Laleh Khalili: Palestinian “Gandhis” Are Marching Every Day for Freedom from Israeli Apartheid

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For the seventh week in a row, Palestinian protesters are gathering in Gaza near the Israeli border as part of an ongoing nonviolent protest called the Great March of Return. Since the protests began, Israeli forces have killed at least 47 Palestinians and wounded nearly 7,000. The protests are leading up to a massive rally next week timed to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, known as the Day of Catastrophe to Palestinians, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes. Still with us is Laleh Khalili, professor at SOAS University of London. She’s the author of a number of books, including “Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: For the seventh week in a row, Palestinian protesters are gathering in Gaza near the Israeli border as part of an ongoing nonviolent protest called the Great March of Return. Since the protests began, Israeli forces have killed at least 47 Palestinians, wounded nearly 7,000 Palestinians. The protests are leading up to a massive rally next week, timed to the 70th anniversary of what’s called the Nakba, or the Day of Catastrophe, when Palestinians, more than 700,000, were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes.

Still with us, Laleh Khalili, who is professor at SOAS University of London. She’s the author of a number of books, including Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies.

Can you talk about what is happening in Gaza? In the United States—I’m not sure, where you are, in London, if this is true—but there is almost no coverage of this, of the mass killings by the Israeli military of these nonviolent protesters, thousands—in addition to the 47, we believe, Palestinians killed, thousands shot.

LALEH KHALILI: Yes, I’m surprised that this is not covered very often. There is—it probably is covered a little bit more here than it is in the U.S., but this is something that those of us who study Israel-Palestine are quite accustomed to.

Now, as you and your audience probably are aware, the demonstrations began on what is called the Land Day, which is the day that, in 1976, when a number of Palestinian citizens of Israel—not refugees in Gaza or West Bank or elsewhere, but Palestinian citizens of Israel—demonstrated against the Israeli state’s confiscation of their lands, despite the fact that the Palestinians had not left and they were still there. In that demonstration, a number of Palestinian citizens were shot by the Israeli state. And so that date was chosen by Palestinian grassroots organizations inside Gaza as a kind of a demonstration of the Palestinian will to resist the Israeli constant expropriation and their imprisonment, effective imprisonment, with the help of Egypt, by sealing the borders of Gaza, in Gaza. And so, those demonstrations began every Friday. Now, of course, the reason the demonstrations occur on Fridays is because those are—that’s a kind of weekend day, in some senses. It’s the day that most—it’s the Sabbath, if you will. And so, people are gathering, and it’s a peaceful demonstration.

What was interesting about it is that this movement has been organized by grassroots organizations that have nothing to do with Hamas, and, of course, what the Israeli state has tried to do is to try to continually call them as supported by Hamas in order to paint them as being, I don’t know, the usual kinds of epithets that Israel throws at Hamas—violent, etc., etc., terrorists.

What has also been quite terrible about this, but what has revealed, again, another modus operandi of the Israeli state, is that in addition to the 40-something, 47, people that have been shot dead, often by sniper fire, often through the eye or through the forehead, has been the number, the vast number, the actually surprising number, of people who have been injured, many of them maimed permanently. Some of those who have been injured have been shot, for example, in their spine, and therefore they will not ever be able to walk again. Now, this has also been a modus operandi of the Israeli state. Such casualties very often don’t get as much attention as deaths do. And maimings and injuries, of course, place an enormous amount of cost, economic cost as well as emotional and the human cost, on not only those who have been injured, but also on their families. Again, this is a complete and total modus operandi of Israeli counterinsurgency. It engages in military warfare alongside with other kinds of activities that tend to have enormous economic and social costs.

And what has been quite interesting is the extent to which this has gone uncommented upon. Now, here in London, there are NGOs that specifically address these kinds of medical needs, one of them being Medical Aid for Palestinians. And they have been, for example, trying to highlight some of these enormous economic and social costs that come from maimings and injuries of Palestinians, but we don’t hear very much of it. And again, it is—in some ways, it’s profoundly disappointing that the press is not more interested in this. One of the stupid clichés that they often—we often hear is “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” Now we’ve got all these Palestinian Gandhis—they don’t have to be a single leadership—marching every day. They are rejecting their own leadership, who are profoundly problematic, their leadership are. And yet nobody is taking notice of this. It is very disconcerting. It’s very disheartening. But in some ways, it’s also quite important, because Palestinians are ultimately going to be the ones who are going to be able to remove this system of apartheid.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, as you talk about the Palestinian youth and the people who are leading this—

LALEH KHALILI: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —talk about the conventional, traditional leadership of Fatah and, as well, just overall, of the PLO.

LALEH KHALILI: Yeah. The PLO is a much more complex body, and it’s supposed to include exile leadership, who tend to be far more radical and far less compromised than those people who are sitting in the West Bank, in Ramallah.

Now, Fatah has lost an enormous amount of credibility among the people. And, in fact, it has had very little credibility. Abu Mazen, the leadership of Fatah, has been kept in place, not because he’s popular, not because he’s supported by Palestinians, but precisely because he makes the perfect kind of foil for Israelis. He has acted as a kind of a subcontractor for Israeli security. And when he says anti-Semitic crap like he did last week, or a couple of weeks ago, he exactly fulfills the kind of a stereotypical role that the Israelis would like to show as being Palestinian. But, of course, Abu Mazen has nothing to do with the vast majority of the Palestinians who are struggling for their own dignity and their freedom.

And in Gaza, Palestinians are led by Hamas. Now, Hamas has a little bit more support, probably because they haven’t capitulated so completely to the Israeli state. But they also—it is again really important to note that in Gaza there is a vast majority of younger people who are disillusioned with the inability of their leadership to organize them in such a way—the inability of their leadership to come up with innovative and new methods of mobilization. And so there has been, as I said, like a grassroots organization in order to try to highlight the plight of Palestinians. And it has been very disappointing that there is not enough attention being paid outside of Israel-Palestine, outside of the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance—the significance of the U.S. moving their embassy on Monday from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

LALEH KHALILI: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, Guatemala was inspired, they’ve announced, to do the same.

LALEH KHALILI: Yeah. It’s significant, and it’s not significant. It’s symbolically very significant because it shows that the U.S. is essentially giving up any pretense whatsoever of even believing in a two-state solution any longer, because one of the fundamental issues at stake in the two-state negotiations were the final status—was the final status of Jerusalem.

But on the other hand, it is not that significant. I mean, anybody who has been following the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations know that the Oslo peace process has long been dead. There has been the capitulation of Abu Mazen. And the complete and total inflexibility of the Israeli state shows that there is nothing going on and that there’s not going—and certainly the U.S. has not ever been and never going to be a kind of a honest broker or an objective mediator between these groups.

So, on the one hand, it is symbolically profoundly important. It is showing that the U.S. has absolutely no compunctions about setting aside international laws, the occupied status of East Jerusalem, to ignore all of that and move their embassy there. But, on the other hand, in effective terms, it just goes to show that Oslo is dead.

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