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‘Lessons to Draw from Gaza: How We Got Here and the Dangers Ahead’ Event run by KCL SJP

Photo by Roar Staff

On 30 January, KCL Students for Justice for Palestine (KCL SJP), in collaboration with Palestinian societies across UK universities, invited Dr Ghada Karmi to speak at the event “Lessons to Draw from Gaza: How We Got Here and the Dangers Ahead”.

The event was joined by UCL SJP, Imperial College Friends of Palestine, City Friends of Palestine, University of Westminster Friends of Palestine, Friends of Palestine Plymouth University, Kingston University Palestinian Society, University of Hertfordshire SJP, Newcastle Palestinian Society, and Sussex Friends of Palestine.

With Palestinian flags draped behind her and a keen-but-sober audience quietening down, the event chair introduced Dr Karmi as someone whose life is “a personal journey, part of the larger tragedy of Palestinians”.  

Dr Karmi is an internationally eminent Palestinian physician, academic, author and public speaker. Though born and raised in Qatamon, a Muslim-Christian neighbourhood in Jerusalem, Israeli occupation compelled her family to flee to Syria and later resettle in the UK.

Her background in medicine did not inhibit her from turning to a life of public Palestinian advocacy. As an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs until 2001, she led an Israel-Palestinian reconciliation project. She is also a current Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. In both books and article contributions to US and UK-based media, she has written extensively on her personal life and political views as a Palestinian.

Dr Karmi’s talk on Tuesday evening was filled with historical insight and autobiography. She began by recounting an essential history of Palestine since 1948, the year of both Israel’s founding and the Nakba, which displaced her and her family to Damascus when she was a child. She contextualised Hamas’ existence and the 7th October attacks on Israel, as well as the group’s significance to Gaza in particular.

In her words, Dr Karmi described the Palestinian side of the conflict as an anti-colonial struggle that is “not about Islam or Judaism or Christianity.”

She then proceeded to discuss current events. As of this week, the death toll in Gaza has exceeded 25,000: South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, to Dr Karmi, signals “one of the most important landmarks in the story of Palestine” because a charge of genocide by the world’s highest court would constitute “not just any crime…There is no excuse about [sic] genocide.”

Dr Karmi is doubtful of a stable resolution to Israeli-Palestinian relations in the near future, and expressed that the sheer complexity of the conflict’s regional actors and international influences make her wary of calling predictions.

However, her most recent book, published in April 2023, posits the eventual creation of one democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians equally as the only way forward. But the question of sovereignty is hotly debated.

Some, like Dr Karmi, view a one-state solution as the only available response to apartheid; others, including Foreign Secretary David Cameron, advocate for separate Palestinian statehood. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects the creation of a Palestinian state altogether.

Dr Karmi responded to audience questions with determination to share the Palestinian story—her story, after all. While there may not yet be a clear way through the Israel-Palestine tragedy, she noted that one thing was clear: 7th October, and its aftermath, has forever changed how the world engages with this conflict.

Dr Karmi appeared uplifted by the event’s turnout. Regarding the shifting discourse on the conflict among young people, upon whom she feels the future rests, she remarked: “Never have I seen it ever in my life…it’s in the United States. It’s in Europe. It’s in Japan. It’s in Korea. It’s all over the world.”

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