Palestinian writer: Jerusalem is the dream we have grown up with
“Turkey supports jihadist Islam of the Salafis and Israel is benefiting from it.”
Nayrouz Qarmout is a Palestinian writer. She was born in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on 14 April 1984. A Palestinian refugee from her village, Deir Sneid (territories of 1948), she lived in the refugee camp of Yarmouk till she was 10, finishing there her primary school. She finished her studies in Gaza, where she is living today, as she returned to Palestine at the end of 1994, after the Oslo Peace Agreement.
ANF reached her in Gaza, where she lives. She has lived through the Gaza siege in 2014, writing a diary and sending it out her way to “feel I was still alive”, she said. Today she is witnessing yet another massacre. On Monday alone 59 Palestinians who were protesting peacefully against the decision of US President Donald Trump to transfer the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, were killed in cold blood by Israeli snipers. Almost three thousand people, many of them children, were wounded.
Nayrouz, first of all allow us to express our solidarity and sorrow for these losses. How is the situation?
You know, after Trump's declaration that he will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I felt a huge sadness, but I had not lost hope. Everyone had rejected this decision, people here and abroad had taken to the streets. International solidarity had been great, and we were still alive. In the UN Security Council in spite of everything, America and Israel had been isolated by their very own arrogance.
Jerusalem is the dream with which we have grown. It is the sanctity of mankind, love and peace, the cradle of religions, the compass of the Palestinian national struggle. It is a sacred land, there is no stain that can affect that.
But now confusion reigns. Everyone tries to imagine what will happen in the near future: are we going to lose Jerusalem? The Israeli occupation has not hesitated to “Judaize” Jerusalem by obliterating its identity. And by changing the democratic composition of the Sacred City in recent years.
In Gaza these days Israel is bombarding allegedly Hamas military positions and also areas of the city. The destruction of the missiles is visible in our surroundings. They are hitting people who had been demonstrating peacefully all along. This is a peaceful resistance and it is being crashed with an incredible display of force. And dead is everywhere.
It is said that the solution of the Palestinian question would give the entire Middle East a new perspective ...
The Arab-Israeli conflict or the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation carries with it national, cultural, religious and geopolitical dimensions. Let me synthesize everything in other words: indeed the Palestinian-Israeli struggle is the essence of the conflict in the Middle East. Sadness seizes me, fills me inside, when I speak about the time when the struggle stopped being between Palestinians and Israelis, and became between Palestinians and Palestinians, for power. Both sides gave themselves to the task of defending the Palestinian cause, but one in the name of patriotism, and the other in the name of religious belief.
The essence of the conflict was distorted after moving from one side to the other of the Arab region in general (in particular, the countries close to Israel) .. and there routes, directions and objectives were changing, until the religious parties were cloning themselves, giving more and more space to new and more extremist forces that threaten the stability of Arab societies and the whole world.
The world is a small village, and the generalization of an intellectual model for youth, through material and non-material things, becomes possible for many, especially after this technological and computer revolution.
For this reason, I always harbour suspicions about the true investor in this intellectual terrorism, and about being a force alien to our societies.
When the role of Egypt in the Arab region was weakened, Iraq was destroyed, the role of Syria, Libya and Yemen receded, and the role of the Gulf countries (the oil countries) in the Arab region became strong; we had the reflections and the influences of the Gulf culture in all its components. Figures like Ben Laden, going through Al-Zahariwi and arriving to DAESH maybe are genuine children of the culture of those countries. I cannot take this for granted. Or is it that the appearance of a more influential role of other countries in the region such as Iran and Turkey has had more impact and effect in the region?
In which sense?
Perhaps this more influential role of Iran and Turkey has something to do with the victory of the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza or the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections of Egypt… The Salafi movement in the Gulf countries spread to our countries in Cham (Greater Syria) through Jihadist Islam, just as it has happened in Iran and Afghanistan before and in Turkey more recently where religious parties are in power and they actually support of all that has or reflects an Islamist character in our area. Just think of Turkey and its support for jihadists. Let me clarify my idea. The main winner of everything that happens in the Arab region, beginning from the confessional conflicts, is Israel. The State of Israel claims recognition of the Jewish character of the state, and applies the civic codes in its legislature and in its system of government. It does not matter to the State of Israel if the region is divided into small states built on religious confessional bases, as long as they don’t affect the idea of the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
Are you optimistic?
I'm not optimistic, no. I do not see a Palestinian entity in the short term. We are dissolving into the principalities of the patriotic and Islamic illusion. Everyone believes in the importance of the economic solution that improves living conditions
of people, as the prelude to accept future solutions. In other words, re-form minds. We are talking about ideas. Meanwhile the land is reduced day after day by the geophagy of the colonization projects and the building of endless walls of isolation.
What is the situation of women in Gaza?
I am a woman, and I love being one. Fear kills women in our society, even when they presume to be in their full energy and strength. The family marginalizes women. Traditions and idiosyncrasies immobilize her with their bonds. The erroneous conception of religion inhibits her development. The occupation destroys her freedom. But despite all this pain and pressure, women’s creativity is a reason for survival. Creativity is revolution and to solve the Palestinian question we need a creativity revolution that is a women revolution. Only the awakening of women will allow stability in Arab societies and also in the Palestinian society.
You went to university in Gaza and have written much about women and social issues.
I was longing to travel abroad for my university, but I could not realise my dream because I was not able to obtain my identity card nor passport until the end of 2009. So, I studied at the University Al-Azhar in Gaza. I did three and a half years Farmacy but didn’t end it. I then grew apart from my dad’s wish and went on studying economy. I got a degree in Economy and Management Sciences, with a specialization in Business Administration.
In my work I have written much about social issues and I have monitored complaints related to gender violence, in the Ministry of Women Issues. I contributed to the elaboration of a work vision for this ministry after Israel unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. I created this vision and implemented its ideas despite being a very young woman at that time. My minister, Ms Zuheira Kamal, was also the General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA), one of the PLO sections. Her struggle left marks on me as well as her struggle in the right cause of women, for their rights and equality.
Then the struggle within the Gaza Strip happened. And the military coup against the PNA. Politically some call it coup, others consider it a sort of ‘solving the situation’. But in my later writings I call it neither solving the situation nor coup. I call it division in the full sense of the word.
However, in the end, in practical terms it was a coup against an existing authority with all its bodies and institutions. True, there were legislative elections at that time, in 2006. The Islamist Movement Hamas triumphed. However, this does not justify the use of force by Hamas and even less the way it used it. A way I will never accept no matter the pretexts and justifications, and despite the wrong doing of the PNA, the theories of conspiracy and corruption. Reform cannot be done this way, no matter what.
You said this division affected you personally.
Indeed. I felt a breach in memory. I felt my motherland and my land crying before my eyes. I felt my history falling apart. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t bare it. I observed and witnessed everything that happened. I thought of the diaspora. My anxiety for an ID card that would allow me to identify myself to the world. I felt that the Palestinian dream for freedom and independence was being torn apart by us, by the very Palestinians. I cried. I felt shaken by a powerful strength. But I managed to pull myself together.
At the same time I was living different personal experiences. My uncle was struck by an Israeli missile after he had joined a Palestinian Jihadist organization. My uncle had went from the far left to the far right for a single idea, free Palestine, all Palestine. We always had our differences, but I loved him very much and his loss left a indelible mark. I have lost many friends. Some older ones die. Others emigrated after the Second Intifada, the “Al-Aqsa’s Intifada”. They were my live memory of motherland. The talks I had with them gave me much energy and hope.
I then began writing articles and essays of a more political, analytical, philosophical, literary and social character. I was writing what was going on all around me.