The Oslo Virus and the Struggle for Bantustans

By Haidar Eid – Gaza
In ‘The Music of the Violin,’ a short story by South African writer Njabulo Ndebele, one of the characters comments on the ‘concessions’ made by the apartheid regime to the indigenous people: "That’s how it is planned. That we be given a little of everything, and so prize the little we have that we forget about freedom."
This is what the endless “peace process” looks like seen from Gaza, where we live under a four-year-old Israeli siege.  We pass the time struggling to survive, wondering if this is the day an air strike will take away our life, our loved ones or our home.
I spent six years in Johannesburg, where I got my PhD. That time makes me very aware of the similarities between Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa. I was inspired by how the world responded to apartheid in South Africa, particularly the United States considering that it was still dealing with its own history of racial discrimination and treatment of the indigenous population.
And I am disheartened by the lack of similar outrage toward Israeli policies. Rather than acknowledging the reality of Israeli apartheid, as Jimmy Carter bravely did in 2006, the United States appears to have implicitly accepted the creation of a type of Bantustan-based system in Palestine. 
Laws enacted during the South African apartheid system have corresponding laws in Israel. Currently, in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Jews and Palestinians are treated very differently when it comes to housing, education, and legal and administrative systems.  Palestinians face widespread discrimination, much of it “legal.”
The option of an independent Palestinian state has become impossible for several reasons, including Israel’s transformation of settlements into cities, the apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, the expansion of Greater Jerusalem while simultaneously “cleansing” its Palestinian inhabitants, and turning Gaza into the largest detention center on the face of the earth. Despite the fact that we can now eat chocolate because Israel “eased” the siege following its deadly assault on the humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza in May, there is almost no freedom of movement for people and goods. Gaza remains a prison.
This reality appears lost on the Obama Administration, which continues its attempts to revive a moribund “peace process” based on the Oslo Accords. Although the two-state solution is the prevailing political discourse in the United States, Europe, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it is undermined daily by Israeli policies.
None of the players, who have invested so much time, effort and money into the peace process are willing to admit what is obvious to everyone here on the ground: The two-state solution is dead.  Instead, they continue with the charade of negotiations, what I call the “Oslo virus.”  To do otherwise would force them to acknowledge that Israel is an apartheid state, one which they support politically, financially and militarily.
For the competing Palestinian authorities led by Fatah in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza, the Oslo virus creates a false consciousness that transforms the struggle for liberation, the return of refugees, human rights and full equality, into a struggle for “independence" with limited sovereignty: a flag, a national anthem, and a small piece of land on which to exercise municipal sovereignty and establish ministries. All of this is achieved with the permission of the occupier and its benefactors — and can be taken away at their whim.
In spite of perceptions in the United States and Europe, even the Islamist opposition works within the framework of the two-state solution. Its alternative is a long-term truce that would effectively shelve a struggle for the rights of the refugees for 10 or 20 years without achieving sovereignty for a Palestinian state.
The Oslo virus has reduced the Palestinian struggle for liberation to a struggle for Bantustans. The concept of statehood is being fetishized at the expense of true liberation and justice. This is not what the Palestinian people aspire to, the majority of whom are refugees guaranteed the right of return under international law.
In Ndebele’s story, a black revolutionary intellectual says that "[he’d] rather be a hungry dog that runs freely in the streets, than a fat, chained dog burdened with itself and the weight of the chain." There was no potential for coexistence with apartheid in South Africa. Americans, Europeans, Palestinians and Israelis must accept no less in Israel-Palestine.
– Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He contributed this article to

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