Protesters demanding a right to return to their homes were attacked last month by snipers. Socialist Review spoke to Palestinian author and activist Ghada Karmi.
Can you explain why the protests had the focus around the border?
Firstly stop calling it a border, there is no border. This is all part of the land of Palestine. If you want you can call it an Israeli-imposed barrier because that’s what it is. The protest called itself a great march of return.
The idea was that 70 years of displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people must come to an end and they be able to go home, and since about 80 percent of Gaza’s people are descendants of 1948 refugees the idea of return is very relevant to them.
Since the massacres we’ve seen Hamas been denounced as stooges. What is the composition of the leadership of the protests?
Hamas’s role was to organise. The march was a spontaneous expression by the people of Gaza. It was not instigated by Hamas; they did not call for it. But because people wanted to protest, Hamas’s role was to do the organisation of it because obviously this is a huge thing for thousands of people to go out.
It’s essential to stress this is a spontaneous movement. It’s not instigated by or set up by; it’s not structured Hamas. The whole notion that it’s all down to Hamas is an Israeli idea. There’s none of that on the Palestinian side. People didn’t come out saying our leadership said this or that.
I remember it precisely, when the Americans were in Jerusalem for the embassy opening I remember Netanyahu making a speech on the day over 60 people were killed by the Israeli army. He said it was Hamas’s people among the demonstrators. It’s from that moment that people started talking about Hamas.
The mention of Hamas is a red herring. It’s nothing to do with them. Hamas is the ruling authority in Gaza. It’s no good pretending that they are sitting there as a bunch of terrorists masterminding whole activities.
They are the administrative body so of course anything that happens like that, and on that scale, any authority or “government”, of course has to have some involvement, at least in terms of administering, of making sure people don’t come to too much harm — that sort of thing. So it has that sort of role.
Does Donald Trump have a strategy?
To be honest, we don’t know. First of all, if he does have a strategy in a way it’s quite pointless to find out what it is because he changes it. So therefore to waste time analysing what he might mean by this or by that is not sensible because he’s very liable to change it or to act on some kind of whim or to act on the advice of whoever. But what I do think is important is to say that as far as can be seen, the Trump administration is dominated by pro-Israel figures.
So really just about everybody among his advisers is not just pro-Israeli but pro-Likud — this particular party that is governing Israel. So it’s very serious.
In other words even if he were to devise an independent strategy, he’s not independent. Even if he was not the sort of man who changes his mind, who acts on whims; he really is not a free agent.
All you have to do is to look at the people around him. You don’t have to be a genius to see. We know who they are and we know what their allegiances are.
What about Israel’s regional project? What are Netanyahu’s plans for dealing with Iranian influence in Syria for instance?
We gather that the US is aligned with Saudi Arabia and along with Saudi Arabia come the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. We know that the group is aligned to the US and vice versa. They, as a Gulf group, are against the Syrian government and president and would like to see a regime change in Syria.
It would seem that the US is aligned with those ideas, although Trump himself keeps changing his mind as to whether Assad should go or stay. The latest position is that he should stay. Having said that we know that there are American troops on the ground in Syria. So it’s rather a messy picture and difficult to make much sense of.
There is a book out, Cracks in the Wall, arguing that Israel’s actions and the momentum of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are challenging its pillars of support. Are the cracks starting to appear?
We’ve been here before. It’s too early to tell. At each point where Israel has behaved outrageously and has attacked there is condemnation and people have been thinking that resistance to Israel is increasing and it’s growing.
It’s not really made any difference. Israel has remained strong and has enjoyed official, formal support. Of course there is a good BDS movement, of course it’s developing but it’s not at a stage where it will topple the Israeli regime.
One must be realistic about these things. It would be nice to say “Ah well, it’s the beginning of the end for them”, but there’s nothing that indicates that it is. They killed 62 people in one day, unarmed demonstrators. And nothing! It’s business as usual with Israel.
Rather than people running around saying there’s more and more disapproval and asking is this the beginning of cracks in the regime, people should ponder the question why does Israel enjoy so much impunity?
I cannot think of any other state in the world, bar the US, which enjoys this kind of impunity. It’s not that there aren’t states that are repressive, brutal, and murderous — there are many. But they don’t enjoy international support. That’s the point. They are condemned or censured. Israel is unique in that it does these appalling things and continues to enjoy approval.
It is not an act of god. We are not talking about a volcano erupting where you can regret it and help out with humanitarian aid. Israel is not a fact of nature. It is a state, which behaves in particularly appalling ways. But yet it enjoys almost universal, formal — I’m not talking about ordinary people — recognition, support, approval, and favoured treatment.