The Oslo Accord that was signed between the PLO and the Zionist Israeli regime on 13th September 1993, granted the Palestinians limited self-rule in the Gaza strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. This, we were assured, was a first step towards a permanent peace settlement to be negotiated by the two sides over a period of five years.
The Western governments were euphoric about the Accord. They hailed it as a great historic agreement, paving the way for eternal peace in the Middle East. The reaction of the Western media was even more overwhelming. The Accord, they swooned, was one of the most momentous events of the century. This western media brainwashing virtually drowned the very considerable opposition of many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims who were highly critical of this Accord which they claimed sought to do the impossible -imposing “peace “without “justice.” To many still, the Accord is an instrument of shameful Palestinian surrender.
Broadly outlined, since the details still remain subject to various interpretations, the Oslo Accord states that Israel and the PLO will recognise each other’s existence. Commentators predicted that the idea of mutual recognition between two sworn opponents would usher in a new era of prosperity and democracy in a region governed by unremitting violence, chronic poverty, underdevelopment and gross violation of human rights.
Israel will allow “limited autonomy” and “early empowerment” for Palestinians in the Gaza strip and Jericho, a small West Bank town 90 kilometres away. Yasser Arafat will be eventually permitted residence and members of the Palestinian Liberation Army will be permitted to handle internal security. Health, sanitation, education, the postal service, and tourism will be handled by the Palestinians. The Israeli army will re-position itself from the population centres, but will not withdraw until later. Israel will control the land, water, overall security and foreign affairs in these “autonomous areas”. Israel will also continue to dominate the corridor between Gaza and Jericho, as well as the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.
The national rights of a people made refugees in 1948, solemnly confirmed and reconfirmed for years by the United Nations, by the Arab governments, by the PLO, and indeed by the rest of the world, were thus annulled by the Oslo Accord.
The Accord, weighed against the much cherished standards of Western democracy and against the principles of human rights, is a shameful and humiliating letdown. It has failed to address the crucial issue of territorial integrity, offering the Palestinians a limited, essentially Municipal-type authority over only about 2 per cent of the original Palestine. Even if the actual implementation of self-rule eventually bestows the Palestinians with more power, there is nothing in the Accord which promises them independence. An independent, sovereign Palestinian state covering both Gaza and the West Bank with Jerusalem as its capital would have been the least that the Accord could have done for a people who had already lost 80 per cent of their original land.
For Israel and her erstwhile backers, the Oslo Accord was a resounding victory. Arafat’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist carries with it a whole series of renunciations: renunciation of the PLO Charter, of violence and “terrorism” and of all relevant UN resolutions except 242 and 338 (which in any event do not have one single word in them about Palestinians, their rights, or aspirations). The PLO then, by implication, has set aside numerous other UN resolutions which had given Palestinian refugees rights to compensation or repatriation since 1948.
Palestinians have, in the past, won numerous international resolutions including those passed by the EEC, those by the Non-Aligned Movement, by the Islamic Conference, by the Arab League, as well as those by the UN, which disallowed or censured Israeli settlements, annexations, and crimes against the people under occupation.
Other crucial issues around which negotiations revolve are Jerusalem, the fate of the settlements, the redeployment of the Israeli Army and the enforcement of security in the “autonomous” areas. In these, as the assassinated Yitshak Rabin boasted in 1993, Israel was victorious. He claimed:” The entire united Jerusalem will be outside the autonomy… Jewish settlements will be placed under an exclusive Israeli jurisdiction; the Autonomy council will have no authority over theméthe forces of the Israeli Army will be redeployed on locations determined only by usé”. There is no hint of a compromise on East Jerusalem, nor on the dismantling of the settlements. All the settlements will remain where they are. The Israeli Army will remain nearby where they can defend the settlements and to guard all confrontation lines. What has clearly emerged is that Arafat’s faction of the PLO has become a part of the Israeli Shabak in order to provide security for the Israelis. There is nothing in the document to suggest that Israel will give up its violence against Palestinians or compensate the victims of its policies for the last 50 years.
This “Peace ” Accord that violates the fundamental right to territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Palestinians has been received with great enthusiasm by the democratic West mainly because it guarantees the perpetuation of US and Israeli dominance of the region. More than this the West, Israel, even the PLO together with the Arab governments, wanted the Accord at any cost because of their common fear of the growing Islamic Movement in Palestine. The Accord, they hope, will hold in check what they call “Islamic fundamentalism” which derives tremendous strength from the unjust and illegal occupation of Palestinian land by the Zionists. Under the Accord, Israel will be able to use the PLO to cripple the Islamic Movement in the Gaza and the West Bank.
The international community has a moral responsibility to stand firm and repudiate in the strongest terms, yet another bastion of Apartheid. South Africans, in particular, having struggled and fought hard to dismantle the evil of a racist system, should with one voice condemn the illegitimate “state of Israel” for her unjust and inhuman treatment of the indigenous population of Palestine. We, as South Africans should see, with clarion clarity that the deeper, sinister intention of the Accord is to create an Apartheid regime in which the PLO will in effect relieve the Zionist regime of any obligation towards the Palestinian population.
History never lies é Middle East Apartheid will certainly prove as unsustainable as was Apartheid in South Africa.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)