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The Problem of the 'Palestinian Cause' Is Much Deeper Than Oslo

The Problem of the 'Palestinian Cause' Is Much Deeper Than Oslo

Monday, 10 February, 2020 - 08:45

Placing the responsibility for the “deal of the century” on the 1993 Oslo Agreement has become a trendy critique. This kind of critique is reflective of narrow horizons for some and bad intentions for others.

Oslo deserves to be revised and criticized, but responsibilities should be distributed fairly. In fact, most of the responsibility falls on the objective position in the regional and international balance of power that the Palestinian cause had: an unjust position for the oppressed Palestinians. This, by the way, is not a Palestinian exception; it applies to Kurds’ situation with differences to details.

The objective position of the Palestinian cause is the primary source, though Palestinian misery was exacerbated by Palestinian and Arab policies, bad luck and the world’s disregard, either because of its complicity with the occupiers or its inability to deter them. Oslo is a contingent detail within a wider context.

Discussing this objectively week position of the Palestinian question has been silenced for a very long time. Every Palestinian faction wanted to concentrate on subjective rather than objective factors in order to accuse the other. However, silence had had the upper hand as a result of removing the Palestinian question from the spheres of politics and public debate to the sphere of divinity, and divinities are not debated. The reasons for this tendency extended from the voluntarism of the masses during the Arab Nationalist phase, which insisted on 'liberating Palestine', to the perpetual hypocrisy of the regimes which insisted also on the same liberation: thus, we arrived at a single popular-official consensual narrative that wants 'liberation' and doesn’t debate it.

The problem that was silenced starts in the forties: most of the countries of the Levant became independent then, and Israel emerged. It seemed to resemble a single historical process whose unity no one wanted to see. Overlooking this contradiction was possible in the fifties and most of the sixties when it appeared that Nasser would liberate Palestine, without any concussive impact on Arab societies. The issue was merely one of waiting for liberation while the rest of the Arabs could carry on with their lives as per usual.

In parallel, the sanctity of the Palestinian cause grew to resemble religion, something that the ruler cannot silence. This in turn strengthened verbal divinity at the expense of the political.

As the Palestinians took matters into their own hands and established their own organizations after Nasser’s defeat in 67, the accommodation seemed impossible. For the communities that surrounded Palestine arranged their lives on the basis that their new states were final. They could speak as much as they wanted about “wars of destiny” but never waged them. As a consequence of the twisted nature of our nation-states and the civil fissures inside them, a broad “party” that included the deceptive ruler and the deceived subject emerged: the deceiver promises liberation and the deceived, who are not allowed to demand anything else, demands it. However, what the vast majority of those making the demand for liberation wanted was to improve their own negotiating position within their new societies, allowing it to serve their living conditions and bargaining power. Hezbollah presents a belated glaring example: we take up arms under the pretext of fighting Israel and by our guns we improve the position of “our religious sect”.

The strongest blow was delivered by the strongest state, the one that had previously been depended on for liberation: Sadat’s Egypt. Lebanon tried to join in 1983 and was not allowed to despite the fact that what was attempted was less than a peace agreement. The Palestinians themselves demanded a “state” that could coexist with Israel, and they got the framework for it in 1993. A year later, Jordan followed suit.

Until today, it remains evident that states do not achieve complete sovereignty, regardless of how we see this sovereignty, without making some kind of arrangement with Israel: the small country that is afraid of a neighbor like Iran, the country that does not want to be mentioned on terrorism lists and the country that wants to achieve international recognition of its possession of disputed land… all of them, at various speeds, are opting out of "the "Middle Eastern conflict”.

This is what happened with the formation of Arab nation-states and their consolidation. With the nations’ disintegration, things became worse: the early omens, in the wars in Jordan and Lebanon in 1970 and 1975 respectively, were terribly indicative: the two wars were linked to the "right" to resist Israel; instead, they split two Arab countries and resulted in the expulsion of the Palestinian resistance from them.

As the states and societies broke down, the issue of “identity” eclipsed the issue of “liberation”. “Identity” is accompanied by a demographic apprehension shared by all the communities in the Arab world regarding the numerical increase of other communities, making the realization of the “right of return” much less likely. The Jews of Israel can now invoke the fears that they heard repeated in most of the region and by most of its minorities, and those with most hardline religious and ethnic views among them did not need any justifications in the first place.

The major catastrophe has been the waves of displacement of millions of people in recent years. Human suffering and its symbolisms have, to a large extent, become common and generalized. The Syrian writer Firas Haj Yehia wrote: “In one month, one million people were recorded to have been displaced from their homes and lands to the unknown, in what was the 21st century’s largest wave of human displacement, as the Russian-Assadist alliance pursued a scorched earth policy, destroying stones, people, and trees. The humanitarian response teams in Idlib issued a wordless statement on the number of displaced people and refugees. For numbers have lost their value, and statistics will not change reality after the world decided to turn deaf ears and blind eyes on Idlib and its people."

Many of those displaced also have their keys tied around their necks with hopes of one day returning to the homes that they were expelled from. This is not one of the consequences of Oslo.

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