a day of mourning

If I had the energy, time, or ability I would organize try to encourage and help people here in Palestine to organize a nation-wide march, with everyone dressed in black, and carrying symbolic coffins. We would march from Jenin to Khalil in this fantasy (although if it is really a fantasy we could march to Gaza…or Akka…) and we would do this to publicly mourn the war process that has been the last 15 years of Oslo’s so-called “peace process.” Because today is the 15 year anniversary of that horrific day. In fact, when he refused to attend the ceremony at he White House, Edward Said remarked that “for all Palestinians September 13 ought to be a day of mourning” (Peace and Its Discontents xxix).

It is understandable why Americans would continue to call Oslo or the Road Map or Annapolis a “peace process,” because the media is so horribly incompetent or racist or both in the U.S. Take this report from If Americans Knew.org: “Off the Charts: Accuracy in Reporting of Israel/Palestine The New York Times,” which details precisely how skewed the reporting is, particularly when it comes to Palestinian deaths as compared to Israeli deaths. But this is not the only reason why Oslo has been an unending war that has accelerated Palestinian death and suffering in every possible way. Consider what Edward Said wrote about Oslo in Peace and its Discontents in 1996:

For the firs time in our history our leadership had simply given up on self-determination, Jerusalem, and the refugees, allowing them to become part of an undetermined set of ‘final status negotiations.’ For the first time in our recent past, we accepted the division of our people–whose unity we had fought for as a nation movement since 1948–into residents of the Occupied Territories and all the others, who happen today to constitute over 55 percent of the Palestinian population; they exist in another, lesser category not covered by the peace process. For the first time in the twentieth century, an anticolonial liberation movement had not only discarded its own considerable achievements but made an agreement to cooperate with a military occupation before that occupation had ended, and before even the government of Israel had admitted that it was in effect a government of military occupation. (xxix; emphasis mine)

Indeed many of the things that Said wrote in the 1990s turned about to be quite accurate premonitions. Consider this important comparison with Mandela and the ANC in South Africa:

The PLO will thus become Israel’s enforcer, an unhappy prospect for most Palestinians. Interestingly, even after it won political recognition, the ANC always refused to supply the South African government with police officials until after power was shared, precisely in order to avoid appearing as the white government’s enforcer. (12)

Re-reading Said’s words the past few days has been a helpful reminder of several curious things to me. First, it is sobering to see cataloged all of the egregious violations Yasir Arafat participated in at the expense of his people–the most important and enduring one, unfortunately, has been his (and his predecessors) refusal to put the right of return at the top of the negotiating list. And yet when I see his face plastered about Palestine I always wonder: why? I mean, we’re not in Jordan; one is not obligated to place photographs of Arafat everywhere. And fortunately there is enough variety that one can see various leaders, including PFLP leaders, around Palestine. But when he wholesale sold Palestinian rights down the river, why do people honor him and still have so much affection for him? It is really something that I have such difficulty grasping. So too is the subject of Bill Clinton. Many people in Palestine are under the delusion that somehow Clinton was good for them (by extension they believe any democrat will be helpful and thus want Barack Obama to win the election). But here is just one example from Said of what Clinton did with respect to Palestine:

…whenever he was challenged from the right, Clinton moved to the right. That was certainly the case in the Middle East, where he went along with everything the Israeli lobby–which effectively directs U.S. policy–has wanted. He changed the United States position on Israeli settlements, for example, no longer holding to the line taken by every other president before him, that the settlements were an obstacle to peace. He has made no comment about the concrete deterioration of Palestinian life as a result of Israeli military occupation policy. No president has been as Zionist as he. (114; emphasis mine)

And here is an example why all who were involved in Oslo–from whatever side–participated in something reprehensible, but especially those who sold their own people out and managed to dupe them in the process:

Because Palestinian leaders were concerned mainly about themselves, because so many Arab and Palestinian intellectuals (especially those who speak loftily of pragmatism, the New World Order, and “the peace process”) have capitulated morally and intellectually, we find ourselves int he middle of peace negotiations that never raise the obvious and fundamental questions. Has Israel changed or is there still a basic conflict of interests between Arabs and Israelis? What does it mean to make peace with a state that is still the only country in the world with no internationally declared boundaries? What does it mean to make peace with a state that has declared itself the state of “the Jewish people wherever they are” and that is not the state of its citizens and inhabitants? And as [Israel] Shahak has so tirelessly shown, what does it mean to make peace with a state governed by profoundly ideological laws of a fundamentally religious cast, laws that make no secret of the fact that non-Jews are in every respect inferior to Jews? (130-131; emphasis mine)

It seems, for instance, so much has been sold out, including history–and one look at Palestinian textbooks and it is quite obvious how little Palestinian history people know here (contrary to Hilary Rodham Clinton and her illegal Israeli settler friends). On the danger of forgetting one’s history, especially in the context of Oslo, Said has this to say:

The U.S. and Israeli line has it that all parties to the Palestinian-Zionist struggle must not dwell on the past since, as some liberal Israelis have put it, it has been a struggle between right and right. This of course is the biggest distortion of all and has been a central pillar of belief in the tactics of Peace Now and the so-called moderate Laborites. I fail to see how we are supposed to equate the “right” of a largely European people to come to Palestine, pretend it was empty of inhabitants, conquer it by force, and drive out 70 percent of its inhabitants, with the right of the native people of Palestine to resist these actions and try to remain on their land. It is a grotesque notion to suggest parity in such a situation and then also to ask the victims to forget about their past and plan to live together as inferior citizens with their conquerors. The proposition is especially galling since it comes from a movement that claims quite openly never to have forgotten its own history of persecution, and indeed allows itself every crime against the Palestinian people because it says it is living it he shadow of past persecutions. (132)

The above is an excellent series of examples of why Israel should be isolated as a pariah state and states should follow Lebanon’s example and not normalize relations with them under any circumstances. It is also a reminder of how hypocritical Zionists are and it is also a great example of Jewish supremacy: it is very clear that when it comes to Jewish suffering that cannot be forgotten, but Palestinians (or anyone else for that matter–depending on whether or not it is run by the US Holocaust Museum first) should forget their past suffering.

But in fact Palestinians have the moral ground, they have the truth on their side (one of my favorite lines in Annemarie Jacir’s new film The Salt of This Sea is when Soraya [Suheir Hammad] says “all we have is the truth”). And the truth bears out that there are many more reasons to mourn Oslo as the war process it has been. I spent the last couple of days trying to compile statistics on how many Palestinians have been murdered and massacred since 1993; how many have been assassinated; how many homes have been demolished; how many political prisoners have been kidnapped; how much land has been confiscated; how much illegal settlements have expanded. My statistics have been cobbled together as best I could given the fact that there are some years with no statistics available and sometimes they are grouped by first intifada and second intifada with little room to flesh out what happened in between (Oslo should also be mourned for the way it killed the first intifada).

Since 1993 there have been at least 5,267 Palestinians murdered by Israeli settlers and Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF). Additionally, there have been 971 Palestinian children killed by the ITF and Israeli settlers since 2000. 3,706 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the ITF since September 2000 alone; there have been 36,033 related deaths and injuries due to the ITF (B’tselem; DCI; Palestine Monitor; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights)

Additionally, since 2000 at least 731 Palestinians have died as a result of ITF’s practice of “targeted assassinations.” (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)

Since 1993 there have been at least 39,460 Palestinians who have been held in administrative detention. Administrative detention refers to the detention of individuals without charge or trial, and is authorized by administrative order as opposed to judicial decree. At present there are approximately 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including 104 women and 375 children. Between 2001-2008 at least 8,805 children have been kidnapped and placed in ITF prisons or administrative detention centers. (Palestine Monitor; B’tselem; DCI)

Since 1993 in the West Bank at least 589 Palestinian homes have been demolished as a form of collective punishment for families who have family members accused of a “crime” by the ITF; since 2000 alone 2,958 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Gaza Strip. From 2003-2008 at least 13,168 Palestinians have been rendered homeless as a result of ITF house demolitions. Additionally, in the West Bank since 1993 at least 1,307 Palestinian homes were demolished because the family did not have a building permit from the ITF. As a result at least 622 people were left homeless. In Jerusalem at least 1,180 Palestinian homes were demolished because the family did not have a building permit, which is nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinian families. In Jerusalem between 2004-2008 alone at least 1,135 Palestinians were rendered homeless as a result. (B’tselem; Palestinian Center for Human Rights)

Since 1993 at least 5,153 Palestinians from and living in Jerusalem have had their residency permits revoked meaning that they are no longer allowed inside Jerusalem, inside their own homes. (B’tselem)

Between 1993-2007 the illegal Israeli settlement population increased from 114,900 to 275,156. 76% of these illegal settlers live in 48 illegal settlements that are on the west side of the Apartheid Wall and the remaining live in the 74 illegal settlements lie to the east. Additionally, the West Bank houses 105 unauthorized illegal “outposts,” which are temporary mobile trailer parks that are at the beginning stages of becoming new illegal settlements. (Passia)

The illegal settlements were in the news this last week in particular because they doubled in size last year:

The construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, seen as a major barrier to US-backed peace talks, has nearly doubled since 2007, an Israeli watchdog said Tuesday.

In a report published during the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the settlement watchdog Peace Now said settlement building in the first half of 2008 was double that in the same period last year.

But it is also massacres of the past, a recent past that includes the time since/during Oslo’s so-called “peace process.” One massacre happened in Jenin at the hands of the ITF:

A senior Palestinian, Nabil Shaath, accused Israel of carrying out summary executions and removing corpses in refrigerated trucks. He said close to 500 people had been killed. Israel says 70 Palestinian fighters died in the fighting. “The Israeli army took six days to complete its massacre in Jenin and six days to clean it up,” Mr Shaath said.

Another massacre that happened in Khalil at the hands of an illegal Israeli settler:

In 1994 on Purim, Goldstein stormed a mosque and fired on praying Muslims in the West Bank city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs – a shrine sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Twenty-nine people died in the attack, and the angry crowd lynched Goldstein in retaliation.

Israeli extremists continue to pay homage at his grave in the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where a marble plaque reads: “To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel.”

Or consider this very recent news about Palestinian deaths at the hands of the ITF:

The death toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis has soared 100 percent since the U.S. sponsored November peace talks in Annapolis, according to Palestinian political leader Mustafa Barghouti.

The former Palestinian information minister and head of the Palestinian National Initiative political movement backed up his claim with data showing that the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed last year was the most unbalanced ever, at 40:1, up from 30:1 in 2006 and 4:1 from 2000-2005.

This is only a glimpse of what Oslo has had to offer. It is grim; it has been a long, debilitating war that has had many consequences that cannot even be accounted for in numbers. Most notably, the utter failure of those negotiating to deal with the right of return for Palestinian refugees. All of them. And reparations for those who choose not to return. But then again really negotiations are in appropriate. I mean, would the world have expected Jews to sit down and negotiate with the Nazis?


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