‘Edward Said’s critique was important in the years after Oslo’

Israel/Palestine
on 39 Comments

Ali Abunimah follows up on post recalling his comment that he had been upset when he learned of the signing of the Oslo accords, in 1993:

That’s accurate! What I would have told you is the accords were signed on the day I was driving from NJ to Chicago (to move there), and I was driving alone listening to it all on the radio (and then watching it on CNN at a motel) and very upset — as were many Palestinians of course whose voices were subsequently silenced by the strictly-enforced feel-good narrative. After that if you didn’t support Oslo you were an Enemy of Peace. Oslo demoralized and demobilized Palestinians, split them, froze out the diaspora and made it much much harder to advocate for our rights. All this for a "state" we saw then would never come, despite the slogans and promises. Edward Said’s critique was extremely important to me in the years right after Oslo. His articles and books chronicling its failures and betrayals were among the few voices we had access to (remember the Internet as we know it today did not quite exist) and his critique was really formative for me (which is why it was also excluded from the mainstream). Everything else followed from there.

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39 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    August 11, 2010, 12:37 pm

    Is the present better?

    Is the immediate future likely better?

    Is a subsequent war better?

    What specifically do you want? What is your personal criteria for a successful outcome (not the form of it, but how you know)?

    I’ve written to you that I was personally confused as to whether you were an advocate for democracy (as implied in a single-state solution), or you were an advocate for Palestinian nationalism in some form.

    It is the same conundrum as is presented as the contradiction between Zionism and democracy, which I describe as a natural tension.

    A list of what can’t happen, doesn’t necessarily add up to anything happening. Your proposals may also be among the list of things that are impossible.

    If your voice and Ed Said’s voice turned out to have been instrumental in stopping something even relatively good from happening, would you acknowledge that?

    • syvanen
      August 11, 2010, 3:11 pm

      RW seems to suggest with:
      If your voice and Ed Said’s voice turned out to have been instrumental in stopping something even relatively good from happening,
      that Said is responsible for the failure of the Oslo process. Egad, RW, you can’t be that dense. What killed the process was the continued expansion of the WB settlements. Can’t you get that through your thick skull. What killed the process is that Israel wanted the land and water more than she wanted a just peace with the Palestinians.

    • Citizen
      August 11, 2010, 3:58 pm

      Is the present better? No, the illegal settlements have expanded greatly since 1993.

      Is the immediate future likely better? No, they are still expanding.

      Is a subsequent war better? Better than what? Slow erasure?

      • Richard Witty
        August 11, 2010, 4:39 pm

        You guys know well that multiple events distracted Oslo.

        Rabin’s assassination
        Goldstein mass murders at Hebron
        Initiation of terror bombing of civilians
        Expansion of settlements
        Civil war between Hamas and Fatah

        Don’t be overly simplistic.

        Which could Abunimeh or Said have influenced? Certainly, impressions on the Arab street. Said was listened to. If he had said, “Oslo has possibilities IF these feasible additional features were incorporated”. And not just in words, but in his backbone.

        Would the outcome have been different, likely at least in nuances, in teetering points.

      • Chaos4700
        August 11, 2010, 8:58 pm

        Witty, Israel NEVER adhered to the Oslo agreement. Not even for a second.

        Oslo never actually happened.

    • eljay
      August 11, 2010, 7:25 pm

      >> If your voice and Ed Said’s voice turned out to have been instrumental in stopping something even relatively good from happening, would you acknowledge that?

      Even IF Mr. Said was responsible for killing Oslo, you yourself have stated that past wrongs should not be righted because nothing is gained by doing so. With that being said, stop focusing on the past and work to convince Israel to do its par to make a “better wheel”. Start by insisting that Israel END THE OCCUPATION! That’s a good one. And then STOP STEALING LAND AND DESTROYING HOMES! And stop building illegal settlements, and lift the punitive blockade on Gaza, and respect the democratic will of Palestinians and engage in sincere talks with the democratically-elected government of the Palestinians.

      Or – as you are wont to do – you could just blame everyone but Israel – that most “generation to generation” fear-scarred nation, and “Remember the Holocaust!”

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 12, 2010, 12:35 am

        But eljay…Occupation doesn’t need to end..It reforms…

    • Chaos4700
      August 11, 2010, 8:58 pm

      Do useless and distracting questions distract people from the real issue?

      No.

    • Sumud
      August 11, 2010, 10:49 pm

      Have you actually bothered to read Ali Abunimah’s book Richard? I suspect not since you’ve already written you often don’t even read the articles Phil & Adam post, skipping to the comments so you can get in first. And of course, clicking on a linked source is haram for you ~ just too much damn effort when there’s disinformation to sow. I’ve corrected you mor ethan once asking stupid questions that are answered in linked sources.
      What’s with the meme about Said and now Ali Abunimah being responsible for the failure of Oslo? Netanyahu is on record saying he destroyed Oslo. I guess clicking on that particular video was also too strenuous for you..

      • Richard Witty
        August 13, 2010, 4:39 am

        I read one-state over two years ago, and have attempted to correspond with Ali Abunimeh on many occassions. He dismisses my comments as “hasbara”.

        The arguments and contradictions in his argument and combination of efforts don’t disappear magically though.

    • MRW
      August 11, 2010, 11:38 pm

      Witty, you’re like Don Quixote twirling on a one-legged horse enamored with the sound of your own voice but saying nothing. A list of what can’t happen, doesn’t necessarily add up to anything happening. Your proposals may also be among the list of things that are impossible.

      You’re just butt-f**k missing a few screws, Witty.

      • RoHa
        August 11, 2010, 11:46 pm

        Don’t insult Don Quixote. He was a defender of the weak against injustice and oppression. Total loony, but not an ounce of malice, cruelty, or selfishness in the man.

      • MRW
        August 12, 2010, 12:01 am

        I apologize, RoHa, for any slight meant to Don Quixote, or Cervantes, for that matter. I lie prostrate….

  2. syvanen
    August 11, 2010, 1:17 pm

    I recall Edward Said’s essays after Oslo and I am ashamed to say that I thought then he was just an unreasonable radical who was unwilling to compromise for peace. Damn, was he ever correct. He understood exactly what was happening. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I finally saw that the peace process was no more than a bribe to the PLO leadership to create a umbrella for settler expansion into the West Bank.

  3. Donald
    August 11, 2010, 1:36 pm

    I was like syvanen–in my case I also remember Chomsky expressing great skepticism about Oslo and thinking at the time that he and Said were probably just being too kneejerk in their pessimism. I was an idiot, of course.

  4. Richard Witty
    August 11, 2010, 1:53 pm

    link to lrb.co.uk

    Any other articles from 93 – 96 that we can review?

    • Citizen
      August 11, 2010, 3:53 pm

      Why not from 2002?
      link to counterpunch.org

      • Richard Witty
        August 11, 2010, 6:28 pm

        2002 is Sunday morning quarterbacking. 2002 is also in the heat of the Hamas suicide bombing.

        What did Said affect is the question? You repeat that he was prescient, just a witness, and not a protagonist.

      • Chaos4700
        August 11, 2010, 8:57 pm

        So you’ll point out Hamas suicide bombings but not IDF massacres that prompted them, huh?

      • Donald
        August 11, 2010, 10:08 pm

        “So you’ll point out Hamas suicide bombings but not IDF massacres that prompted them, huh?”

        From what I’ve seen of the liberal Zionist narrative, whether it comes from Obama or Friedman or Witty, it’s absolutely crucial for their case to ignore the fact that Israel kills far more civilians than Palestinian terror. That’s why it’s always settlements on the one hand vs. suicide bombers on the other. The word “settlement” just doesn’t have the same psychological impact as “terrorism” (“apartheid” does, but that’s why they avoid it). They can pretend to be critical of both sides, but they’re doing it in a way that makes Israel seem guilty of a little bit of greed, while the Palestinians are child killers. Friedman can prance around as a critic of Israel, when every word he writes screams “The Israelis are civilized like us–the Palestinians are barbarians, but I guess we shouldn’t mistreat them.”

        They absolutely can’t concede that Israel kills more, because their pretense that Israel has the moral high ground over the Palestinians depends on it. Obama and Friedman can dodge any serious questioning of their hypocrisy–Witty is confronted with it daily. And it’s very revealing seeing how he completely ignores the topic. He’s sort of a guinea pig here–what happens when a liberal Zionist of this sort is confronted with the fact that the IDF is the biggest terrorist group in the game? He pretends nothing was said.

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 11, 2010, 10:24 pm

        Spot on Donald..You nailed it..

      • Chaos4700
        August 11, 2010, 10:36 pm

        I agree, Donald. I know I sometimes give you a hard time (probably more than you deserve), but this is positively incisive. Thank you.

      • Donald
        August 11, 2010, 10:56 pm

        TGIA–

        Thanks.

        I first noticed this back in the 90′s, when a friend of mine echoed Madelaine Albright and the NYT when he said there was no moral equivalence between suicide bombing and the demolition of houses that the Israelis engage in. It hit me then how clever the rhetoric was. Israel had recently bombed some civilian refugees in Lebanon (Fisk reported on this), but that meant nothing to my friend, because he’d never heard about it. He didn’t know Israel tortured prisoners either. He thought that on the one hand Israel was maybe stealing some land and demolishing the homes of Palestinians, and on the other hand Palestinians were murdering children. And murder is worse than stealing. The liberal Zionist position pushed by people like Friedman and Obama counts on people thinking that this is an accurate description of the conflict, because it automatically biases the average misled American (like my friend) against the Palestinians.

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 12, 2010, 12:54 am

        “He thought that on the one hand Israel was maybe stealing some land and demolishing the homes of Palestinians, and on the other hand Palestinians were murdering children. ”

        Many do not understand those facts…That Palestinians can’t grab land, demolish homes or wage wars..They do not own Jets, helicopters, missiles and Merkavas to flatten whole neighbourhoods . They have no army to defend them. If any of these options were available to them they wouldn’t have resorted to the kind of actions they resorted to..Elementary logic that escape many because of the inherent ignorance of the dynamics of the conflict. Besides, somehow it just fits into their stereotypes and prejudices about the “violent Arab”.

      • hophmi
        August 12, 2010, 9:49 am

        I concede it: Israel kills more people. It has bigger weapons, a real army, and a real air force. Far more Afghanis have been killed by the Americans than Americans killed by Al-Qaeda on 9/11. Unfortunately, comparing casualty rates has little to do with anything here. If the Palestinians pulled off a mega-terrorist attack on the Azraeli Towers or something similar (and they have tried), the casualty rates would be closer. Same with the Americans. If a terrorist walked into Times Square and set off a suitcase nuke, the casualty rates would be closer.

        We know one thing: When a Palestinian walks into a pizza parlour or a discotech or a shopping area, or Seder, he walks in with one objective and one objective only – to kill as many civilians as possible. When an Israeli conducts a targeted killing, he tries to minimize civilian casualties. But there is a lot of collateral damage because that’s what happens in urban warfare. See Fallujah. So your facile equation of bodies = terrorism is nonsense, not a proof that Zionists practice hypocrisy.

      • hophmi
        August 12, 2010, 3:25 pm

        I concede it: Israel kills more people. It has bigger weapons, a real army, and a real air force. Far more Afghanis have been killed by the Americans than Americans killed by Al-Qaeda on 9/11. Unfortunately, comparing casualty rates has little to do with anything here. If the Palestinians pulled off a mega-terrorist attack on the Azraeli Towers or something similar (and they have tried), the casualty rates would be closer. Same with the Americans. If a terrorist walked into Times Square and set off a suitcase nuke, the casualty rates would be closer.

        We know one thing: When a Palestinian walks into a pizza parlour or a discotech or a shopping area, or Seder, he walks in with one objective and one objective only – to kill as many civilians as possible. When an Israeli conducts a targeted killing, he tries to minimize civilian casualties. But there is a lot of collateral damage because that’s what happens in urban warfare. See Fallujah. So your facile equation of bodies = terrorism is nonsense, not a proof that Zionists practice hypocrisy.

      • Richard Witty
        August 13, 2010, 4:45 am

        Actually your wrong about the liberal Zionist perspective ignoring.

        The NUT of the liberal Zionist argument includes two features morally:

        1. Jews have a current right to self-govern, to constitute a current majority in Israel, and therefore a right to defend their state from state violence and terror. (Not subject to compromise. Definitely the manner of defense is subject to criticism)
        2. Israel has an obligation to conduct its policies as kindly as possible. (Definitely subject to criticism)

        If you accept the above two, then we are in agreement. If you don’t accept the above two, then you are in the zone of questioning Israel’s existence, and we are opponents in that.

        If Israel chose to unify with Palestine at a later date, that would be consent of the governed, rather than some revolutionary imposition.

    • MRW
      August 11, 2010, 11:40 pm

      Any other articles from 93 – 96 that we can review?

      It’s a lot easier to read Daniel Levy who was actually there during the Oslo Accords, and would call the filigree of your thought off-the-wall.

  5. lareineblanche
    August 11, 2010, 7:12 pm

    Thanks, Edward.

    You have to start around 10:30 to catch the beginning of his speech.

    “In our work and planning and discussions, our main principle is that separation between peoples, war between peoples, is not a solution for any of the problems that divide them ; and certainly, ignorance of the other provides no help whatever. Cooperation and coexistence of the kind that music, lived as we have lived, performed, shared, and loved it together, might be. I, for one, am full of optimism, despite the darkening sky and the seemingly hopeless situation, for the time being, that encloses us all”.

  6. hophmi
    August 11, 2010, 8:41 pm

    Many Jews felt the same way. They could not understand how Israel could make a deal with an arch-terrorist like Arafat.

    • Chaos4700
      August 11, 2010, 8:55 pm

      No, many ISRAELIS felt that way. Stop using the world Jewish as your personal human shield. It’s — dare I say — anti-Semitic on your part.

      • hophmi
        August 12, 2010, 9:38 am

        Uh, no. Many Jews felt that way. I am from such a community. And many Jews felt Oslo was a wonderful thing. I myself was torn. I was happy about the Oslo agreement and unhappy that it was made with Yasir Arafat. Israelis were also divided on Oslo. Some thought it was good, some bad. Palestinians were also divided on Oslo.

        “Stop using the world Jewish as your personal human shield.”

        I have no idea how remarking that many Jews help a certain way is using the Jewish community as a personal human shield.

      • hophmi
        August 12, 2010, 3:25 pm

        Uh, no. Many Jews felt that way. I am from such a community. And many Jews felt Oslo was a wonderful thing. I myself was torn. I was happy about the Oslo agreement and unhappy that it was made with Yasir Arafat. Israelis were also divided on Oslo. Some thought it was good, some bad. Palestinians were also divided on Oslo.

        “Stop using the world Jewish as your personal human shield.”

        I have no idea how remarking that many Jews help a certain way is using the Jewish community as a personal human shield.

    • thankgodimatheist
      August 11, 2010, 9:13 pm

      Sadat cut a deal with a terrorist called Begin..What’s the big deal?

      • MRW
        August 11, 2010, 11:33 pm

        Thumbs up TGIA.

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 12, 2010, 12:58 am

        Thanks MRW..I could see the glasshouse shining from afar..

      • hophmi
        August 12, 2010, 9:40 am

        Yeah, you keep saying stupid stuff like that. The deal was cut in 1979, long after Begin’s terrorist days and Sadat’s Nazi days. Yasir Arafat, unlike Begin, never truly gave up terrorism. Listen, the proof is in the pudding. The Camp David Accords have so far worked well, even if the peace is cold. Oslo has not, unfortunately.

  7. hophmi
    August 12, 2010, 3:26 pm

    Yeah, you keep saying stupid stuff like that. The deal was cut in 1979, long after Begin’s terrorist days and Sadat’s Nazi days. Yasir Arafat, unlike Begin, never truly gave up terrorism. Listen, the proof is in the pudding. The Camp David Accords have so far worked well, even if the peace is cold. Oslo has not, unfortunately.

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