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Thoughts of the prominent Palestinian intellectual, Dr. Ghada Karmi, on the occasion of the anniversary of the 68th Nakba.

May 11, 2016, midnight

Ghada Karmi was born in Jerusalem and was forced to leave her home with her family as a result of Israel’s creation in 1948. The family moved to England in 1949, where she grew up and was educated.

She practised as a doctor for many years working as a specialist in the health of migrants and refugees. She held a number of research appointments on Middle Eastern politics and culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and in the Universities of Durham and Leeds.

From 1999 to 2001 she was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, where she led a major project on Israel-Palestinian reconciliation. In 2009, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Currently Ghada Karmi is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. She lives in London.

We put some questions to Dr. Ghada Karmi about The Nakba:

When the Nakba commemoration approaches on 15th May what thoughts come to your mind as a Palestinian refugee?

It is an outrage and a tragedy that 68 years after the expulsion of my family and hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and countrywomen, there is still no prospect of return. Is this it for the Palestinians, exiles and refugees forever?

Being a Palestinian in diaspora brings many complexities to one’s life, in practical and emotional terms, can you briefly talk about them.

The Nakba affected all of us. No one escaped unscathed, from problems of adjustment in new societies to repeated persecution in some of the countries of refuge. We all have problems of identity and belonging because we don't fit anywhere, and we all have to act as if life were normal.

Does living in Britain as a Palestinian, the country which gave away your homeland in the Balfour Declaration, sanctioning Palestinian dispossession, create extra difficulties for you? Why?

In theory, yes. In practice, some of the time, not least living under the rule of successive pro-Israel British governments. But, Britain is also familiar, because English was always the most familiar foreign language for many of us, and the British had a historical, if colonial, connection with the Arab world. English people have a tradition of tolerance and courtesy which has made life comfortable in Britain for many of us.

If you are able to go back to Palestine to visit, what do you experience as a Palestinian, at border control and at the checkpoints? When you travel about and when you visit family, what are your thoughts and feelings?

Each time I have been through the Allenby Bridge or through Lydda Airport, I feel a helpless rage at these Israeli usurpers. I will never see them as anything else. Their arrogance and ignorance sicken me. I find seeing the country a sad experience, even though it's wonderful to feel somehow at home.


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