by Claire Bargeles
"Return to me, my identity" Mahmoud Darwish
Ghada Karmi (on the left) at the Educational Bookshop, Jerusalem (C. Bargeles)
The Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem (19 Salah Eddin Street) organized an event on Thursday, June 27, with Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian doctor, academic and writer living in the United Kingdom. She is particularly known for her memoir "In search of Fatima: A Palestinian story", in which she narrates her childhood in Palestine and her flight after the 1948 war, and her essay "Married to another man: Israelís dilemma in Palestine", which focuses on the solutions to the conflict. This evening was an opportunity for her to present to the audience sections from her next book, "Return", a sort of sequel to ďIn search of FatimaĒ. Ghada Karmi kindly read some parts of what she called her "work in progress" and submitted them to the benevolent assemblyís opinion.
The name of her future book is central to understand not only Karmiís trajectory but also the broader Palestinian psychology in the conflict. Although Ghada Karmi was born in Jerusalem, she confesses that "Palestine is not [her] ", and that she had to re-discoverer her home country during her return in 1991 and in 2005. This double identity, between the British one and the Palestinian one, permits her to have a very complete vision of all the Palestinian issues, and her cultural richness leads to a very accurate and smart interpretation of what she sees. Moreover, she is also dealing with the broader Palestinian right to return for refugees, who, like her, had to flee after the Nakba and are still waiting in camps and yearning to return to their land. This return, possible at her individual level, but still impossible to reach at the community level, is at the core of her new preoccupations.
Learning from her experience as a consultant for the Palestinian Authority
Her forthcoming book is inspired by her experience as a consultant for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in 2005. Although she fictionalized the names, she exposes very critically what she saw during her own return to Palestine, and particularly what she experienced in the imagined Palestinian "Ministry of Medias and Communication". Ghada had to face the administrative maze of the Palestinian Authority, the contempt of her colleagues, and the usual rivalry at the office. The description that she provides of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders is not really glorious. They seem to live in a kind of bubble, making presentations, meetings and official conferences, but without any kind of substance and no power at all to change things. They lack actual sovereign power but refuse to admit it, even if they donít even have the right to cross checkpoints without Israeli permission.
Ghada Karmiís solution to the untenable situation
Confronting this untenable situation, Ghada Karmi concludes that the solution must come from the Palestinians themselves, and proposes a debatable solution. As Palestinians need to obtain the right to return to their lands, and since, in her mind, the two-state solution is already dead, she urges the Palestinians to ask for one single state, and to reclaim their Israeli citizenship, in order to have equal rights. This would be an untenable situation for Israel, because it is easier for the government to deal with suicide-bombers than with Arab citizens with a high birth rate, who would jeopardize the Jewish majority within the state. The state of Israel, in her opinion, will have to publically admit its reluctance to include more Arabs, and consequently, if they refuse the one-state solution, they will necessarily have to give back territory. On the other hand, if they accept, it would solve the refugeesí problems, and avoid the negotiations to swap lands between the two states.
While she is waiting for this move from the Palestinians, Ghada Karmi is determined to use the stronger weapon that she has: her art of story-telling. It is thanks to narration and the transmission of human stories rather than academic reports than the Palestinian struggle will be revealed and all the subtleties of the conflict understood well.