roya.jakoby on Thu, 4 Apr 2002 19:06:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Edward Said on Palestine...

Edward Said
Al-Ahram Weekly Online
14 - 20 March 2002, Issue No.577
AL-AHRAM, Cairo est. in 1875

What Price Oslo?

Due weight given to decades of Palestinian suffering, to the
human costs of Israel's destructive policies: this, writes Edward
Said, is the only possible framework for negotiations

The television images on Al-Jazeera have been burningly clear. There

is a kind of Palestinian heroism in evidence there that makes this
the story of our time. An entire army, navy, and air force supplied
munificently and unconditionally by the United States have been
wreaking destruction on the 18 per cent of the West Bank and 60 per
cent of Gaza afforded Palestinians after ten years of negotiations
with Israel and the US. Palestinian hospitals, schools, refugee
and civilian residences have been at the receiving end of a
merciless, criminal assault by Israeli troops huddled inside their
helicopter gun-ships, F-16's and Merkavas, and still the poorly
resistance fighters take on this preposterously more powerful force
undaunted and unyielding. In the US, CNN and newspapers like The New

York Times fail, to their discredit, to ever mention that "the
violence" is uneven and that there aren't two sides involved here,
but only one state turning all its great power against a stateless,
repeatedly refugeed, and dispossessed people, bereft of arms and
leadership, with the aim of destroying this people, "dealing them a
terrible blow" as the war criminal who leads Israel shamelessly put
it. As an index of how deranged Sharon has become, I might quote
what he said to Ha'aretz on 5 March: "The PA is behind the terror,
it's all terror. Arafat is behind the terror. Our pressure is aimed
at ending the terror. Don't expect Arafat to act against the terror.

We have to cause them heavy casualties and then they'll know they
can't keep using terror and win political achievements."
Besides symptomatically revealing the workings of an obsessed mind
bent on destruction and sheer, unadulterated hatred, Sharon's words
indicate the failures of reason and criticism loosed on the world
since last September. Yes, there was a terrorist outrage, but
more to the world than terror. There is politics, and struggle, and
history, and injustice, and resistance and yes, state terror as
With scarcely a peep from the American professorate or
intelligentsia, we have all succumbed to the promiscuous misuse of
language and sense, by which everything we don't like has become
terror and what we do is pure and simple good -- fighting terror, no

matter how much wealth, and lives, and destruction is involved.
away are all the Enlightenment precepts by which we attempt to
educate our students and our-fellow citizens, replaced by a
disproportionate orgy of vindictiveness and self-righteous wrath of
the kind that only the wealthy and the powerful, it would seem, have

the right to use and act upon. No wonder then that a fourth-rate
like Sharon feels entitled (by emulation and derivation) to do what
he does when in the greatest democracy on earth, laws,
rights, writs of habeas corpus and reason itself are consigned to
rubbish bin in the pursuit of terror and terrorism. As educators and

as citizens, we have failed in our mission by allowing ourselves to
be bamboozled in this way, without so much as an organised public
discussion about a defence budget that has shot up to $400 billion
while 40 million people remain without health insurance.
Israelis, Arabs and Americans are told that love of country requires

such expenditures and such destruction because a good cause is at
stake. Nonsense. What is at stake are material interests that keep
rulers in power, corporations making profits, people in a state of
manufactured consent, just so long as they don't get up one morning
and start to think about where, in this mad technologised rush to
bomb and kill, we are going.
Israel is now waging a war against civilians, pure and simple,
although you will never hear it put that way in the US. This is a
racist war, and in its strategy and tactics, a colonial one as well.

People are being killed and made to suffer disproportionately
they are not Jews. What an irony! Yet CNN never refers to "occupied"

territories (always rather to "violence in Israel" as if the main
battlefields are the concert halls and cafes of Tel Aviv and not in
fact the ghettoes and besieged refugee camps of Palestine that have
already been surrounded by 150 illegal Israeli settlements). For the

past ten years, the great fraud of Oslo was foisted on the world by
the US, with hardly an awareness that only 18 per cent of the West
Bank were given up, and 60 per cent of Gaza. No one knows geography
and it's better not to know, since the reality on the ground is so
astonishing, considering the verbal hoopla and self-congratulation.
And that pseudo-pundit -- the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman

-- still has the gall to say that "Arab TV" shows one-sided
as if "Arab TV" should be showing things from Israel's point-of-view

the way CNN does, with "Mid-East violence" the catch-all word for
ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in
ghettoes and camps. Has Friedman (or CNN for that matter) ever tried

to point out the difference between an attacking army fighting a
colonial war on the territory of the people it has occupied for 35
years, and the people defending themselves against that butchery? Of

course not, for indeed why should Friedman ever bother to say
honestly that there is no Palestinian occupation, there are no
Palestinian F-16's, no Apache helicopters, no gunboats, no Merkava
tanks, in short, no Palestinian occupation of Israel. So much for
Friedman's credentials as an honest commentator and reporter who has

utterly failed, in unadorned terms, to explain the US view or to
understand the Arab and Palestinian cause. Can he not see that he
his writings are part of the problem, that in their maundering
self-justifications and the dishonesty in which he shows no sign of
the self- criticism he keeps hectoringly expecting of others, he
actually aggravates the ignorance and the misperceptions rather than

reducing them? Poor journalist and educator, he.
The picture you get here is that Israelis are battling for their
lives instead of for their settlements and military bases on the
occupied lands of Palestine. No maps have been run for months in the

American media. On 8 March, hitherto the bloodiest day for
Palestinians of the 16-month Intifada, CNN's main evening news
specified the death of 40 "people" and failed even to mention the
death of several Red Crescent workers killed while their ambulances
were prevented by Israeli tanks from getting to the wounded. Just
"people," and no pictures of the hell they've been living in this
35th year of military occupation. Tul Karm is undergoing a siege of
sieges with 24 hour curfews, electricity and water cut-off,
systematic round-ups and the removal of 800 young men, the wanton
smashing of refugee houses, wholesale destruction of property (and
I'm not speaking of nightclubs or sports facilities but of shacks
lean-tos that furnished twice displaced refugees with hovels for
subsistence) and limitless cases of sadistic cruelty to unarmed and
undefended civilians who are pushed and beaten and left to bleed to
death, women allowed to give birth to stillborn babies while they
wait needlessly at Israeli road-blocks, old men made to strip and
take off their shoes and walk barefoot for a gum-chewing 18-year-old

waving around an M-16 that my taxes have paid for. Bethlehem, its
town center and university destroyed, flattened at 5,000 feet by
valiant Israeli bombers swooshing in with their marvelous F-16's
which I've paid for too. Balata camp, Aida and Dheheisheh and Azza
Camps, the tiny villages of Khadr and Husam, all battered into
without even a mention by the US press, whose New York editors so
obviously have no problems with it, with a few exceptions here and
there. The uncounted dead and wounded, the unburied and unassisted,
to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of lives maimed,
distorted, catastrophically marked by wantonly caused suffering, all

of it ordered at a safe distance from the action in leafy, calm West

Jerusalem by men for whom the West Bank and Gaza are distant rat
holes filled with insects and rodents that must be "subdued" and
driven out, taught a lesson in the accepted jargon of Israel's
military. On Tuesday, in the biggest attack of all, Ramallah has
invaded and is being ravaged by 140 Israeli tanks, thus completing
Israel's re-conquest of the already-occupied Palestinian
The Palestinian people are paying the heavy, heavy unconscionable
price of Oslo, which after 10 years of negotiating left them with
bits of land lacking coherence and continuity, security institutions

designed to assure their subservience to Israel, and a life that
impoverished them so that the Jewish state could thrive and prosper.

In vain during those 10 years did some of us warn that the distance
between the US-Israeli language of peace and the appalling realities

on the ground was never bridged, never even intended to be bridged.
Words and phrases like "peace process" and "terrorism" took hold
without reference to any real referent. Land confiscations were
either overlooked or referred to as "bilateral negotiations" that
were taking place between a state consolidating its hold on
it wanted at all costs, and a mediocre set of uninformed negotiators

whom it took four years to acquire, much less use, a reliable map of

the land they were negotiating over. The worst misrepresentation of
all is that in the 54 years since 1948, never has a narrative of
Palestinian heroism and suffering been allowed to emerge. We are all

depicted as violent fanatic extremists who are little more than the
terrorists that George Bush and his cabal have imposed on the
consciousness of a stunned and systematically misinformed
aided and uncritically abetted by an entire army of commentators and

media stars -- the Blitzers, Zahns, Lehrers, Rathers, Brokaws,
Russerts, and their ilk. The Israeli lobby is scarcely needed with
such faithful disciples trailing happily in its ranks.
But now that the Saudi peace proposal has become the point of
discussion and of hope, it is necessary, I think, to put it in its
real, as opposed to its supposed, context. First of all, this is the

re-cycled Reagan plan of 1982, the Fahd Plan of 1983, the Madrid
of 1991, and so on: in other words, it follows a series of plans
times put forward which in the end both Israel and the US have not
only refused to implement, but have actively torpedoed. The way I
it, the only negotiations worth having should be on the phases of a
total Israeli withdrawal and not, as was the case with Oslo,
bargaining over what pieces of land Israel was willing very
grudgingly to give up. There's been too much Palestinian blood
spilled, too much Israeli contempt and racist violence dispensed for

any serious return to Oslo-style negotiations brokered by that most
biased of honest brokers, the United States. Everyone is aware,
however, that the old Palestinian negotiators haven't given up on
their dreams and illusions, and that meetings have been occurring
throughout the raids and bombings. But I would argue that due weight

be given to decades of Palestinian suffering and the real human
of Israel's destructive policies before any negotiations accord
status to Israeli governments that have trampled on Palestinian
rights the way they have demolished our houses and killed our
Any Arab-Israeli negotiations that do not factor in history -- and
for this task a team of historians, economists, and geographers with

a conscience are needed -- are not worth having, just as
must now elect a new set of negotiators and representatives in the
hope of salvaging something from the present calamity.
In short, in whatever meetings that now occur between Israeli and
Palestinian representatives, the gravity of Israeli depredations
against our people has to be given attention and not simply brushed
aside as so much past history. Oslo, in effect, pardoned the
occupation, excusing it for all the buildings and lives destroyed
over the first 25 years of occupation. After so much further
suffering, Israel cannot be excused and allowed to walk away from
table with not even a rhetorical demand that it needs to atone for
what it did.
I will be told that politics is about what is possible, not about
what is desired, and that we should be grateful to get even a small
Israeli pullback. I disagree strongly. Negotiations can only be
when the total withdrawal will take place, not what percentage
is willing to concede. A conqueror and a vandal cannot concede
anything: he must simply return what he's taken and pay for the
abuses that are his responsibility to bear, just as Saddam Hussein
should and did pay for his occupation of Kuwait. We are still a
considerable distance from that goal, although in the meantime the
extraordinary unbowed bravery of all Palestinians in Gaza and the
West Bank has in effect politically and morally defeated Sharon, who

will lose his seat in the not too distant future. But, that in two
decades his armies can invade Arab cities at will, killing and
destruction without so much as a collective Arab peep speaks reams
for the Arab world's leaders.
Lastly, what the various Arab rulers who are so delicately silent
while Palestine is being raped on TV think they are doing, I don't
know, but I can imagine that deep in their souls they must feel no
small amount of shame and disgrace. Powerless militarily,
politically, economically and above all morally, they have little
credibility and no real standing, except as obedient pawns on the
American-Israeli chessboard. Perhaps they feel they are playing a
waiting game. Perhaps. But they (like Arafat and his men) haven't
learned the power of systematically disseminated information as a
of protecting their people from the onslaughts of those who consider

all Arabs militant, extremist, terrorist fanatics. The good news is
that the time for that sort of irresponsible and contemptible
behavior is very short. Will the new generation do any better?
It is for a whole new attitude toward secular education to decide
answer, whether collectively we go down again to disorganisation,
corruption and mediocrity or whether at last we can become a nation.



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>Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister




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