It took 20 years for the world to realize that Oslo was a big hoax, or in the words of a Harvard professor, “a brilliant deception”. But its several failings to achieve its ended objectives are dwarfed against its colossal defect: namely ignoring the root of the conflict; uprooting the people of the country and replacing them with imported immigrants from 110 countries. There can be no hope of any kind of peace in the region without addressing the pillar of the conflict.
What is it? And how can we resolve it?
In 1948, Palestine witnessed the biggest, longest, planned and continuous ethnic cleansing operation in the world, in which over 600 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated of their people by military force and 78% of Palestine was occupied. Thus a new European colonial project started in Palestine. At the end of WWII, when European colonial soldiers packed their bags from Asia and Africa and returned to Europe, a new wave of European Jewish soldiers marched in the opposite direction, to make Palestine the last and only colonial project in existence today.
In 1967, the tiny remainder of Palestine (22%) was occupied, still is today, making it the longest occupation in modern history.
Slide-2 A, B, C
Here we have al Nakba. Before al Nakba, Palestinians lived peacefully in about 1000 towns and villages. In al Nakba, Palestine was empted of its population. Where did the survivors go? They became refugees in the remainder of Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries. This is the essence of the conflict. Everything else is detail. Without its remedy, there can be no peace in the region.
In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine, in the West bank and Gaza Strip, Sinai in Egypt and Golan in Syria.
Slide-3 A, B
Take the case of Gaza, for example. All these red dots you see are depopulated Palestinian villages, now they are crammed in Gaza Strip. Why is Gaza heavily crowded? because that is where people from 274 villages in southern Palestine were driven into 8 refugee camps.
They are still being chased in exile.
Slide-5 Oslo Hoax
Then, there comes Oslo.
Yasser Arafat assumed that Israel will at least evacuate the land it occupied in 1967 where he can establish a state on one fifth of Palestine. When the five year time limit passed without any results the second Intifada erupted. Israel then destroyed all the built infrastructure for the new state and started building the Apartheid wall and building more settlements. This eventually this led to the mysterious death of Yasser Arafat.
Oslo was thought to be a new peaceful beginning, the remedy for the war crimes, a return of the refugees, a restoration of justice. But it turned out to be the reverse. To start with, Oslo Accord was created to be an agreement between the occupying power and the occupied people in order to manage and control the occupation, not to remove it. Article-47 of the Geneva Civilians Convention of 1949 implies that any agreement that contains provisions that do not protect the rights of the occupied people is invalid.
Oslo Accord lacks the rudimentary elements of a normal contract. It had no legal reference. It does not refer to the international law or the UN resolutions regarding Palestine rights. It does not, even once, acknowledge the right of self-determination of the Palestinian People or the integrity of Palestinian territory, as was the case in similar negotiations, like the agreement signed between the United States and Vietnam. It does not create a mechanism for the implementation of the agreement or a penalty for its violation. It does not create an independent reference for conflict resolution such as the International Court of Justice. It does not create a military force of intervention to implement the agreement, as was the case in Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq.
The worst element in the accord is that, while the whole world, including the US and the International Court of Justice, recognizes that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are occupied territory, this accord makes Israel, not the occupier or the aggressor, but a partner in the land it occupied, a partner with the Palestinians themselves.
Israel sees the situation almost like someone who pick pocketed a wallet in the street and, instead of giving it back to the real owner who wanted it, he started negotiating with him over dividing the money in the wallet. So, Israel calls it a ‘disputed wallet’. Palestine is not disputed, it is occupied.
The fragmentation of the negotiations into five different issues such as borders, land, water, security and refugees is a manifestation of the fundamental fault of the Oslo Accord. The Palestinian territory is occupied. There is no resolution of this violation except by the removal of this occupation, totally, completely.
But the Accord led to Israeli control of over 60% of the West Bank and a further 20% under virtual control. In the end, the Israeli objective is to allocate ten percent of Palestine to 12 million Palestinians and 90% of Palestine to 5 and half million Jewish immigrants.
There is another particular irony. In 1941, the Nazi occupation forces in Paris signed an agreement with the collaborative Vichy government in France under the name of Paris Protocols. Fifty three years later, the Paris Economic Protocol was signed between Israel and PA to do roughly the same thing. As a result, the Palestinian economy was held captive; almost all of its exports and imports are tied to Israel to the extent of 94%. The unemployment rate has risen from 3.7% in 1992 before the Accord to over 30% today. Customs collected for Palestinian authority are often held as ransom to do Israel bidding.
It is not only economic. The Rome Statute of 1998, which is the basis of the International Criminal Court, in Article-7 and Article-8, has made the transfer of the people of the occupying power to the occupied land a war crime and the settlers there war criminals (Art 8-2bviii). Today, there are six hundred thousand Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. This is almost the same number of Jewish immigrants who arrived at the shores of Palestine in 1948 and built Israel on the ruins of Palestine.
As the next slide shows, the occupation in the West Bank has many facets.
Slide-6 A, B, C, D, E
Look at what happens in the West Bank. Palestinians under Israeli occupation are besieged in 60 cantons, Confined to cantons in a tiny area, Captive villages. Apartheid wall. separated by 500 road blocks, 500 road blocks. Jews-only roads. robbed of their land and water by fanatic settlers. This is a Supreme Manifestation of Apartheid, not seen in South Africa.
Israel built the Apartheid Wall. As you know, the Apartheid Wall has been condemned by the whole world. It was condemned by the highest court in the world, the International Court of Justice. Its Advisory Opinion, given on the 9th of July 2004, stated that this Apartheid Wall is illegal, must be demolished and compensations must be paid.
Arbitrary arrest, detention without trial and torture to death. This is the fate of most males and even children and women. From 1967 till today, 40% of all Palestinian males, including children, were jailed by Israel. If that was in Japan, it would be 25 million Japanese imprisoned at one point.
Would any decent human being accept these evils? Of course not Would YOU accept these crimes to continue? Of course not.
But the Nakba still goes on
When it comes to the fundamental issue of the century-old conflict, namely the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return, Oslo Accord practically ignored it.
It is not surprising therefore that the first reaction of the refugees to Oslo is to form hundreds of Right of Return Committees everywhere refugees reside in exile. A notable critic of Oslo is the brilliant intellectual Edward Said. In 1998, we together with a thousand prominent Palestinians signed a proclamation that the inalienable Right of Return cannot be diminished or compromised. In 2000, we held the first international conference in Boston on the sacredness of the Right of Return. This was followed by many others. The month of May each year became a regular event to commemorate al Nakba and to renew the struggle for the Right of Return. On May 15 last, a panel on al Nakba was held in the European Parliament in Brussels. Last September, three conferences held in London alone showing the failure of Oslo Accord.
In 2001, under Oslo Accord, a feeble attempt was made to address this fundamental issue. The Taba negotiations about refugees came nowhere near bringing justice to the people. Another attempt at deception was made. Israelis said they were prepared to consider the return of the refugees through five options. One of them is the natural one, to their return to their homes in what is now Israel. Those few who would be allowed to return should be old enough to die shortly and should have always loved Israel by not resisting its occupation ever by word or deed. Their total number will not exceed one percent of all refugees.
For the other four options, the refugees were given the freedom to choose where they wish to be exiled away from Palestine. Israel wanted to make sure that the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is permanent.
It was proposed in Taba that the property of the exiled refugees and all Palestinian land, which is 93% of Israel’s area, will be given free to Israel and compensation for this huge real estate is to be paid, not by the party who stole it, but by the international community. Not surprisingly, these proposals were not accepted and Taba negotiations failed.
So what should we do?
Should we accept ethnic cleansing, expulsion, occupation, racism, apartheid? Of course not. We should look for the remedy, for the salvation of the oppressed, for freedom of those colonized in their own homeland. We must restore justice. But how?
We must let the refugees return to their homes.
The international community has already determined the remedy. UN resolution 194 called for the return of the refugees 135 times, longer and more consistently than ANY resolution in UN history. Israel did not comply. On the contrary, it occupied more land and expelled more refugees. It could do so with the blind support of USA and some European countries.
But the world is changing. World public opinion is gaining more strength. You here in this conference are a proof that you are concerned.
Can we devise a return plan that can satisfy justice and cause minimum disruption to existing conditions? Yes we can.
First we have to know where the refugees are today and where they should return to.
Slide-9 A, B, C
We know where the refugees in any camp come from originally. This is Jabaliya camp in Gaza Strip and the red dots are the villages where they come from. This is Dehaisha camp, just south of Jerusalem. This is Ein El Hilweh camp in Lebanon.
Can we get them back? There are lots of Israelis who say: no, you cannot let them back, because the country is already full. They are replaced by immigrants from all around the world. This is not a justification if it is true. But it is not true. We made an analysis of 46 natural regions in Israel and we found that 84% of the Israeli Jews live in only 17% of Israel. This is not all. We analyzed all the municipal boundaries created by Israel and found out how many Israeli Jews live there now and how many Palestinians expelled from there and have the right to return to their homes in these areas.
Here are the municipal boundaries where Israelis more than 50,000 [57,123] live. (Area 852 km2, 4% of Israel’s area, pop 3.4m out of 5.5m Jews, 20 MB out of 429.)
And here are the same municipal boundaries where Palestinians more than 30,000 [31,033] were living and can return to. (Area 10,244 km2, 50% of Israel’s area, pop 3.6m out of 4.43m RERE (81%), 42 MB out of 429.)
And here they are combined. You see: refugees can return without any hardships to the Jewish immigrants. All can live in peace provided that racism and apartheid and occupation are totally banned.
Slide-13 A, B, C, D, E
Let me give another example in greater detail of the area from Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor down south to Gaza. The red dots are the depopulated villages. The blue line is the partition plan. What happened when those villages were depopulated? The Israelis built the blue areas instead. As you can see, most of the village sites are still vacant.
Who took them over?
The Jewish National fund took over this stolen property and built Qibbutzim on them. Remember, the Jewish National Fund is the one that organizes Gala dinners, with men in Tuxedos and bejeweled women in evening dresses, collecting tax-exempt funds for stolen property to be used by immigrants. Qibbutzim population, holding refugee land, is less than 2%. In the area shown, there are probably no more Jews than fill one refugee camp.
So what did Israel do with this whole area? They used it for military purposes. All these are the military or strategic points and the yellow area are military areas, totally taken over by the army. So, 83% of Israel is taken over partly by 2% Israeli Jews and the larger part by the Israeli army, which controls about ¾ of the land in Israel. Israel is a huge military base, the largest in one place from Paris to Tokyo.
If the war mongering in Israel is terminated, we still can re build the Palestinian villages back in their original place. With the abolition of the war and the restoration of justice, we do not need Israel’s war machine.
Slide-14 A, B
Let me give you another example, in the Southern District. With the exception of 3 Palestinian towns which are expanded, namely Beer Sheba, al Majdal, and Isdud, there are very few Jews living there in Qibbutz, each Qibbutz has only 300 people. When the Palestinian refugees in Gaza return, they will return to their almost empty land.
That is why Israel is determined to fill this land by Jewish settlers by enforcing the new racist law, known as Prawer Plan. This law when implemented will expel 70,000 Palestinians from 35 villages in Beer Sheba district in which they lived long before the European settlers came from Europe to take over their land. Those Palestinians are Israeli citizens. They now suffer a new Nakba. Demonstrations were held this year in many cities in the world against the racist Prawer Plan. The European Parliament condemned it. More public protest is expected.
Justice will no doubt come. Let us prepare for it. Let us build for the future. We start by documenting and rebuilding destroyed villages.
Here is an example of a destroyed and depopulated village, Beit Jirja, just north of Gaza Strip. Here is how it looked in 1945. We identified the owners of each house, in green squares and we know their names, we know where they live today and we can arrange their return in probably a week.
We studied the construction of these villages. We need only one or one and half million dwelling units, which is not a big deal. Palestinians have built these kinds of projects and bigger in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. The villages can easily be rebuilt by the hands of the Palestinians themselves, as labourers, engineers, managers, and developers. It is very instructive to note that the cost of reconstruction of villages and repatriation of refugees is a tiny percentage of the perennial cost of Israel to the US economy, without counting the cost of wars, military and political losses.
Return is much cheaper than compensation. Return is much cheaper that international aid. Return is certainly much cheaper than wars.
So from all this we come to the question: If we conclude therefore that Oslo will never properly address the main pillar of the conflict, the return of the refugees, if the UN reaffirmed the Right of Return 135 times, more than any resolution in UN history. If return is feasible from all practical aspects: logistic, legal, population, land, property, economics, geography or history, and if we know that most of the world support the return, with the exception of Israel and United States, then the obvious question is:
Why did not they return?
They did return in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Abkhazia, Uganda, Iraq, Kuwait, but not in Palestine?
The obstacle is the Zionist racist ideology and practice. For peace to come, they must be abolished. This is absolutely necessary; although difficult, it is not impossible. I believe that Israel’s constant violation of every article in human rights charter must come to an end.
I am reminded of Edward Said when he said, in his very early exposition of Oslo hoax, telling the Palestinians that ‘the struggle for liberation is where every Palestinian worth anything now stands’. And I now extend it: it is where every person of honour and clear conscience should stand.
The road to justice may be long, but it is the only road to peace. Let us take that road and bring justice to millions of people sooner than later.