The Second Nakba

Palestine National Liberation Movement

Firas Sarhan

[Along with the Middle East, the world today is burning with anger over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian forces, seeking emancipation. Millions of people are taking to the streets to demand an immediate end to the war. The city of London, today, stands as an important location in the anti-war movement, witnessing protest marches and rallies almost every weekend. Expatriate communists residing in London remain hugely active in this political mobilization. The London resistance movement has drawn huge forces from countries where communist activities remain banned. Arka Bhaduri of recently spoke with Firas Sarhan of the Palestinian People’s Party. Excerpts:]

AB.   I am grateful to you for giving the time, despite your busy schedule. Your state of emotional turmoil is fathomable when your loved ones are in unspeakable misery in Gaza and the West Bank. What is the condition in Palestine, at this moment? What is the state of the ongoing struggle and resistance?

FS. Thank you for inviting me in. We want to spread our word as far as possible. We urge the whole world to stand by our side, especially our distressed children, in the name of humanity. First and foremost, what I want to say is that the relation between Palestine and India has been longstanding. We have always known India to be our friend. I can still recall the names of former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi and the Indian Communist leader, JyotiBasu who stood firmly by our side. As far as I can remember, even Jawaharlal Nehru supported us in our early days. I know that the people from India, especially the Leftists and the anti-imperialists, hold deep respect for Palestine's national leader, Yasser Arafat. Through you, I want to express gratitude and thanks to the all the supporting Indian masses.

Arka, I am around 55, now. I have travelled across the world, holding a repository of experiences. I don’t call myself soft-hearted. Stood firmly as a part of the Intifada movement, I have learnt, over the years, that the struggle for independence is never a child’s play. But, believe me, I had trouble sleeping for the last few weeks. Felt like a criminal. The whole world is witnessing that the children of Palestine are getting killed in thousands. The entire nation is being wiped out. Israel is trying to systematically wipe us out from the map of the world. Despite this continuing brutality, the first world remains silent. I am sorry. I stand corrected, they are actually sponsoring this genocide. Could you imagine, they have killed over four thousand children! Think about it! We all have lost our loved ones. Today, the persons I spoke to on the phone, I don't know if they will be alive tomorrow. But I want to make one thing clear: If they think they will liquidate the entire Palestinian nation by killing us, they are mistaken. We can’t be so easily wiped out. We will fight. The resistance is ongoing. Not just in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, we are fighting.

AB.   The West is putting the blame of the conflict on Hamas…

FS. Every act of mass violence puts up an excuse to justify itself. Hamas is being used here in the same pattern. Firstly, thousands of children being killed, are they members of Hamas? Bombs are hitting hospitals, shelters are targeted, and thousands of civilians are losing their lives. Why? They are not members of Hamas. I am a member of the Palestinian People's Party, a crucial part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. We do not support Hamas. There is a serious political opposition and conflict with Hamas within our organisation. However, those who are holding Hamas responsible for this violence are just trying to hide the historical motive behind this.

Do you think this conflict started on 7th October? Not at all. Year after year, Israel is carrying out severe attacks in the West Bank and Gaza. People are being killed like bird-hunting. Not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. If Hamas is the target today, then why are people being killed in the West Bank where there is no Hamas? Last year, in 2022, over two hundred people were killed in the West Bank alone. This year, nearly 200 people have already been killed. Gaza and the West Bank are practically open-air prisons with Israeli checkpoints at every turn. Every day, Palestinians have faced unchecked brutality over the years. Israel is illegally occupying our land with its armed and unlawful settlement colonies, disregarding international law. This barbarism has been going on for decades. Their goal is to occupy the entire Palestinian territory. As I told you, Gaza and the West Bank, which were once open-air prisons, have now been transformed into open-air concentration camps. We are facing a second Nakba today.

AB.   You were talking about your father earlier…

FS. Yes, I have heard about the first Nakba from my father. Without any consultation with us or the Arabs, they forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands of Arabs, took our lands and homes, and created a new country called Israel. Private extremist groups in Israel initiated violence, implementing what they called Plan D, whose primary purpose was to kill, destroy, and set homes on fire in Arab territories. They succeeded. Over seven hundred thousand Palestinians were forced to leave their homes. Just as I have heard the story of the first Nakba from my father, I am now a witness to the second Nakba with my son. Do you know that during the first Nakba, many who were compelled to leave their homes and go to refugee camps, are still stuck there? They have not been able to return. I deeply doubt Israel's claim that clearing northern Gaza to move the residents to southern Gaza is their real intention. What is their true motive? Will they allow anyone to return to northern Gaza? I don't trust the Zionists. For decades, they have gradually taken over our land. The vast areas of the West Bank are under their control, and they disregard any international law. But, in the end, they will not win the battle.

AB.   What is the future of this conflict?

FS. We are standing at a juncture. Surely, you know that a genuine agreement was reached at the beginning of the 1990s. Like the Palestinians, peaceful Jews also embraced that agreement with hope. However, Israel has gradually undermined that agreement with incursions and systematic abuses. In this situation, the next few weeks or months are crucial. Will we obtain a long-term peace agreement, one that will help the entire Middle East move forward? Or will we, the Palestinians, be obliged to endure this dreadful oppression? We will soon find answers to these questions within the next few months.

AB.   What will you say about the role of international communities?

FS. The term 'international community' is quite interesting. It was coined after the fall of the Soviet Union, used by Western imperialism to garner support against ‘atrocities’, portraying itself as the defender of the oppressed. Now, American imperialism and its allies are doing the same. But that is not the whole story. Across the globe, millions are marching for peace, realising this conflict didn't start on October 7th. It began 56 years ago in 1967 when Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. No, I am mistaken. The conflict predates that, starting 75 years ago in 1948 during the first Nakba when we became refugees. No, let me correct that again. Western imperialism initiated this conflict 106 years ago in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, paving the way for the creation of Israel.

I can assure you that we will not be defeated in this battle. Our bloodshed would not be in vain. We are fighting on the foundation of our historical existence. Our struggle will spread from generation to generation. It's true that if the Soviet Union existed, we might have had an advantage in this struggle. But the fight will go on.

Translated from Bengali by Olivia Banerjee]

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Vol 56, No. 22, Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2023