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‘Oslo sold us out’: Young Palestinians on the moment that shaped their generation

Israel/Palestine
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In September 1993 the world celebrated what it thought was the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo Accords was supposed to lead to a “comprehensive peace agreement” by 1999, and eventually, a Palestinian state, with the then newly-founded Palestinian Authority (PA) serving as an interim self-government.

Twenty-five years after Oslo, the PA remains in power, and a fair and just peace agreement for the Palestinians remains far out of reach. The dream of an independent Palestinian state even further.

Mondoweiss spoke with two young Palestinians, from the so-called “Oslo generation,” as they looked back at the fateful day 25 years ago that has shaped their lives in more ways than could have been imagined.

‘The people had no say’

“What does Oslo mean to me? For me, Oslo means that the Palestinian people did not get to decide their fate as a whole.”

The words of Yasmin Abu Shakdim, a 22-year-old Sociology student from the city of Hebron, are expressive of a sentiment held by many Palestinian youth.

Yasmin Abu Shakdim, 22 (Photo courtesy of Yasmin Abu Shakdim)

The Oslo Accords signified, as Abu Shakdim put it, “a decision made by a few members of the Palestinian elite” that did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people.

“The whole idea of Oslo is giving the elite Palestinians the power to control a few areas in the West Bank,” she said, “it was created to have shared benefits between the Israelis and a few Palestinians. A few Palestinians got positions of power, and Israel consolidated its control over us.”

Meras al-Azza, a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee living in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, expressed similar sentiments to Mondoweiss as he sat in his family’s modest courtyard.

“They sold out the Palestinian people,” he said matter of factly, when asked what he thought of the Accords. “Oslo was a great deal for Israel, and Israel alone.”

“Oslo signified the Palestinians giving up the rights to all the lands of pre-1948 Palestine to Israel. That’s two-thirds of our historic lands,” al-Azza, a third generation refugee, said.

Meras al-Azza, 25 (Yumna Patel)

One of the biggest faults of Oslo for both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim was the premise on which the Accords were signed.

“Oslo did not change anything except for the worse,” Abu Shakdim told Mondoweiss.

“The negotiators, the few that they were, they did not negotiate on the basis that Israel is an occupier or colonizer,” she continued. “They negotiated as if it was just there and we have to accept it, that Israel is a reality that we cannot change. It normalized the occupation in every way.”

“It was only Fatah that went to the negotiations, and they did not represent all the people,” al-Azza said. “It was shameful for the Palestinians to take this deal.”

“They gave up all of our land against the will of the Palestinian people.”

Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained occupied, swaths of land — more than 60% of the West Bank — were transferred into full Israeli control as “Area C”, and within a few years, the Second Intifada broke out, and Gaza was put under Israeli land, air, and sea blockade.

Today, the 26-foot-tall separation wall continues to be built, and military watchtowers continue to spring up across the territory.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli settlement activity has continued unhampered, with the number of settlers increasing from 110,000 on the eve of the Accords in 1993 to an estimated 550-600,000 settlers living in the occupied territory today.

Both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim criticized the decision makers of Oslo, many of whom, remain in power today.

“Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) had started to rise to the center of power in Fatah around the time of Oslo, and he was one of the major decision makers in the negotiations,” al-Azza said.

“As a result of Oslo, we were given these leaders controlling us, leaders that we did not choose,” Abu Shakdim said. “They didn’t ask the Palestinian people if we should negotiate or not, or what points should we negotiate on.”

She continued: “The Palestinian people had no rights in those accords, but they are still deciding our fate today. Legally, these accords should be null and void.”

‘We have two occupations’

Over the past few years, resentment among Palestinians, particularly youth, towards the PA has grown significantly.

What was supposed to be a temporary government according to the Oslo Accords, has developed into despotic regime, focused more on quashing dissent and policing free speech than achieving liberation and statehood.

The government has become increasingly authoritarian, putting forward controversial decrees like the Cyber Crimes Law, which calls for the imprisonment of anyone found posting things online that disturb “social harmony.”

Earlier this summer, PA forces violently suppressed youth-led protests that criticized the government’s policies in Gaza and its security coordination with Israel.

“We have two occupations, the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority,” al-Azza said. “Anyone that tries to resist or get involved in politics will be arrested by either the PA or by Israeli security forces as part of their coordination. This is a result of Oslo.”

“The PA has not really given Palestinians any authority,” Abu Shakdim said. “we just have these other people controlling things for us.”

“Oslo created a whole new level in Palestinian society — that is a new elite, the people in power — that is benefiting from the existence of Israel,” she continued.

In their conversations with Mondoweiss, both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim pointed to the current form of the PA as one of the worst outcomes of Oslo.

One of the arguments they made, was that as a result of Oslo and the PA, the Palestinian people have been subconsciously forced into a dependency on the government in every aspect of life, making it nearly impossible for people to rise up against the regime.

“Before Oslo, it was popular to do everything you can to go out and fight and resist,” Abu Shakdim said, as she discussed the PA’s role in creating a culture of complacency amongst the population.

“As young people, when we discuss these things we always mention how we are so sick of our leaders and so sick of our Palestinian decision makers,” she said. “But we also know the Authority is responsible for the survival of so many Palestinian families.”

“So many people, young and old, are employed by this Authority. In ministries, as security forces, etc. So do we expect them to go against the government?” she asked.

“The way I see it, is that this PA is planting their seeds. They are basically paying people to not revolt against them. So everything stays the way they planned it from 25 years ago.”

Al-Azza says he has been offered on multiple occasions to work with the PA, but has refused.

“I refuse to have any part in the PA. People that are in the PA now only care about protecting the position they hold, and have stopped caring about Palestinian liberation,” he said.

“The PA is part of this control over peoples minds. By giving us this fake government, and making us feel like we had power, Oslo made many Palestinians forget about their morals and their beliefs about the Palestinian cause,” al-Azza continued.

“People used to care about the land and the resistance before Oslo,” he said, as he recounted stories told to him by his father, a former political prisoner in Israel.

“Now, everyone is worried about their next paycheck, how they can put food on the table, how they can educate or provide healthcare for their kids.”

An impossible future

When posed with the question “What do you envision for the future?” both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim couldn’t help but laugh.

They have been asked this question, or some variation of it, countless times before. Yet when faced with it again, they remained unhopeful.

“What I see, with the current situation that we’re living in, there is no future,” al-Azza said.

“For 25 years, the Israelis, with the help of the PA, have made people feel that they have lost their rights and their traditions that they used to live for once upon a time. In my point of view, I see there is no future if we continue on the past we have been on for the past quarter century.”

Abu Shakdim’s sentiments echoed those of al-Azza. “As young people, even if we want to set our own path, or create new opportunities, we are blocked at every turn, controlled by the Israeli occupation,” she said.

“How can we take charge of our own lives when Israel continues to control all of our resources?”

For Abu Shakdim, a Two-State solution is totally out of the question.

“How can two states be possible if one state is controlling the authority of the other state?” she asked.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic but what I hope to happen, what I think the best solution is, is a One-State solution. A single, democratic, secular state for all people who do not support zionism and Jewish supremacy, or the supremacy of any one group over another.”

For al-Azza, before any solution or so-called peace negotiations are put into place, there is hard work that needs to be done within his generation, and the new generation of Palestinian children.

“If I want to make a new plan for the future, we have to work with the new generation to instill in  them their culture and traditions, and a desire for liberation, for freedom, and for returning to their lands of 1948,” he said.

“If I were to put forward a strategy, I say we should help build and shape a new generation of Palestinians that think the way people did before Oslo: That we are a people that want freedom. Nothing less.”

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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18 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    September 19, 2018, 8:10 am

    … “How can two states be possible if one state is controlling the authority of the other state?” she asked. …

    How can one state be possible if one group controls the other?

    … “I don’t know if it’s realistic but what I hope to happen, what I think the best solution is, is a One-State solution. A single, democratic, secular state for all people who do not support zionism and Jewish supremacy, or the supremacy of any one group over another.” …

    IMO, a two-state solution is just as possible as a one-state solution if the parties involved are willing to make it happen. Either solution must comprise:
    – equality;
    – secularism and democracy;
    – respect for international law (incl. RoR) and human rights;
    – reparations and accountability for past and on-going (war) crimes committed.

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      September 19, 2018, 10:50 am

      The original partion plan (2 states) was doomed to failure from the start (sort of like an original Oslo).
      Can you name other “countries” that exist in three islands within the borders of another?
      Since then, the map looks as if a blast of buckshot has defined innumerable new islands…each with defended borders.
      But I suppose if 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their land, it is possible to drive 600,000 settlers off their hilltop squats.

  2. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    September 19, 2018, 12:59 pm

    The PA are not even vaguely in power.

  3. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    September 19, 2018, 3:17 pm

    Oslo was begun in good faith. The Norwegians trusted Israel. Never trust a junkie. Never trust a Zionist promise.

  4. Emet
    Emet
    September 19, 2018, 7:34 pm

    What sold the Palestinians out was Arafat who never gave up on terror, who smuggled weapons and terrorists into the area and then refused the deal that Ehud Barak offered him at Camp David 2000, a deal that had it gone through would have seen Barak as a total sellout to the Jewish people. It would have placed the Palestinians in a wonderful position to move forward and advance their people. At the same time they would have had to accept a Jewish presence in Jerusalem for ever, something they did not want and still do not want. Patel, if you have a gripe, go speak to the Arabs, they are mainly to blame.
    The usual cat calls are soon to follow, the rapist, the conqueror, the Zio supremacists and the poor Arabs who never did anything bad.

    • eljay
      eljay
      September 19, 2018, 8:12 pm

      || Emet: … Patel, if you have a gripe, go speak to the Arabs, they are mainly to blame. … ||

      Yup, if anyone is “mainly to blame” for the fact that…
      – a man and his friends believe that they are entitled to “self-determine” themselves in women;
      – after kidnapping and chaining women in a basement they proceed to do just that; and
      – the women repeatedly lash out at the men who, in turn, repeatedly beat (and “self-determine” themselves in) the women,
      …it’s the women.

      Ain’t Zionism grand?

      But, Emet, let me ask you this (knowing full well what your answer will be): I believe that all of the “self-determining” men and all of the women should be held fully accountable in direct proportion to their respective crimes. How about you?

      • Emet
        Emet
        September 20, 2018, 6:38 pm

        Sorry eljay, you lost me. You only know what you know and as Rumsfeld said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

      • eljay
        eljay
        September 20, 2018, 9:00 pm

        || Emet: Sorry eljay, you lost me. … ||

        No, I’m certain I did not lose you. But you did fool me: I was expecting a lame answer, not a non-answer.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      September 21, 2018, 4:59 am

      Emet: “Patel, if you have a gripe, go speak to the Arabs, they are mainly to blame.”

      Sure. After all it was the Palestinians who took over 80% of Palestine through war and expelled the majority of Jews, illegaly annexed Jerusalem which they don’t want to share and illegaly settled in the other 20% of the territory they never want to loose control over. Right?

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      September 21, 2018, 5:30 am

      Likud never wanted peace because Likud does not recognize Palestinian rights. Netanyahu sabotaged the process after 96. Sharon went walkabout on Al Aqsa in September 2000. That was the end.
      Now Israel runs apartheid. It is as Jewish as gefilte fish, I hear.

      • Emet
        Emet
        September 22, 2018, 5:07 am

        Let’s call Al Aqsa by it’s original name, the name used before the Islamic settlers came to town and illegally took over. Yes, the name was and still is, “The Temple Mount”. It just happens to still be the holiest site for Jews. Of course it is holy to Muslims, now. It was holy to the Jewish people long before it was anything else to the Muslims.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        September 22, 2018, 10:33 am

        Emet, the Palestinians are descended from the ancient Jewish population. The Ashkenazim are not.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        September 22, 2018, 6:41 pm

        Emet: “Let’s call Al Aqsa by it’s original name, the name used before the Islamic settlers came to town and illegally took over.”

        Ok, let’s call “the land of Israel” by it’s original name used before the ancient Hebrew settlers came to the land and illegally took it over the first time.

  5. gamal
    gamal
    September 20, 2018, 8:10 pm

    Yumna, I have a few Ayman cousins, just to say on the right hand side of course, Madame I have always loved your articles, the world is going to fall apart but not the Arabs..we used to hard times, even though we look weak, like water we find a way.

    respect Madame,

    ““They sold out the Palestinian people,” he said matter of factly” you know that is one of the most instructive sentences available to Americans if they had eyes to read with or minds that could learn anything.

    respect Madame.

  6. Nathan
    Nathan
    September 21, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Come on, Mondoweiss. It is allowed to ask tough questions, even if those being interviewed are anti-Israel people. We hear in this article, for example, that Abu Shakdim presents the Oslo Accords as “a decision made by a few members of the Palestinian elite” that did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people. Here’s the “latest news”: The United Nations General Assembly recognized the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people” in Resolution 3210 (Oct 1974) and Resolution 3236 (Nov 1974).

    It could be that the two young people being interviewed here don’t know the history of the conflict, but I would hope that the one writing down their opinions has some familiarity with the ongoing saga. When someone says that those negotiating for the Palestinians at Oslo “did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people”, all the fuses are supposed to go “pop” and darkness descends upon us all. How can it be that no one at Mondoweiss saw fit to correct the youngsters? On the spot, there should have been a scream heard around the world: “The PLO was considered to be the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Obviously, the PLO had the authority to negotiate with Israel and to sign the Oslo Agreement”.

    The most common example of Palestinian criticism of Palestinian policy is the debate over the Oslo Agreement. The reason is obvious: The PLO recognized Israel. The recognition of Israel – even if it was absolutely insincere – left the anti-Israel world totally baffled. It’s really interesting to note that there is hardly a word of criticism in Palestinian society about the rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan which led to war and utter defeat. “Defeated in war” seems to be preferable over “defeat in ideology” (i.e. having to accept Israel through an agreement).

    Everyone seems to be in favor of the one-state solution. However, there is no difference between the one-state solution and the two-state solution. Both cases are about having a negotiated solution of the conflict. A negotiated solution of the conflict means a “defeat in ideology” from the Palestinian point of view. Even in a one-state solution, the Palestinians will have to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish community. Don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. There won’t even be negotiations.

    Moreover, what would be the point of negotiating? After the Palestinian side to the negotiations reaches an agreement with the Jewish side, we’ll read yet another Mondoweiss article in which we’ll find out that the those negotiating for the Palestinians “did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people” and that “they sold out the Palestinian people” and the rest of the bla-bla-bla.

    Here’s a little lesson in Arabic. “Salaam” is based on the root which means “surrender” or “submission” (just as in “Islam”). The word is translated into English as “peace” for lack of a better term. Obviously, the word is similar to the Hebrew “shalom” – but in Hebrew, “shalom” is based on the root that means “perfect” or “complete”. In other words, it’s a positive concept, as is “peace” in English. In Arabic, you make “salaam” because you have no choice. It’s being forced upon you, because you’re not stronger than your enemy. The Palestinians want victory, not “salaam”. So, there won’t be a two-state solution or a one-state solution. There won’t be a solution at all. They envision an ultimate victory in the undefined distant future, and it can be reached only if the conflict remains unresolved.

  7. Talkback
    Talkback
    September 22, 2018, 3:05 am

    Nathan: “We hear in this article, for example, that Abu Shakdim presents the Oslo Accords as “a decision made by a few members of the Palestinian elite” that did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people. Here’s the “latest news”: The United Nations General Assembly recognized the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people” in Resolution 3210 (Oct 1974) and Resolution 3236 (Nov 1974).”

    One doesn’t exclude the other.

    Nathan: “The PLO recognized Israel.”

    Yep, that is more than Israel recognized in return.

    Nathan: “The recognition of Israel – even if it was absolutely insincere – left the anti-Israel world totally baffled.”

    Two unfounded claims.

    Nathan: “It’s really interesting to note that there is hardly a word of criticism in Palestinian society about the rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan which led to war and utter defeat.”

    Why should the people OF a country critisize the rejection of a partition reccommendation for their country on behalf of terrorist colonials who infiltrated their country without their consent under a de facto occupation? Because the terrorist colonials are Jewish? Why don’t you critisize the settler colonialization of a country and the full scale war and expulsion to take it over? Because those who did it were Jewish?

    Again and again you miserably fail at formulating a single universal principle that would legitimate the statehood of Jewish settler colonialization.

    Nathan: “Both cases are about having a negotiated solution of the conflict. A negotiated solution of the conflict means a “defeat in ideology” from the Palestinian point of view. Even in a one-state solution, the Palestinians will have to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish community. Don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. There won’t even be negotiations.”

    ROFL. The only party in this conflict who proposed in 1947 a secular democratic one state solution with majority ruling, minority rights and without needing to expell anyone was the Palestinian Arab side an the surrounding Arab states. The pseudo traveller David Gruen (who illegaly overstayed in the Ottoman Empire after his visa ran out) proposed to put Palestine under Jewish mandate with UN supervision and release it only into indepence after a Jewish majority was achieved. And when asked what he would do, if the Nonjewish majority would’t accept his plan he simply said that if it was excepted by the UN he had the right to enforce it through violence. So what has been different in Palestine since the Zionist Biltmore Program of 1942. Who’s ideology would be really defeated if a two-state-solution would be negotiated or a one-state-solution that restores all Palestinian rights, including the refugee’s?

    Nathan: “Moreover, what would be the point of negotiating?”

    Exactly. What would be the point of negotiating, if the demand of one side is to eternalize and legitimize the violation of the international and human rights of the other.

    Nathan: “Here’s a little lesson in Arabic. “Salaam” is based on the root which means “surrender” or “submission” (just as in “Islam”). The word is translated into English as “peace” for lack of a better term. Obviously, the word is similar to the Hebrew “shalom” – but in Hebrew, “shalom” is based on the root that means “perfect” or “complete”. In other words, it’s a positive concept, as is “peace” in English. In Arabic, you make “salaam” because you have no choice. It’s being forced upon you, because you’re not stronger than your enemy. The Palestinians want victory, not “salaam”. So, there won’t be a two-state solution or a one-state solution. There won’t be a solution at all. They envision an ultimate victory in the undefined distant future, and it can be reached only if the conflict remains unresolved.”

    Thank you for your little racist and imbecile word twisting. But outside of your Kahane continuum things are different.

    “Salaam” is obviously based on the SAME root as “Shalom” which is “S-L-M” and which means “whole, safe, intact, unharmed, to go free, without blemish” and derived from it “to be safe, secure, at peace”, hence “well-being, health” and passively “to be secured, pacified, submitted”. The greeting is “peace upon you”, not “submission/surrendering upon you”. The world “Islam” is based on the same root and in a RELIGIOUS context means “surrendering one’s will to God” (not to Jews and this version of surrendering: https://mondoweiss.net/2017/09/rightist-smotrich-apartheid/) which is the total opposite to the meaning of the word “Israel” which is often interpreted as “struggle with God”. Now what peaceful attitude do you conclude from the latter?

    • Nathan
      Nathan
      September 25, 2018, 9:53 pm

      Talkback – I don’t think that you have studied the Arabic language. The root s-l-m in Arabic, indeed, means “surrender”. The name of the religion, Islam, is from this very same root, and it means “submission”. The verb “tasallama” (the root s-l-m in the fifth verb structure) means “he surrendered”. It’s true that “salaam” and “shalom” are cognates, but in Hebrew the root sh-l-m is about “perfection”. That’s just the way it is.

      The book of Genesis tells us that “yisrael” means “overcame God”. Also the prophet Hosea gives a similar explanation. However, the word simply means “God reigns”. If you have a background in ancient semitic languages, I’d be happy to explain to you why (despite your rudeness), but I imagine that your “expertise” in Arabic and Hebrew is from some internet article in English.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        September 26, 2018, 4:57 am

        Nathan: “I don’t think that you have studied the Arabic language.”

        Let’s put it that way. Contrary to you I have studied enough to understand the difference between roots and their derivations and know how to argue ad rem instead resorting to the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy.

        You are just repeating your claim that the root “Š-L-M” means “surrender” in Arabic, as if this was the only meaning of this root instead of being only the meaning of one of its derivations. You blatantly ignore the historic, canaanite origin and meaning of this proto-semitic root which does include concepts like “peace”, “wholeness”, etc. And you ignore the fact that the Arab greeting is “Peace upon you.” (“As-ŠaLāMu ‘alaykum”) , which makes sense, if one considers the meaning of this root instead of confusing it with the meaning of one of its derivations.

        Nathan: “However, the word simply means “God reigns”.

        Says who? What is the meaning of the verb “isra”, especially in the context in which the word “Israel” appeared the first time in a book written by ghost writers?

        And why don’t you disclose your sources before you making assumptions about mine? The usual hypocrisy?

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