Twenty years since Oslo Accords
Stillbirth of a State,
Birth of a Nation
Switching the goal from that of a small — but independent, free and sovereign — Palestine to the alternative aim of sharing the whole of the pre-Nakba country can require a big mental leap in the dark. One Democracy suggests a somewhat less painful route.
♦ The Oslo Accords created the expectation of a Palestinian state. The PLO, its representative body (or subsequently the Palestine Authority), could now operate with administrative functions from within the promised territory (or a part of it) instead of from exile, and could govern (or partly govern) the day-to-day lives of the people after a quarter-century of direct and total military rule by Israel. The return from Tunis saw ecstatic celebrations.
♦ This expanded the sense of national cohesion and enabled a re-growth in civil society institutions, even if the most prominent of these were the lavishly funded internal security force and its prisons, and the profitable industrial zones in which trade unions are banned: these were the subject of much international praise as “state building”.
♦ Dubbed “the peace process”, these developments also created the illusion of progress, as if their success would bring the promised state closer. But instead of the embryonic state growing into a healthy infant, it shrank and shrank and shrank. All its parts got divided from one another and its organs shriveled.
♦ But the people still loved and cherished it and struggled for it and hoped that it might one day see the light of day, even as the planned gestation period extended from 5 years to 20 and maybe from there to infinity.
♦ Even the broken promise of statehood has not been entirely in vain. Despite political and geographical fragmentation, we have seen the consolidation of a modern, proud Palestinian nationhood whose people have undertaken countless struggles with a united purpose against overwhelming odds, and inspired an international movement of gathering power.
♦ After 20 years, the Oslo process has now gone into labour. Doctors and midwives have gathered round in a blaze of publicity. Word is that a birth of some sort might be possible if the limbs and even the head were to be chopped off, if the infant could then be encased and walled into its pen and would promise to abandon all its aspirations, terminate its struggle for a full life, cut itself off from all its family who would never now return, and demobilise its army of well-wishers.
♦ This 20-year stillbirth of their state has perhaps been the most agonising period for the Palestinian people since the Nakba of 1948, watching the inexorable growth of walls and barriers and alien, exclusive, no-go towns and roads spreading around and across their villages and once-beautiful hilltops.
♦ Now, to enable this nation to carry on fighting for freedom and justice, it needs to let go of the aborted state before it finds itself walled into the trap and tied down together with it.
♦ Now is the time for this nation to move forward and embrace the only positive alternative, a new goal of a shared future in all of the original homeland. Now for the first time in decades there is a movement being built that can make this vision of one whole country into a reality. Even as the promise of a state expires, instead of a leap in the dark we can hope for a well-lit road to a better future.
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