The Other Side of Oslo Peace Process

By Ershad Abubacker

‘Today, we bear witness to an extraordinary act in one of history’s defining dramas,’ said the then US president Bill Clinton as a prelude to Oslo Peace Process, ‘a drama that began in the time of our ancestors when the word went forth from a sliver of land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. That hallowed piece of earth, that land of light and revelation is the home to the memories and dreams of Jews, Muslims and Christians throughout the world.’

The world looked forward to Oslo with great hope that it would bring peace and stability to the consecrate piece of land that has been drenched in warfare, hatred and conflicting claims of history etched so deeply in the souls of the people in the Middle East. Though Clinton had apprehensions about the Oslo process evident when he mentioned Oslo accords as a ‘brave gamble,’ he did express the confidence that the future can be better than the past must endure. But the post-Oslo Palestine has been a deep scar running deep in to the map of humanity. The tenacity and vision of world leaders behind Oslo and Camp David did promise a new beginning, but for ordinary Palestinians, it was the beginning of a new form of Israeli domination over the Palestinians.

The Oslo Process begins officially with the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the White House loan. After the first Intifada that saw more than 1100 Palestinian civilians and 114 Israelis killed, Palestinians entered in to a seven year peace process with Israel–known as the Oslo Peace Process. The main misconception about Oslo Process is the false use of the word Peace. In fact the daily lives of Palestinians throughout the occupied territories turned from bad to worse in a period when there was supposed to be a peace process on the way. All the economic indicators hit the rock bottom under Oslo, during the peace process. Right to education, work and health care, which are among the most basic economic and social rights, were the areas that declined the worst for the majority of Palestinians. Moreover Israeli settlements had continued to expand throughout this period. According to the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Israeli settlements doubled in size and population during Oslo, from 200,000 to 400,000. At the same time that Israeli control was expanding, the Palestinian Authority was given the trappings of power over the shrinking and non contiguous Palestinian land, being held out as the future Palestinian state. The challenges of governing the Palestinian Authority are extraordinarily complex. This is an authority that has very little authority, virtually no power. Its power is derivative, it has the power that is given to it by Israel and at any moment any of those powers can be taken away.

Yet it is only with deep frustration that anyone could hear the Palestinian Authority including Yasser Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas speaking very warmly about the situation. But in reality they were hiding the fact that for the great majority of the population these years were a disaster. Those abuses and violations of the public trust were happening regularly for the Palestinians since the Oslo Process began. The Palestinians who protested against the Oslo Process were labeled as terrorists and would not allow them in the PA.

While the world public was being told by the media that a peace process was moving forward, Israel continued its policy of home demolitions. According to Israeli Committee against Home Demolitions, since 1967 about 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished, and more than 740 of those homes were demolished during the Oslo Peace Process. The extend of home demolitions under Oslo Process was so very obvious to the extent that the then US Ambassador to Israel, Edward Walker was quoted saying-“What you got to have, and I think it is a fair demand on the part of Palestinians that during the process of negotiation, you are not supposed to turning out more and more territory to Israeli settlement and changing the character of the land which is supposed to be negotiated about.” The notion of this is going to be a negotiable question does not mean true to any Palestinian who lives up against one of these settlements that are continuingly being expanded. And to expand means to steal more land. These settlers live and prosper at the expense of the Palestinians well being.

It is really disheartening to see that the victims of Palestinian catastrophe being led by a herd of wolfs disguised as sheeps who has their vested interests kept in forefront than helping out the Palestinian people’s interest. As in post war Iraq, there has been a new breed of contractors who have their business interests kept high above the suffering of the Palestinian people. They are highly influential businessmen who have deep rooted connections with the Fatah party or the Palestinian Authority and sometimes, even hold high ranking posts in the PA. You need not think a twice to ascertain on where does the billions of dollars of international aids fits in to the scheme of things. There is no wonder why Israel showed a cold shoulder to the poison within Palestine.

Today Palestinian Authority and Fatah Party have been hijacked by a group of high-ranking officials and politicians with business interests that extend beyond the Middle East and across the globe to the United States and Europe. Their main aim is to translate as much of the billions of dollars that come as international aid since Oslo Process to their private accounts. They control the Palestinian Authority and Fatah Party in all fronts. Undeterred by this public looting and guaranteed moral impunity by Fatah’s bad conscience, and backed by the unshakable buoy up by the United States, and riding on the might of nuclear arsenal and F16 fighter planes, Israel can literally do anything it wants, or is prompted to do by its leaders’ fantasies of domination. And the bottom line here is to make life worse for Palestinians, force them to move out of Palestine and thereby steal more land. It might be a hard term to use, but in a sense, it s a sort of ethnic cleansing.

Palestinian Authority and the Fatah Party has now been tainted and denigrated with the honour of being a corrupt national institute whose main task as far as Israel is concerned is to police the Palestinians and prevent them from the struggle against the continuing Israeli military and settler occupation. It has wasted and misappropriated lot of money the international community has given it. The sight of posh villas of leading Palestinian Authority officials sprung up like poison ivy amidst the poor dwelling of refugees throughout the occupied territories and the poverty with which the Palestinian masses are still living in says it all. The performance of PLO in running the Palestinian Authority and its failures in negotiating a credible peace process with Israel has very well diminished support for PLO leadership. And all these factors led to the Palestinians voting out the PLO in favour of Hamas, giving them the required seats to form a majority government in 2006 elections.

If it was an empty handshake at the Whitehouse loan in 1993 and a ‘peace talks that lead to more violence’ that made Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres qualified for Nobel Peace Prize, the Swedish Academy went a step forward this time and awarded Nobel Peace Prize for a man who has done virtually nothing rather than a customary American public relation exercise, that’s how volatile Middle East situation has become.

It would be worthwhile to recollect the letter that Rachel Corrie, the young American peace activist wrote to her mother back in US days before getting crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer at Rafah in 2003 “No amount of reading, attending conferences, documentary viewing, and word of mouth, could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here,” she wrote. “You just can’t imagine it unless you see it. This is not all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and dad wanted to come into when you decided to have me. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our life for making this stop.”

– Ershad Abubacker is a Research Analyst based in Chennai. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: ershadna@gmail.com.

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