New Internationalist

What kind of peace?

October 2013

The legacy of Oslo has left Palestinians distinctly underwhelmed by the current peace talks. Ella David reports.

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

Gary Wlash
A boy protests illegal settlements near Hebron. Gary Wlash

Twenty years have passed since the signing of the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Accords. Lauded as the first step to a lasting peace, they in fact left Israel with control over 60 per cent of the West Bank. Palestinians have defined Oslo ever since as a dark and regrettable moment in their history.

For many here, this anniversary makes the current round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), now entering their third month, all the more galling.

‘The Palestinians have no hope for a positive outcome,’ says Mousa Abu Maria, co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project in the West Bank city of Beit Ommar. ‘The US have encouraged this latest round of talks to de-legitimize the EU’s decision to boycott Israeli settlement products.’

In Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, those who I spoke to last August all felt that the talks will not bring change on the ground.

It seems that Israel agrees. The government’s actions have been overtly hostile, even if its words are of peace. Two days before the negotiations began, Israeli authorities gave the green light to the construction of 1,200 new settlement homes in the West Bank. The use of live ammunition against Palestinians by the Israel Defense Forces has increased, resulting in the deaths of four civilians during the last week of August. It begs the question whether Israeli officials are actively working to provoke the Palestinian Authority (PA) into abandoning the negotiations.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israeli forces agreed to withdraw gradually from the occupied West Bank and Gaza before handing full control over to a newly established PA within five years. Instead, Israel remains in possession of the majority of the land in the West Bank, where it has built illegal Israeli settlements and ‘military zones’, evicting whole villages, demolishing homes and intimidating local populations in the process.

For Palestinian officials, entering into new peace talks shows the world they are serious about achieving self-determination through a two-state solution. Israel’s relentless settlement building makes them fearful that time – and land – is running out.

But for most of the Palestinian population, the legacy of the Oslo Accords shows there will never be a just peace process while Israel holds all the cards. The majority also feel the PA does not represent them, making the peace process inherently undemocratic.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, ‘Of course, everybody says they’re for peace… The question is: “What kind of peace?”’

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 466 This feature was published in the October 2013 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 Dean Michael Jackson 23 Oct 13

    Where did the term ’Palestinian’ originate? It originated in 1922 when the League of Nations created the new nationality under the Palestine Mandate. Until then persons living in what is today Israel (which includes the West Bank and Gaza) called themselves Syrian...the province of Ottoman Syria.

    Once the proposed Jewish state became legal in 1923, Muslims and Christians living in Palestine ceased calling themselves Syrian (and demanding that Palestine be merged with Syria) and called themselves Arabs; none would refer to themselves as ’Palestinian’, the hated newly-created nationality of the prospective Jewish state.

    So when did Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza change their nationality (once again) to the hated ’Palestinian’ name and why the change? The unheralded change (no news accounts of the change in nationality were reported by the media; no celebrations took place) took place in 1963, the very year Israel was rumored to have either (1) tested an atomic bomb; or (2) acquired an atomic bomb. Yes, the name-change was at the command of Arab governments who had to change their offensive strategy towards Israel, hence the creation of the the Arab governments' new proxy weapon against Israel...the ’Palestinians’.

    The next step was to get Israel to acquire the West Bank and Gaza, in order to operationalize the Arab governments' new Israeli strategy. Hence what the history books call the Six-Day War. Now you know why (1) Egyptian military forces crossed the demilitarized Sinai all the way up to Israel's Western border and then just stopped...waiting for the inevitable Israeli attack; and (2) why Israel scored such an overwhelming victory; because Israel was supposed to ’win’ the war.

    Arab governments' next move: The ’Palestinians’ will ’abandon’ the ’two-state option’ for a ’one-state option’, effectively destroying the Jewish state via the electoral process. Now you know why Israel, though she never gave up her claim to the West Bank and Gaza, allowed those two territories to slip away to the enemy in the 1948 war of independence.

    By the way, take a look at United Nations Resolution 181 (1947), the proposed division of Palestine into two states. R-181 calls for a ’Jewish state’ and an ’Arab State’. There's no mention in the resolution for a ’Palestinian state’, which there would have to be if such a distinct nationality actually existed.

  2. #2 Ella David 24 Oct 13

    Dear Dean Michael Jackson,

    Thank you for your comment. It is interesting that a common way to defend, justify and distract from the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians is to dispute whether Palestinians are actually Palestinian.

    The only issue to concern ourselves with is the reality of the situation - that the Palestinian people are being systematically oppressed by the Israeli administration in violation of UN conventions and international law. Those in the West Bank live under occupation, in Gaza they are subject to a military blockade, in Israel, Palestinians are treated as second class citizens and in neighbouring countries’ refugee camps, Palestinians have struggled since they were expelled from their homes in 1948.

    By all accounts, it is not the Palestinian Authority that has abandoned the two-state solution - far from it, they are still hopeful for it as I mention above. Many people now see the two-state solution as dead and buried because of the Israeli government’s continued illegal settlement building in Area C of the West Bank, showing complete disregard for Palestinians living there, the peace process and a two-state solution while at the same time being unwilling to contemplate a democratic, secular and equal one-state solution.

    All the best,

    Ella

  3. #3 Dean Michael Jackson 24 Oct 13

    Ella David,

    firstly, there can be no occupation of the West Bank and Gaza while it is in Israeli hands, since those two territories are League of Nations mandated areas for the Jewish Homeland. Certainly when the West Bank was in the hands of Jordan, and Gaza in the hands of Egypt, then one could speak of occupation.

    Secondly, Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza are Israeli citizens, no different in nationality then Israel-Arabs living outside of those ’territories’. That Israel abuses Arabs living within the ’territories’ is not a fact I'm unfamiliar with, just as I'm not unfamiliar with Arab governments' creation of the ’Palestinian People’ back in 1963, to be used against Israel as the Arab governments' proxy weapon against Israel.

    Thirdly, the only business the United Nations has towards the Jewish State is to affirm the Palestine Mandate, which includes the West Bank and Gaza. Any other United Nations' resolutions concerning Israel's ’occupation’ of the ’territories’ are moot.

    Fourthly, there never was any intention of Arab governments agreeing with a ’two-state option’. That is why Arab governments resurrected the hated ’Palestinian’ nationality from its May 14, 1948 tomb and attached the nationality to Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza, the ultimate objective of the strategy to one day call for a ’one-state option’. That is why Arabs living in the West Bank are behaving meekly, allowing Israel to construct ’illegal’ settlements there.

    Regards,

    Dean Michael Jackson

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This article was originally published in issue 466

New Internationalist Magazine issue 466
Issue 466

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