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The Great Sin: Oslo 20 years later

ArafatThis year marks 20 years since the Oslo accord.  2013… the world has almost seemed to reshape itself this year. Wars and political differences have spun most of the Middle East into what we know and see today. Countries and dignitaries abroad are scrambling to find some sort of solution…a way to ‘stop the bleeding’ from the bullet hole made in the flesh of the Arab people…and yet, as a young Palestinian, I can’t help but to reflect on the ‘solutions’ that have passed in my lifetime.

It’s been 20 long years since PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) signed the Oslo Accord. I was a young boy, but old enough at that time, to remember the celebrations … PLO’s men (even though, occupied by Israel) staged in the streets when their men arrived to the Gaza Strip. We were welcoming and trusting as Palestinians, eager to end the occupation! How beautiful! To have our own state! Mothers free to let her children play without fear, or worries that her husband could not return home that night.

As I watch international media call for the quick response to the use of chemical weapons, I cannot help but think that this Western World  is forgetting about the malaise and Nakba (Catastrophe) of the Palestinians that caused by Israel. This world has brought us to the cold chopping block that we lay on today. Our Arab brothers, more concerned to the desires of greedy and power hungry giants, abandoned us…sold us like property to the highest bidder. The Palestinians were left isolated and alone. Going back to the late 1980’s and the 1990’s, the Palestinian leadership had little room, positions and cards to use in their political struggle. The Palestinians were left paralyzed after refusing many offers.

I can personally say I would’ve refused as well- after the loss of all Palestine, someone simply comes to bargain with you for the land they have stolen? Has the word negotiations taken on a new meaning!? Or is it a false front for the world to see…to assume that our neighbors wanted a peaceful passage? After being abandoned by our brothers, we were tortured, murdered and transferred from Kuwait and other Gulf countries. We were in Tunisia, conditionally, but we were explicitly told we could not to practice any military activities against Israel. It was the imprecise choices of the Palestinian leadership that led us to a room with no exit…except one, Oslo. As Edward Said says, “We had no alternative because we either lost or threw away a lot of others, leaving us only this one”.

However today we are amidst the chaos of the Middle Eastern turmoil, more thwarted and hopeless of any peace agreement is ours. We have frustrated all options within the negotiations for Peace, and it is furthermore my firm opinion that it is a waste of time! It’s nothing more than a ‘Trojan horse’ of sorts for Israel to seize more land from the Palestinians, especially around Jerusalem. While they’re kicking us into the streets without any mercy for children, old people or women. Twenty years after its signature, the Oslo peace agreement clearly has nothing to do with peace!  In fact, it is simply the blue print to the dehumanization of the children of Palestine. Deep division through walls and harbored racism, have only separated the Arab Palestinians from their Jewish neighbors. The agreement regulated and legitimized the economic and political abuse and occupation of Palestine. Moreover, negotiations have not failed to produce any clear progress toward the quality of life for the Palestinians nor has it stopped the Israeli from annexing more land and resources that do not belong to them. 

Now, as a Palestinian who living in Diaspora, I see things differently. I examine Oslo from the eyes of others, picking over the words and promises…but focusing on the excessive failures of the Palestinian leadership. Best known to the world media was Operation Pillar…white phosphorus rained down as civilians ran for cover in the streets! Atrocities committed by the Israeli (Gaza 2008-09, November 2012, and the continuous killing of the Palestinians in the West Bank) the colonization of my people. The road blocks, water and food shortages, ban on medical and building supplies! The wrongful and unlawful siege imposed over the Gaza strip! The great analogy to how absolutely useless the Oslo agreement truly is. What is the cost of land? The cost of life? The cost of human dignity?

The Oslo accord was engineered in a decisive historical time in the Middle East. With the first Gulf war underway and a troubled Palestinian leadership, it was clearly the intentions of the Israeli to shut down the first Intifada. The lies and web of traps became very apparent. We quickly realized to our own despair and great detriment that what had been built on a false intention was in fact false! As one of the young Palestinian writers and thinkers of our time, I am convinced that the Oslo agreement was the second victory of the occupation. As the Palestinian leadership has fallen into the trap of Oslo, their positions are deteriorating day after day, leaving the youthful and future generations of the Palestinians with no road map to their future or true relationship with Israel. We have been failed by the ones we trusted so greatly. Is liberation not a desire of our heart? Is the sweet smell of success and peace not flowing in our blood? How long can we be oppressed even by our own people?!? Puppets of those who seek erase our very existence!

Many Palestinians have told me that they feel that Oslo was a foundation good enough to start new phase of political struggle. I once thought the same. However it is clearer now, we have lost by signing Oslo, what the first Intifada would have given us.  We stopped short of claiming the prize! The Oslo agreement and peace process has failed to meet the Palestinians’ demands. Therefore the agreement can only be seen as null and void! It is a broken contract that has ignored the cold and cruel expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948. We lost all our land and remained either as refugees or as second and third class citizens. The Israelis have bankrupted themselves emotionally, morally and financially…by borrowing from Western powers to secure it and its citizens. What ‘Accord’ is there? When you look up this word, it list: 1) To cause to conform or agree; bring into harmony. 2) To grant, especially as being due or appropriate. 3) To bestow upon 4)To be in agreement, unity or harmony 5) A settlement or compromise of conflicting opinions 6) A settlement of points between nations…Does any of this sound like the definition of the life of a Palestinian today?

Currently, the Palestinian Authority’s security (including Hamas’s security militias in the Gaza Strip) agencies are agents to protect Israel’s interests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian leadership (since 1993) is a political prisoner of Oslo process. The president is controlled by a small office run by a young Israeli officer who decides who can accompany Abbas. In 2008, while traveling through Jordan to Europe, I personally witnessed the PA’s presidential official, Tayeb Abdelrahim arriving at the same time. He took a taxi to cross to Jordan under the order of a 21 year old Israeli soldier. Is it really any shock that Israeli occupation forces invade any Palestinian city at any time without informing the Palestinian security of it? Two weeks ago, Israeli forces invaded a refugee camps in the West Bank, killing three Palestinians. These are refugees; their real homes are in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Safad or Haifa…what have they really come to invade? To break their will?

The Oslo accord has failed to address many important issues...what about the Palestinians who live in Israel? They now represent more than 23% of Israel’ populations. Oslo ignored them and left them as second-class citizens.
Adding to that, Oslo agreement produced a huge bureaucratic apparatus that hindered any democratic sense of elections. The Palestinian Authority is a corrupt agency with many examples of nepotism, and patrimonialism is the dominant framework of its institutions. What the Palestinian Authority has now is a marginal legitimacy and support from the Public, including Fatah. As a result of this, we ended up living in our beautiful and historic Palestine as slaves and Masters…we are, the Palestinians, its slaves.

The ideology that Arafat and his followers so frequently pushed was a plan to cut back the patriotic and nationalistic sensations of the Palestinians towards their homeland and their past, in this, pacifying the ‘greater cause’… of course, with this being said, Arafat had another plan to create a headquarter for himself in Gaza. The idea was so ultra-symbolic and destroyed the coherence of the society in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He abused his authority in order to recruit and appoint according to loyalty. That ended PA as a corrupt agency and PLO as a clinically dead organization.       

Despite that, twenty years after, the Palestinians are more patriotic…clinging to their land, past and history. It’s all we have left. This has sent a clear message to Israel and to the West that ‘WE ARE HERE, on OUR land, and we will not surrender! WE WILL neither move nor forget. The only solution is to rethink the dead Oslo accord and retry again with a process that eliminates the current apartheid regime and paves the way to coexistence and real peace and not a ‘process of peace.’ Is 20 years not long enough? Ask our grandparents who survived the 1948 expulsion? Or those before us who died praying to see an end to this captivity!

In 1990, as Edward Said once argued, that the Palestinians were divided into four groups. The first is the biggest which is the silenced and hopeless group. They were mainly the Palestinians in Diaspora. The seconds are the loyal, and they are in large part the ones who came back with Arafat and his military apparatus. The third is the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They were suspicious of what the Oslo agreement would bring and had not made their mind up their minds that time - Against or Pro. The last one is the opposition who is the marginalized group of intellectuals, educated personalities and some Islamic factions. Since then, we have narrowed ourselves into two groups. Those who defend Oslo and its products, such as, corrupt institutions, nepotism, patrimonialism and abuse of power. This group is the PA leadership, their families, faithful and the one who benefits from the status quo. The second group being the one who represent the majority of the Palestinians. The one opposing Oslo and all its products, including the ‘so called’ historic leadership of the Palestinians. Of course, they agree that PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, but they oppose those are in power representing them and have little to no desire to meet their demands.

What makes matters worse is the great failure of the Palestinian leadership to reform PLO and PA institutions. They failed to attract skilled Palestinians, not because they cannot, but because they prefer to be corrupt (it is worthy to mention that the EU and its institutions are funding corruption of the PA and the occupation, simultaneously). The Palestinian leadership has made so many costly mistakes. Besides that, they are not ready to have a serious, accountable and transparent reform. They prefer to keep their flow of honey and power from the west. Sold souls…masters of the slaves…the slaves who represent the real beauty and logical thinking of the land. The slaves who truly hold the power to a peaceful future.

The Oslo accord has failed to address many important issues...what about the Palestinians who live in Israel? They now represent more than 23% of Israel’ populations. Oslo ignored them and left them as second-class citizens. Laws against dating between the Palestinian and Jewish people, lead to kidnapping and murders. They have no more rights than they did before... Irrefutably we still struggle jointly with the rest of the Palestinian people against occupation and denial of the Palestinian rights to live. To exist. Two months ago, all the Palestinians in historic Palestine, especially our younger generation, stood firmly and actively against the Prawer Plan to annex the Naqv desert. It was a landmark protest and strong message to Israel and the PLO that what Oslo has ignored; 20 years later WILL NOT be ignored by us!

At this time, the Palestinian people still count on the American administration as a third party. Despite all that the West has involved itself in as a biased party in the (what seems to be) mantra chanted ‘peace process’, many of the Palestinian leaders still believe that the American money is more important than the needs of the people. It is shameful, but true. Third, The Palestinian people still lack what Edward Said calls, “science of details." One Palestinian leader once joked to me, that the maps, reports and documents that have been used during the time of the Oslo accord were brought to us by the Israeli. They showed the Gaza strip map with a land mass greater than the West Bank, fooling the Palestinian negotiators. I believe it was a joke, but unfortunately, it seems true. Twenty years leaving us behind, the PLO and PA have not seemed to care that all the agreed to terms have been ignored. Do we care? I think we do. I know we do!

I don’t know what our grandfather’s generation, or our father’s generation had in mind…but us, the current generation (and future) have more options than any of the ones before. We have a one-state solution as a vital alternative, with nonviolent resistance but I feel a third intifada would come as a result of anger from both PA and Israeli occupation.

As a young and educated Palestinian, I refuse strongly to be like the Africans in the 19th century. Nor will I live like the American Indians whom the white man gave one man the symbolic stick and tells them: “go, you are the leaders of yourselves now, but we are the real authority here". This time has passed and we will not accept anything more than equality. Palestinian and Jewish- seen as humans with rights. We will accept NOTHING LESS.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery- for only we can free our minds” -Redemption song/ Bob Marley

Oslo 20 years


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