- Palestinian anti-Israel activist
- “Israel was set up by expulsion, rape and massacre. The Jewish state could not have come into being without ethnic cleansing and . . . more may be necessary in future to ensure its survival.”
- Characterizes Israeli efforts to subdue the Palestinian terror campaign as egregious assaults on the Palestinians’ dignity and freedom
Born in Jerusalem in 1939, Dr. Ghada Karmi is a leading Palestinian activist, academic, and writer. In 1948 Karmi’s family left Jerusalem for England, where she was brought up and educated. She attended Bristol University, where she studied to become a medical doctor, and she later earned a PhD in the history of Arabic medicine from London University.
Karmi is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in England. She is also Vice-Chair of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. She has been involved in political lobbying for the Palestinian cause since 1972, when she established the first Palestinian political organization in Britain.
A well-known figure on British radio and television, Karmi has authored the books Jerusalem Today: What Future for the Peace Process? and The Palestinian Exodus 1948-1998. Her most recent book, published in 2002, is a memoir titled In Search of Fatima: a Palestinian Story.
Karmi is known for her outspokenness in contending that Israel is waging a campaign of systematic cruelty and oppression against the Palestinian people. According to Karmi, this campaign began from the moment of Israel’s birth in 1948. “Israel was set up by expulsion, rape and massacre,” she says. “The Jewish state could not have come into being without ethnic cleansing and . . . more may be necessary in future to ensure its survival. This . . . is entirely consistent with the basic Zionist proposition of an ethnically pure state. Palestine’s indigenous population was a clear impediment to this aim; which is why the concept of transfer was so central to Zionist thinking long before 1948 – advocated by Zionism’s leaders and expressed through a series of specific expulsion plans from the mid-1930s onwards. These led inexorably to the 1948 Palestinian exodus and the refugee tragedy that persists today.”
Dr. Karmi further asserts that the current clashes between Israelis and Palestinians are not at all fueled by Islamic extremism or a Palestinian desire to ultimately destroy Israel, but rather by Israel’s refusal to permit the Palestinians to realize their purely secular ambition for a just appropriation of land. In making this claim, Karmi turns a deaf ear to the many thunderous exhortations of Muslim Sheiks urging their followers to wage holy war; to their profanity-laced calls for the destruction of Jewish (not just Israeli) targets in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Indonesia; and to the Palestinian leaders’ multitudinous assertions that Jewish religious tradition has no connection to holy sites such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, Joseph’s Tomb, and Rachel’s Tomb.
Says Karmi: “Most Palestinians . . . are secular. There are two Islamist groups, but they have a minority support only, and the majority of the Palestinians resist an occupation, they resist the taking of their land, and of course that was what the conflict was always about with Israel. Now, it was in Israel’s interest to make it into a sort of pseudo-religious conflict because Israel was founded on the basis of some biblical claim. Secondly, Jews have a problem in defining themselves and they have to use a religious definition. Arabs don’t have that same problem. Palestinians don’t need religion to identify themselves. They are Muslims and they are also Christians. . . . The gatherings (sic) at the mosque is a traditional thing. It’s part of the culture. The Friday is the day like Sunday, if you like, for Christians. It’s the day when people don’t go to work, and they . . . go to the mosque, or be at leisure, and so on. It’s a very convenient meeting place, so if you have a grievance, if you have a protest, it’s a very good focus on which to do that. That in no sense means that it’s about religion or that the Palestinians want to establish some kind of an Islamic state on the Iranian model. Nothing could be further from the truth. . . . Now Palestinians as Muslims will use symbols which have an echo, a resonance amongst the population. This may be Islam because most people are Muslims. That’s as far as it goes, and indeed there are some splinter groups who identify, for example, with Hezbollah in London. But the identity is not on the basis of Islam. It’s on the basis that Hezbollah was successful in resistance movement that got rid of the Israelis out of Lebanon.”
Karmi’s declaration that the Palestinian struggle against Israel is secular rather than religious bears no resemblance to the teachings of Sheik Ikrima Sabri, the Palestinian Authority-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem and “Palestine,” who states unequivocally: “Our campaign is definitely religious and emanates from belief, although we try to avoid this slogan. The current Intifada of the [Arab and Islamic] world is a religious outburst, because it relates to the Al-Aqsa mosque” (Oct. 28, 2000, translated by MEMRI). Other Palestinian leaders have made many similar statements.
In characterizing the role of the mosque as nothing more than a “gathering” point with no relation to calls for terror, Karmi again overlooks the many speeches and sermons delivered by Muslim clerics advocating hatred and violence against Jews and Judaism, not just Israelis, and encouraging suicide bombers to slaughter civilians. Examples of such instruction being given in Palestinian mosques are legion.
Karmi contends that the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are marginal groups that are not accepted by mainstream Palestinian leadership and society. This, too, is wholly untrue. Yasser Arafat is known to have met virtually every day with leading representatives of those very groups, thereby giving them the official legitimization of the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to an October 25, 2000 report in the Washington Post, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahhar said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders met regularly with PA officials and Arafat’s Fatah organization through a group called the High Committee Follow-Up Intifada of Nationalist Islamic Organizations. “We are meeting at least once daily,” said Zahhar. “All [the participants] are from the first-class leadership.”
Dr. Karmi denounces Israeli efforts to subdue the Palestinian terror campaign as egregious assaults on the Palestinians’ human dignity and freedom. Thus she condemns the security fence recently constructed by Israel as “the monstrous barrier wall in the West Bank.” She similarly portrays all other Israeli counter-terrorism measures as efforts to dissemble and destroy Palestinian culture. Karmi writes, for example, “One of the least noted aspects of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was the removal to Israel of truckloads of crucial Palestinian archives and documents from the PLO Research Centre in Beirut. The Israelis did the same in 2002 when they invaded Ramallah. Vital statistics, computer hard drives, population statistics and land registers were taken out with the aim of destroying the Palestinian collective memory, history, and national existence.”