my conversation with the Palestinian author and physician Ghada Karmi. I asked her how long her family stayed in Damascus, Syria, after they were forced to leave their home in Jerusalem in 1948.

    GHADA KARMI: We stayed for just over a year. My father was looking for work desperately, because, of course, by then he was not, of course, allowed to return. He couldn’t come back the next day. That had all gone out of the window. And he was looking for work, because we had no money. He did find work, but he found it in London in the BBC Arabic service, which at that time was developing that service and wanted native Arabic speakers, and — who knows, I always like to think that the British had a kind of attack of conscience about the Palestinians, whom they had sold down the river, and that maybe —-

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

    GHADA KARMI: Well, you know, it was but for the British authorities in Palestine, there never would have been an Israel. It’s as simple as that. They gave -— they allowed the Zionists to come into our country. They allowed them to establish themselves. Without Britain, there would be no Israel, quite simply. And so, I used to think maybe they had had an attack of conscience, and they wanted to help.

    No matter what the reason, my father ended up in London, and he preceded us, and then he made plans for us to join him. So in 1949, we left again, and for me, a new wrench from my grandparents, and then we ended up in London. And what an irony. Not just any old London, but in the most Jewish part of London. It was an area called Golders Green. My father didn’t know anything about London. He didn’t know it was Jewish. He just asked for a house for a family, and they told him, “Look, try this area,” which he did. And we turned up. And, lo and behold, we’re surrounded by German Jewish refugees from the Second World War. And my mother used to say, in her more humorous moments, “Well, we might as well never have bothered to move out of Jerusalem.” It’s the same people. Anyway, I mean, one laughs, but of course it was all pretty devastating, all this stuff.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what was your relationship with your neighbors, with these German Jewish refugees who had not actually gone to Palestine, but had gone to Britain?

    GHADA KARMI: Well, it was very good. Partly, my parents — really, it was quite interesting — never brought us up with the idea that we hated Jews. It was not about Jews. They always said it was the people over there. They meant in Palestine, and they meant the Zionists. They meant the Jews who came over to Palestine determined to take the Palestinians’ place. Therefore, we had no problem with these Jews, whom they considered as just neighbors.

    So, not only did the next-door neighbor, who was a German Jewish doctor, became our — he became our doctor, and we were used to that, because in Palestine, actually, the best doctors were German, and they were usually Jewish, but, of course, in my school, many of the girls were Jewish, and I made lots and lots of Jewish friends. And I went into their homes, and I became particularly close to one family, and they had a daughter called Patricia, who has remained my friend ’til today, and she lives in New York, and I’m staying with her now, and she’s been looking after me. It was a very long friendship.

    Now, but more seriously, although we got on and we were friendly — and I have described all this in the memoir — there was an important side to this, which I only realized later. I really began to understand about the Jewish imperative to create a Jewish state in my country. Now, I don’t want anybody to misunderstand me. I understood it. It did not justify it. It did not excuse it. But I understood the kind of emotions, the psychology, which was behind the devotion to Israel that I found as I was growing up in London. And that, of course, was amongst the very community — these are European Jews — the very same type of Jew that had started the Zionist movement that had gone to Palestine and had created this settler colonialist state in my country. At least I really — and from the inside, I began to understand the mentality of the Eastern European persecution, the pogroms, the Schtetl, all this stuff, which as a Palestinian, I never ever would have understood. But living there, I did.

    AMY GOODMAN: But in addition to that, I mean, these German refugees, these Jewish refugees were refugees from the Holocaust, were the survivors —-

    GHADA KARMI: That’s right.

    AMY GOODMAN: —- in — right after World War II —-

    GHADA KARMI: That’s right.

    AMY GOODMAN: —- so often used as the justification for the establishment of Israel, that Jews would have a safe place to go, although the movement started well beyond that, but that was the final impetus, the moral sort of justification.

    GHADA KARMI: Yes, that’s true, although it may surprise your audience to know that, paradoxically, the Holocaust was not such an issue shortly after it had happened as it is today. It’s amazing. I don’t know — well, we have no time to explain or to analyze why that should be —-

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, actually, Norman Finkelstein has written extensively about that, how it grew in importance as opposed to faded in importance, in his book The Holocaust Industry.

    GHADA KARMI: That’s absolutely right. And that, believe me, is my own personal experience, that it didn’t feature as much in those postwar years, because I remember all my Jewish friends didn’t talk that much about the Holocaust. But there was -— there was — but, of course, underlying it, I knew there was this feeling that Israel was a refuge, a place of refuge from persecution, wherever that might be.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your memoir, In Search of Fatima. Why did you call it that?

    GHADA KARMI: You know, Fatima had been, as a real person — Fatima was a real person and also a metaphor. The real Fatima was the village woman who looked after us when we were small, and particularly me, and she helped my mother. She came and cooked and cleaned and such. She didn’t live with us, but she looked after me, and I was very, very attached to her. So for me, leaving Palestine in 1948, I left Fatima, really, who came to represent my childhood, Palestine, whatever that place was, that place of imagination after awhile. Because one’s memories were not very good as a child, it became a place, a country of the mind, and it became Fatima.

    And so, in writing the book, I was trying to explain or ask the reader to share with me an experience of seeking for belonging, the search for my identity, who I was, having been wrenched from my roots so brutally in childhood and living in a — as it happened, moving to a society totally different from the one I was born into and, I should tell you, antipathetic to me. British society was pro-Israel. It believed in the Jewish state. It believed in the right of the Jews to establish a state in Palestine. So, for me, this was a double shock, and it led into a whole internal search, and a painful one, for where I belonged. Did I really belong with these English people I had lived amongst for so long? Did I belong in the West? Or did I belong to that place, that place which had become a place of the mind, the Arab world, the Fatima, and so on? So that’s why the book was called that.

    AMY GOODMAN: You left Fatima there. And what happened to her?

    GHADA KARMI: Well, this is the saddest thing of all for me. We don’t know. Now, we don’t know, because when we left, that was one of the terrible, terrible effects of the Nakba, that it not only took people away from their land and their belongings, it took them away from other people, and you never caught up with the other people. It was a complete rupture. Now, of course, that’s not true in every case. People did eventually find each other. Fatima disappeared into a black hole. We tried to find out what had happened to her. She was a peasant woman. There was no way of getting our letters to her.

    AMY GOODMAN: Where did she live?

    GHADA KARMI: She lived in a village called al-Maliha, which is just outside Jerusalem. And do you know, when I went back to Palestine-Israel in the early 1990s, I asked to see al-Maliha, and there it was, entirely Israeli, entirely Jewish Israeli. This wonderful little Palestinian village, which had had white houses, fields, a water well, all the charm of a Palestinian village, had now become totally Israeli. But they hadn’t managed to demolish the mosque, because I could see the minaret, which remained a kind of a solitary reminder that this was not a Jewish place. So there we are.

    However, Fatima disappeared for years and years and years, and I knew nothing about her. And then in 2005, when I went to Palestine to work, I was determined to find her. I looked, and I looked. I went to the refugee camps, because of course she had gone — we knew she had gone into a camp. In August of 1948, the Israelis destroyed her village. And I knew — we knew she would have gone into a camp. That’s what happened to people. And I tried to find her.

    Eventually, I found her grandson. I did. And I found him living in Bethlehem. And he retraced for me her footsteps from when we left her, how she stayed in our house waiting for us to come back, but of course we never could come back, and she was eventually thrown out. And then she and her family had to move, and they kept going on the move, being moved from one place to the other, eventually ending up in caves outside Bethlehem. They lived in a cave. And then they finally got out, and she lived in a house.

    And until the 1980s, she kept telling her relatives, “Please look for the Karmis. Please. I want to see them again.” And my father, by then, was a well-known broadcaster on the BBC, so she used to hear his voice, and she used to say, “Surely, we can find him. Surely, we can.” And it was — believe me, it broke my heart when her grandson told me the story. But I never saw her again. And the thought that maddened me was there she was. In the 1980s, for God’s sake, I was an adult, I could have found her, if only I had known, if only she could have got them to look for us. What did they know? You know, how could they look us up on Google? And so, that — there we are. So I did know that she died, roughly when she died.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Palestinian writer, author, Ghada Karmi. Her book after In Search of Fatima is called Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine. Why “Married to Another Man”?

    GHADA KARMI: Well, you may well ask, and I know this has mystified a lot of people, the title, and it’s been misunderstood. People have thought it was about matrimonial infidelity. It’s not, of course. It’s a quite — it’s a very serious book. The reason it’s called that is that I’ve taken that out of an anecdote, that at the end of the nineteenth century, when the Zionists in Europe, Jews, group of Jews who formed the Zionist movement, held a very big congress, a conference in Basel in Switzerland, at which they decided that the only way to solve the Jewish question in Europe, the question of persecution, was for the Jews to have a state of their own. So they said, we have to create a Jewish state that can be a refuge for us, where we can be normal people, where we don’t have to be hounded, persecuted, etc. And they decided that that state was to be in Palestine.

    Now, they didn’t know what Palestine was like. They were sitting in Europe. They didn’t know about it, so they sent a couple of rabbis to this place called Palestine, and they said, “Let us know if this is a suitable place.” The rabbis went, they had a look, and they sent back this message to Vienna: they said, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.” Now, of course, it’s clear what they were saying is, yes, the land is very suitable, it’s wonderful, but it’s full of other people, it’s already taken. And, of course, it was taken by my ancestors. I mean, that’s who it was. That’s who the other man was.

    And if you think about it, that has been the basis of the conflict ever since, that the Zionists wanted a territory free of non-Jews in a territory full of non-Jews, and therefore, they had to get rid of the non-Jews in order to make it a territory for Jews. Now, those non-Jews, i.e. the Palestinians, of course didn’t want to be dispossessed, they resisted being dispossessed, and hence, you have a conflict.

    So, in summary, Married to Another Man, had the Zionists said, “This is indeed married to another man. We can’t go here, because the land is already married. We can’t be bigamists. We’re going to move on. We’re going to look for somewhere else” — they didn’t. They were determined to do it, and they did it at the most enormous cost to us as Palestinians, because we were dispossessed and displaced in order to make room for the Jewish state, and of course it had a tremendous effect on the whole Arab region.

    AMY GOODMAN: You advocate a one-state solution. Can you talk about that and why?

    GHADA KARMI: Yes. Look, I wrote the book Married to Another Man, because I felt very strongly that, yes, as Palestinians, we will always mourn what happened to us — we mourn what is happening to us now — but we really have to try and see how this can be solved. And that has to come from us, because we are the people the most effected by this conflict. We are the people with the greatest stake in a solution which lasts. And I want to emphasize this. It is entirely possible to think up solutions for this conflict that are temporary, that might work for a short while. There’s no point in that. We want a solution that will be permanent and that will be durable.

    And it seemed to me — and in the book, I tried to do it by taking the reader along with me to explain the conflict, to see how so many attempts had failed in the past, to explain why they had failed and to show, therefore, that there is in fact only one way forward, and that is, not to partition the land of Palestine, not to fight over percentages, not to have Israel say, “I’m going to keep my colonies on the West Bank, the hell with the rest of you, and I’m going to keep Jerusalem, and you people can’t come back to your homes.” No, don’t partition the land. We have already got a Jewish — Israeli Jewish community living in the land. We have already Palestinians who live in the same land. But most of their relatives don’t live in their homeland, because Israel doesn’t allow it. And those people have the right to return. Therefore, how are you going to do it? There’s only one way you can do it. That is, if it is one state for all its citizens, not a Jewish state, not an Islamic state, not a Christian state — a secular democratic state. That’s the answer.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll continue with our conversation with Dr. Ghada Karmi after the break. Tomorrow on our broadcast, a discussion on 1948 with Israeli historian Benny Morris. We’ll also be joined by Tikva Honig-Parnass. She fought for Israel in the 1948 war. But first, to break with the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We go to the conclusion of my interview with the Palestinian author and physician Ghada Karmi. I asked her if she thinks proposing a one-state solution hurts the chances of Palestinians, because it’s less attainable than a two-state solution.

    GHADA KARMI: The one-state solution is the only just solution for the Palestinians, so if we want to look at solving this problem from a point of view of justice, we have no alternative except the one state. Justice means that the dispossessed shall no longer be dispossessed. That’s justice.

    If what you’re saying to me is, will it will hurt the chances of the Palestinians getting something out of the present situation, that’s a different question. I would have said to you that I can understand that position, if there were any evidence that they are going to get something.

    Now, I’m looking around me, and I’m imagining that our intelligent audience is also looking at things like maps and is looking at what Israel does and how Israel behaves and can only come to the conclusion that the creation of a Palestinian state is totally out of reach. And I’m sorry to be blunt, but I think we have to be quite open about this. We mustn’t go on playing this game of the emperor’s new clothes, you know, everybody pretending they’re seeing something which isn’t there. There is no territorial basis on which a Palestinian state can now be set up.

    Although I fully understand that there is an international consensus that the two-state solution is the way forward, I fully understand that a lot of work has gone into this, and in proposing the one-state solution I’m not being flippant, and I am not saying that all the work and all the good will and all the effort that’s gone into the two-state solution are trivial and idiotic and we have to forget about them, the problem is we’ve given the two-state solution quite a long time to see if it will work. It hasn’t happened. In decades of talking about the two-state solution, it has not come about. On the contrary, it’s less attainable now than it was in 1967, because Israel has taken so much Palestinian land, so much Palestinian resources, there’s no possibility of it happening logistically. So why would I, as an intelligent human being, continue to back a solution which has been shown not to be working?

    AMY GOODMAN: And yet, a one-state solution would mean that Palestinians would outnumber Israeli Jews, which is why the Israeli government would fight it.

    GHADA KARMI: Indeed. Of course, that might — it might mean that. But, you see, the whole point of this solution is we don’t have a Jewish state and we don’t have an Islamic state, we have a democracy. If you were to look at the Western liberal democracies today, they have various communities that live together. They don’t go around saying, “Wait a minute, this has to be a white state,” or “this has to be a black state,” or “this has to be a Belgian state.” They’re saying, “We are here, we are citizens.” The moment you get rid of the idea that there has to be an exclusive something for somebody, then you can see your way to having a proper democracy. That’s the essence of democracy.

    So what I’m preaching and calling for — and by the way, many others along with me — is not at all bizarre, it’s not outlandish, it is in line with the Western democratic tradition, which has tried to free itself from fascist states, from states which insist on racial exclusivity, to ideas of tolerance, of rights, of democracy, and so on. What is wrong with that? And it’s amazing to me that whenever I propose the solution, people do object immediately by saying, well, that means it’s the end of the Jewish state, or the Israelis won’t have it, or it’s a declaration of war on Israel. This is a peaceable solution. It’s actually about ending the conflict, because if you no longer are — if you don’t have parties fighting over bits of territory, then you end the fight. But if you continue to say, “I have a right, a God-given right,” or whatever it is, “to take this, this, this amount of territory, and you will not have this, this and this,” here’s a recipe for conflict, and that’s what we’ve had all along.

    It seems to me that the issue of Zionism, the issue of the insistence on the part of a group to say, “We have a right to a place where only we shall live, and we will exclude others,” seems to me this notion has to be challenged head-on. We must stop accepting the idea of an exclusive state in the Arab region or indeed anywhere else. And I imagine, you know, the Western world would be the first to be up in arms if Hamas managed to establish an Islamic state from which Jews were thrown out. They’d be the first to object. They’d go mad. Well, why on earth are we tolerating a situation which we have now, in which Jews are saying, “We, as Jews, have a right to this territory.” The more so when you remember it’s not their territory. It’s somebody else’s.

    AMY GOODMAN: Ghada Karmi, explain what the word "Nakba" means.

    GHADA KARMI: The “nakba,” in Arabic, is — it means literally “catastrophe.” Over time, it has acquired what you might call a capital N, which of course we don’t have capital letters in Arabic. But it’s acquired a capital N in a sense that it had become, as you might say, the grand catastrophe or the great catastrophe. That’s what it actually means, because, of course, for the Palestinians, nothing more catastrophic could have been imagined than to be expelled from their home, their homeland, lose everything and never be allowed back. And all that has happened from that time to this has been due to that initial event in 1948.

    Today, the Palestinians are divided. They are fragmented. They live in different places. I live in London. Many Palestinians live in other different countries. We have Palestinian refugees in camps. We have people living under occupation in what remains of Palestine. We have people who are citizens of Israel. All these were once upon a time a homogeneous, cohesive society living in a land called Palestine. Now, when I call for a one-state solution, what I’m saying is I want that situation back again, where in that Palestine, where we were one cohesive society, we had Jews, we had Druzes, we had Armenians, we had Circassians, we were Christians, we were Muslims, and we lived together. And what I’m saying is, we want that again. And it can happen again if enough people with enough good will and enough sense of morality and justice help us.

    AMY GOODMAN: And your feeling about the big sixtieth anniversary celebration in Israel, everyone from President Bush to Google cofounder Sergey Brin?

    GHADA KARMI: Well, I have to tell you, if I were Israel, I would be celebrating. It’s not bad in sixty years to arrive at a point where you have not only taken somebody else’s country, you’ve thrown them out, you’ve kept them out, and you’ve succeeded in it, but you’ve succeeded in becoming rich, heavily armed, powerfully armed, you have nuclear weapons, you enjoy the unstinting support of the world’s single super state of the United States. You enjoy that support in terms of funding, in terms of arms, in political and diplomatic support. There’s not a UN resolution can be passed without the big brother in the United States vetoing it. Fantastic! If I were Israel, I’d be celebrating.

    What is shameful, I think, is that the rest of the world that knows what has happened, knows what Israel has done and is doing and is doing to the people of Gaza — is that really something to celebrate? Dispossessing people, tormenting them, humiliating them, occupying them, starving them, as they are in Gaza — is that really something to celebrate? I would say not.

AMY GOODMAN: Palestinian author and doctor Ghada Karmi. Her latest book is Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine. Tomorrow on Democracy Now!, we’ll be joined by the well-known Israeli historian Benny Morris for a discussion about 1948, the founding of the Israeli state. We’ll also be joined by Tikva Honig-Parnass. She fought for Israel in 1948.

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