ON EDWARD SAID'S THE MIRAGE OF OSLO
by Ronald Bleier (email@example.com)
Edward Said is to be applauded for pointing out that the Oslo II Accords signed at the White House on September 28, '95, gave "official Palestinian consent to continued occupation" ("The Mirage of Peace," The Nation, October 16, 1995). As Said writes, the great tragedy of the Palestinian people is that they have "been under such comprehensive assault -- not only by Israel (with its patron and collaborator the United States) but also by the Arab governments and, since Oslo, by the PLO under Arafat."
Said is correct to point to the cancer of the 450 Jewish settlers in Hebron. It's as if an encampment of riotous skinheads were placed in the middle of an Indian reservation. As Israel Shahak, the noted Israeli human rights advocate has pointed out, the settlers in the occupied territories exist as an arm of the Israeli government in order to make life impossible for the Palestinians.
Said courageously points to the "role played in all this by liberal Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike." The great misfortune of the Palestinians, as Said has previously written, is that they happen to have Jews, victims themselves, as overlords. Because the struggle happens to be between Jews and Arabs, it has been easier to veil the truth of Israeli oppression behind the dominant perception in the West of Arab countries as undemocratic and anti-feminist. Lost in this picture is the driving role that Israel has played in diverting resources towards war and away from peaceful development which might have allowed progressive reforms in the Arab countries.
Ultimately the 5.5 million Israelis and the more than two million Palestinians are contending for the same land. Israelis behave as if any movement towards equal rights for Palestinians means a retreat for them. That is why, after each step in the Oslo process, Israeli leaders are quick to reassure their public that nothing of substance has been given up. And that is why the Israelis move quickly to suppress any sign of an effective Palestinian leadership since they wish no challenge to their policy of land confiscation and land alienation. That explains why in 1988 the Israelis deported Mubarak Awad, a leader in the non-violent struggle for Palestinian rights, and why to this day they will only allow him brief returns to Palestine and to Jerusalem, the city of his birth.
Said concludes that the "two communities must be seen as equal to each other in rights and expectations" and that the Palestinians must find a way to rethink the Oslo process and put it on a "fairer course." It seems to me that it's time for the Palestinians to demand equality in a unified state of Palestine/Israel. In that way they might resume the struggle for their freedom with more leverage and with more hope.