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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/7/13

Oslo Revisited

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Message Uri Avnery
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Source: Gush Shalom

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ISRAEL LOVES anniversaries. The media fill up with revelations and memories of the event commemorated, eye-witnesses recite their stories for the umpteenth time, old photos flood the pages and the TV screens.

In the coming days, two main memorial dates will play this role. True, the Yom Kippur war broke out only in October (1973), but already the newspapers and TV programs are full of it.

The Oslo agreement was signed on September 13 (1993). Hardly any mention. It has been almost expunged from the national memory.

Oslo? Oslo in Norway? Anything happened there? Tell me about it.

ACTUALLY, FOR me the historic date is September 10. On that day, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat exchanged letters of mutual recognition.

The State of Israel recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the representative of the Palestinian people, and the PLO recognized the State of Israel.

It is one of the historic achievements of Oslo that today nobody can possibly grasp the immensity of this recognition.

The Zionist movement aimed officially at the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. Unofficially, it wanted to turn Palestine -- all of it - into a Jewish State. Since Palestine was already inhabited by another people, the existence of this people -- as a people -- had to be denied. Since the Zionist movement was, in its own eyes, a moral and idealistic endeavor, this denial was a basic tenet of the Zionist creed. A land without a people for a people without a land. Golda Meir famously declared that there was "no such thing as a Palestinian people." I myself have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of my life trying to convince Israeli audiences that there really exists a Palestinian nation.

And here was the Prime Minister of Israel signing a document that recognized the existence of the Palestinian People, demolishing a central pillar of Zionism after almost 100 years.

Yasser Arafat's declaration was no less revolutionary. For every Palestinian, it was a fundamental truth that the Zionist state was the illegitimate child of Western imperialism. Palestine was an Arab land, inhabited by Arabs for many centuries, until a bunch of foreign settlers took it over by force and guile, expelled half its population and terrorized the rest.

And here was the founder and leader of the Palestinian liberation movement accepting Israel as a legitimate state!

Recognition of this kind cannot be taken back. It is a fact in the minds of millions of Israelis and Palestinians, and of the world at large. This is the basic change forged in Oslo.

FOR THE vast majority of Israelis, Oslo is dead. Their story is quite simple: we signed a generous agreement. And "the Arabs" broke it, as they always do. We did everything possible for peace, we let the devious Arafat come back into the country, we even gave arms to his security forces -- and what did we get? Not peace. Just terrorist attacks. Suicide bombers.

The lesson? The Arabs don't want peace. They want to throw us into the sea. As Yitzhak Shamir put it so succinctly: "The Arabs are still the same Arabs, and the sea is still the same sea."

For many Palestinians, of course, the lesson is the very reverse. The Oslo agreement was a cunning Zionist trick to continue the occupation in another form. Indeed, the situation of the Palestinians under occupation became much worse. Before Oslo, Palestinians could move freely throughout the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from Nablus to Gaza, from Haifa to Jericho, from everywhere to Jerusalem. After Oslo, this became impossible.

SO WHAT is the truth? Is Oslo dead?

Of course not.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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