Posts Tagged ‘Oslo Accords’

The language of Zionism

May 8, 2010

Joseph Massad, Al-Ahram Weekly, May 7, 2010

The reason for the ongoing “violence” in Israel and Palestine is not on account of Israeli colonialism at all but rather a direct result of mistranslation. Joseph Massad provides an abridged lexicon of Zionist terminology

“Colonialism is peace; anti-colonialism is war.” This is the unalterable equation that successive Israeli governments insist must determine the basis of all current and future relations between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians. Indeed, the deployment of the rhetoric of peace between Palestinians and Israeli Jews since the 1970s has been contingent on whether the Palestinians would acquiesce in this formula or insist on resisting it. The Oslo Accords were in large measure a ratification of this formula by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Nonetheless, Palestinian resistance, violent and non- violent, to understanding “colonialism as peace” never fully subsided, even as the Palestinian Authority insisted that it become the law of the land.

Continues >>

Gaza’s separation from the West Bank is Israel’s great triumph

April 27, 2009

Amira Haas |, April 26, 2009

The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel’s military superiority.

In view of the violent rivalry between the two main movements competing for the upper hand in the Palestinian mock-government, Fatah and Hamas, it’s easy to forget the effort Israel invested in separating families, economies, cultures and societies between the two parts of the Palestinian state “in the making.” All that remained was for the Palestinians to crown the split with their dual regime.

The restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967. Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country – to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole. True, there quickly emerged three categories of Palestinian residents: third-class Israeli citizens, residents of Israel (in Jerusalem) and residents of the “administered territories.” Yet the experience of renewing old family and social ties and creating new modes of social, cultural and economic companionships proved stronger than the administrative distinctions. The dynamism, creativity and optimism of the first intifada (1987-1992) owe much to the reality generated by this freedom of movement inside a single country.

Israel put a halt to this freedom of movement on the eve of the first Gulf war. Since January 1991, Israel has bureaucratically and logistically merely perfected the split and the separation: not only between Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and their brothers in Israel, but also between the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territories and between Gazans and West Bankers-Jerusalemites. Jews live in this same piece of land within a superior and separate system of privileges, laws, services, physical infrastructure and freedom of movement.

One day, when the archives are opened, we’ll know just how calculated and planned this process was. Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the fact that it commenced at a time when the Cold War and South African apartheid were ending and the international community assessed that conditions were ripe for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state agreement based on the June 4, 1967 lines.

In parallel with the Oslo process, Israel took bureaucratic steps that rendered hollow the clause in the Oslo Accords according to which the Gaza Strip and West Bank are a single territorial unit. Gazans were forbidden to live, study and work in the West Bank without permission from Israel (which was rarely given, and only to favored applicants). Gazans were also forbidden to enter the West Bank via its border with Jordan. Friends and family live just 70 kilometers apart but Israel does not allow them to meet. Today, a Palestinian born in Gaza who lives in the West Bank without Israeli permission is considered an “illegal presence.”

The devious unilateral Israeli disengagement of 2005 perpetuated a process that commenced in 1991: Gaza and the West Bank fall under different types of administration, with Israel cleverly presenting Gaza as an independent entity no longer under occupation. In the last Palestinian elections, Hamas proved more persuasive than Fatah when it attributed the Palestinian “victory” and the Israeli withdrawal to itself and its armed struggle. There followed Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza security forces in June 2007 and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ directive to tens of thousands of Palestinian Authority employees to boycott their places of work in the Strip.

In the recent Palestinian unity talks, the substantive questions have not been asked: Has the public in the West Bank and Gaza given up on the link between the two parts occupied in 1967 until the distant realization of the dream of one state? Will the Palestinian leaderships be taken to account by the people for the assistance they gave Israel in severing the two territories? Is the link to the Arab and Muslim worlds more vital for Hamas than the link with the West Bank? Are ceremonial international standing and the perks of senior officialdom more important to the PA and the Palestinian Liberation Organization than the population of Gaza?

The answers must also come from the Israelis, and particularly those who claim to support peace. Prior to Hamas’ election victory in 2006, the PA’s center of rule was in Gaza. That didn’t hinder Israel from perfecting the conditions of separation and severance that turned the Strip into the detention camp it is today while Israeli peaceniks in their multitudes sat on their hands. Even if a miracle happens in Cairo and the Palestinians unite, the government of Israel will not willingly forego its greatest achievement: severing Gaza from the West Bank. This achievement, which will only stoke the fires of a bloody conflict, is the disaster of both peoples.

Amira Hass is a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz. Since January 22 of this year she has been reporting from Gaza. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter that publishes contending views of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Remembering Edward Said Five Years On

September 29, 2008
Edward Said. ‘He stood for everything that is virtuous.’

By Stephen Lendman – Chicago | The Palestine Chronicle, Sep 22, 2008

Said was passionately against Palestine being turned into an isolated prison wherein Israel repeatedly attacked mostly defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s.Born in West Jerusalem in 1935. Exiled in December 1947. Said was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1991, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow and blood. At 6:45AM on September 25, 2003, he succumbed (at age 67) after a painful courageous 12 year struggle. Tributes followed and resumed a year later. In a testimony to his teacher, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi called him “indefatigable, incorruptible, a humanist and devastatingly charming….leav(ing behind) legions of followers and fans in every corner of the world. I am lost without him….I miss him so.”

Chomsky called his death an “incalculable loss.” A year later, Ilan Pappe said “his absence seems to me still incomprehensible. What would have happened if we still had Edward with us in this last year….another terrible (one) for the values (he) represented and causes he defended.” Tariq Ali referred to his “indomitable spirit as a fighter, his will to live, (my) long-standing friend and comrade,” and described his ordeal:

“Over the last eleven years one had become so used to his illness – the regular hospital stays, the willingness to undergo trials with the latest drugs, the refusal to accept defeat – that (we thought) him indestructible.” Leukemia kills, and in response to Ali’s questions, his doctor said there was “no medical explanation for (his) survival.” No doubt Dr. Kanti Rai made a difference. Said spoke of him reverentially – of his “redoubtable medical expertise and remarkable humanity” that kept him going during his darkest times, and there were many. He later described months in and out of the hospital, “painful treatments, blood transfusions, endless tests, hours and hours of unproductive time spent staring at the ceiling, draining fatigue and infection, inability to do normal work, and thinking, thinking, thinking.”

Yet, as Ali recounted, in the end the “monster (overpowered him), devouring his insides (but when) the cursed cancer finally took him the shock was intense.” Palestinians had lost their “most articulate (and powerful) voice….(he’s) irreplaceable.”

Veteran Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud agrees. He called 2003 a bad time for Palestinians to lose one their iconic best and described him like many others: He “stood for everything that is virtuous. His moral stance was even more powerful than (his) essays, books and music (as critic, scholar and consummate artist)….He was an extraordinary intellectual, thoughtful….inimitable” and never silent or compromising in his beliefs or virtue. No “wonder he….was adored by (his) people (and) detested by the” forces he opposed.

Phyllis Bennis called him “one of the great internationalist intellectuals of our time….a hero of the Palestinian people (and) the global peace and justice movement as well….(my) great mentor, a challenging collaborator, a remarkable friend….his passion, vision, wit (and fury against injustice) will be terribly missed.”

Daniel Barenboim called him a “fighter and a compassionate defender. A man of logic and passion. An artist and a critic….a visionary (who) fought for Palestinian rights while understanding Jewish suffering.” In 1999, they jointly founded the West-East Divan – an orchestra for young Arabs and Jews who collaboratively “understood that before Beethoven we all stand as equals….Palestinians have lost a formidable defender, the Israelis a no less formidable adversary, and I a soulmate.”

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia where Said taught for nearly 40 years as a Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He called him “a man of vast erudition and learning, of extraordinary versatility and remarkable (interdisciplinary) expertise.” We’ve lost “one of the most profound, original and influential thinkers of the past half-century (and) a fearless independent voice speaking truth to the entrenched powers that dominate the Middle East.”

On September 30, 2003, Columbia University paid tribute as well. It mourned the passing of its “beloved and esteemed university professor.” Called him one of the world’s most influential scholars, and said “the world has lost a brilliant and beautiful mind, a big heart, and a courageous fighter.”

When he learned of his illness and its seriousness, Said decided to write (from memory) a biographical account of his childhood, upbringing and early years in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. Titled “Out of Place, A Memoir,” he called it “a record of an essentially lost or forgotten world….a subjective account of (his life) in the Arab world” of his birth and formative years. Then in America where he attended boarding school, Princeton for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and Harvard for his doctorate.

He began “Out of Place” in 1994 while recovering from three early rounds of chemotherapy and continued to completion with the help and “unstinting kindness and patience” of the “superb nurses” who spent months caring for him as well as his family and friends whose support helped him finish.

He recounted a young man’s coming of age. Of coming to terms with being displaced. An American. A Christian. A Palestinian. An outsider, and ultimately the genesis of an intellectual giant. An uncompromising opponent of imperialism and oppression, and an advocate for his peoples’ struggle for justice and self-determination. No one made the case more powerfully or with greater clarity than he did – in his books, articles, opinion pieces, and wherever he spoke around the world. He made hundreds of appearances and became a target of pro-Israeli extremists. They threatened him and his family. Once burned his Columbia University office, but never silenced him or ever could. Nor did the FBI in spite of over 30 years of surveillance the way it monitors all prominent outspoken activists and intellectuals and many of lesser stature.

Said’s great writings include Orientalism (1978) in which he explained a pattern of western misinterpretation of the East, particularly the Middle East. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), he broadened Orientalism’s core argument to show the complex relationships between East and West. Colonizers and the colonized, “the familiar (Europe, West, us) and the strange (the Orient, East, them).”

His writings showed the breath of his scholarship, interests and activism – on comparative literature, literary criticism, culture, music and his many works on Israeli-Palestinian history and conflict – combining scholarship, passion and advocacy for his people in contrast to the West’s one-sided view of Arabs and Islam. He championed equity and justice. Denounced imperialism, and believed Israel has a right to exist but not exclusively for Jews at the expense of indigenous Palestinians.

The 1967 war and illegal occupation changed everything for him. It radicalized him. Set the course of his intellectual career and activism, and made him the Palestinians’ leading spokesperson for the next 37 years until his death. He advocated a one-state solution and wrote in 1999: “The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle of coexistence.”

In a lengthy January 1999 New York Times op-ed he elaborated: “Palestinian self-determination in a separate state is unworkable (after years earlier believing otherwise). The question (now isn’t separation) but to see whether it is possible for (Jews and Palestinians) to live together (in the same land) as fairly and peacefully as possible. What exists now is a disheartening…bloody impasse. There is no way for Israel to get rid of Palestinians or for Palestinians to wish Israelis away….I see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen.”

This diminishes life and aspirations for neither side. It affirms self-determination for them both together in the same land where they once lived peacefully. But it doesn’t mean “special status for one people at the expense of the other.” For millennia, Palestine was the homeland for many peoples, predating the Ottomans and Romans. It’s “multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious.” There’s no “historical justification for homogeneity” or for “notions of national or ethnic and religious purity….The alternatives (today) are unpleasantly simple: either the war continues (with its unacceptable costs)” or an equitable way out is found, obstacles notwithstanding.

Oslo wasn’t the answer, and Said denounced it in its run-up and weeks later in a London Review of Books piece titled “The Morning After.” In stinging language, he referred to “the fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance (and) the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.”

For him, Oslo was plainly and simply “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles,” and worst of all is that a better deal could have been had without so many “unilateral concessions to Israel.” The same goes for the 1978 Camp David Accords and every “peace” negotiation to the present except the “permanent status” 2000 Camp David “generous” and “unprecedented” offer that Arafat turned down and was unfairly pilloried for spurning peace for conflict.

Said was on top of everything to the end as reflected in “The Last Interview” – a documentary film less than a year before his death. After a decade of illness, he agreed to a final film interview at a time he was drained, weakened and dying, yet found it “very difficult to turn (himself) off.” It was a casual conversation between himself and journalist Charles Glass reflecting on his childhood, upbringing, writing, scholarship, involvement with Yasser Arafat, and strong opinions and activism on Palestinian issues.

It was in all his writings and outspokenness – so powerful, passionate, virtuous and a testimony to his uncompromising principles. He described “Sharonian evil.” His blind destructiveness. His terrorism in ordering the massacring of children, then congratulating one pilot for his great success. The patently dishonest media. Its one-sided support for Israel. Its suppressing other views. Its turning a blind eye to the grossest crimes against humanity, day after day after day. Of relegating public discourse to repetitive official propaganda. Of subverting truth in support of power and privilege.

Of turning Palestine into an isolated prison. Suffocating an entire people of their existence. Of impoverishing, starving and slaughtering them. Of attacking defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s. Of blaming victims for their own terror. Of creating a vast wasteland of destruction and human misery. Of sanctioning torture and targeted assassinations as official policy. Of committing every imaginable human indignity and degradation against people whose only crime is their faith, ethnicity, and presence. Whose only defense is their will and redoubtable spirit. Of enlisting world support for the most unspeakable, unrelenting campaign of terror and genocide.

Of pursuing an endless “cycle of violence” and consigning Palestinians to a “slow death” in defense of imperial interests and the national security state. Of pursuing peace as a scheme for “pacification.” Of placing the onus for it “squarely on Palestinian shoulders.” Of “putting an end to the (Palestinian) problem.” Of placing huge demands on Palestinians and making no concessions in return. Of calling resistance “terrorism” while ignoring oppressive occupation as the fundamental problem. Of seeing Palestinians endure and survive in spite of every imaginable assault, affront and indignity. Of piling on even more and seeing an even greater will to survive and prevail.

Said was passionate on all this and more. He was uncompromisingly anti-war and denounced America’s “war on terror.” The country “hijacked by a small cabal of individuals….unelected and unresponsive to public pressure.” The Democrats supporting them “in a gutless display of false patriotism.” The entire power structure characterizing Muslims as enemies. Passing repressive laws. Creating the obscenity of Guantanamo and other prisons like it.

Their self-righteous sophistry of so-called “just wars” and evil of Islam. The near omnipotence of the Zionist Lobby, Christian fascists, and military-industrial complex. Their hostility to Arabs and claim to be “on the side of the angels.” Their inexorable pursuit of war and power. The media in lockstep supporting “hypocritical lies” masquerading as “absolute truth.” The silencing of dissent. Of mocking and betraying democracy. Of making a total sham of decency, humanity and justice. Of letting a few extremists create their own “fantasy world” to run the country for their own corrupted self-interest.

Said said it all, and ended one opinion piece as follows: “Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour.” But even he might have blanched in disbelief considering the current state and potential horror of its consequences. Said understood. He’s sorely missed when we need him most.

-Stephen Lendman contributed this article to Contact him at: (Also visit his blog site at, and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM—1PM US Central time.)

Failing Darwish’s Legacy

August 23, 2008

By Sumia Ibrahim

Relatives of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish along with Palestinian Authority officials mourn over his coffin during his state funeral in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 13 August. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/POOL/MaanImages)

Last Wednesday’s state funeral in Ramallah for the revered Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish revealed how far the Palestinian people are from realizing the justice imagined in Darwish’s writing, and was a sad reminder of how the Palestinian Authority (PA) helps undermine his people’s struggle.

On the day that Darwish’s body was laid to rest, amid tens of thousands of Palestinians mourning in the streets and many more in their homes, his criticisms of and hopes for the Palestinian and Israeli governments and societies remained unheeded and unrealized. However, Darwish’s official funeral at the PA headquarters, with all of its military pomp, demonstrated that the PA had its own interests in mind over that of respecting, never mind fulfilling, Darwish’s message and legacy.

Darwish joined the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1973 but broke 20 years later in disagreement with their signing with Israel the Oslo Accords which Darwish believed did not even minimally fulfill Palestinians’ rights. The Oslo Accords established the PA and initiated the “peace process” supposedly aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state, but were null and voided after Israel doubled its illegal settlement population in the years that followed, dashing any hopes of Palestinian sovereignty.

It is hard to imagine that Darwish would have been pleased with his PA-sponsored state funeral. Indeed, with the Oslo Accords he opposed came the establishment of the PA and the illusion of a Palestinian government in parity with Israel. However, in effect the PA served as an arm of the occupation, relieving Israel of its obligations as an occupying power. Meanwhile, Israel continues to colonize Palestinian land, control the borders and Palestinian movement, and the Palestinians are no closer to realizing their right to self-determination.

Furthermore, Darwish was overtly critical of political factionalism between Fatah and Hamas, Palestine’s leading governing parties. In July 2007, he described deadly infighting in Gaza as “a public attempt at suicide in the streets.” He said with irony, “We have triumphed. Gaza won its independence from the West Bank. One people now have two states, two prisons who don’t greet each other. We are victims dressed in executioners’ clothing.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas eulogized at Darwish’s funeral: “You remain with us, Mahmoud, because you represent everything that unites us.” Abbas spoke of Palestinian unity but in actuality, the PA has complied with Israel and the US’s attempt to further fracture Palestinian society by isolating Gaza from the West Bank. Renewed infighting emerged this summer between Fatah and Hamas, with the more severe rights violations occurring at the hands of Hamas in Gaza. But for their part, the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, closely linked to Fatah, abducted a senior member of Hamas in the West Bank in Nablus earlier this month. Palestinian security forces also detained up to 50 Hamas members, including senior party figures, also in the West Bank earlier this month.

Continued . . .

One state with equal rights

August 8, 2008

The Oslo Accords of August 1993 were supposed to lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel. Fifteen years later, after a vast increase in Israeli settlements on the West Bank, the ongoing erection of an apartheid wall and the barbaric siege of Gaza, increasing numbers of Palestinians and their supporters regard a two-state solution as unworkable. Snehal Shingavi looks at the debate.

Demonstration for Palestinian rights in ChicagoDemonstration for Palestinian rights in Chicago

IN THE 1970s, the dominant Fatah group within the Palestine Liberation Organization dropped its demand for a unified state governing all of Palestine with equal rights for all citizens and began the process of promoting a “two-state solution.”

In the aftermath, a consensus grew among the Palestinian left that a Palestinian mini-state was the only viable solution for Palestinians. According to this argument, the best Palestinians could achieve was a state established on the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War–land that amounted to less than 30 percent of historic Palestine.

The conclusion that a two-state solution was the only viable alternative reflected several political realities. The first was the belief that Israel had become a dominant power in the region, with the backing of the United States and Europe. Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War–and the unwillingness and inability of any other states to deliver a decisive military blow against it–confirmed this conclusion.

The second factor was a shift in the thinking of the mainstream Palestinian liberation movement, toward trilateral negotiations (between the PLO, Israel and the U.S.) and away from armed struggle and a broader engagement of regional issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

While armed struggle, in itself, held no hope of winning Palestinian statehood, the trilateral negotiations among unequal powers meant that the PLO had little with which to bargain and much to lose. Once the PLO accepted peace talks and the nebulous “two-state” framework that came with them, a series of political debacles took place under the auspices of the Oslo Accords. Yet the “peace process” reinforced the idea that Palestinian statehood would happen only at Israel’s behest.

The other factor in the debate was a decline in the Palestinian secular left, the long-time proponent of the idea of a single, democratic, secular state in Palestine.

The political weaknesses of the Palestinian left–its traditions of Stalinism and its unwillingness to oppose the Arab ruling classes of other countries in the region–left it unable to meet the challenges it faced. Thus, when the armed struggle posed the possibility of regional revolutions in the 1970s and Arab governments, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon, cracked down savagely on the Palestinian resistance, the left was paralyzed.

With the demise of the secular left, the possibility of a one-state solution seemed to die as well. As a further consequence, Palestinians lost a single banner for a unified movement that represented their concerns as an oppressed nation. Since the 1948 creation of Israel on much of the land of historic Palestine, Palestinians have always been divided between those who live within Israel’s borders, those in the Occupied Territories and those in the diaspora. Abandoning a one-state solution meant accepting those divisions as permanent.

The result was that the Palestinian nationalist struggle gave rise to rival movements and rival local leaders. Israel has been able to play on those divisions and the relative weakness of the Palestinian resistance to tighten the screws on the Palestinian population to unbearable levels.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BUT ISRAELI policies over the past 15 years, under the auspices of the Oslo Accords, have convinced increasing numbers of Palestinians that the idea of a mini-state, or a two-state solution, isn’t viable.

Rather, it leaves unresolved all the decisive issues that resulted from the creation of the state of Israel in the first place–not the least of which are the rights of the large refugee population.

Continued . . .

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