Eyewitness report Palestine 20 years after Oslo –no justice, no peace!

I visited the West Bank recently, just before the 20 year anniversary of the Oslo ‘peace’ accords in September. Two decades on, the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are engaged in ‘talks about talks,’ while Israel continues its settlement building and ethnic cleansing operations. As Western backed leaders hold discussions in luxurious locations, the occupation is intensifying for the people of occupied Palestine.

Discussions restarted in Washington in July after three years of continual Israeli settlement building. With no preconditions set, Israel has renewed its campaign of terror in the West Bank through August and September; its colonisation gathers pace; the blockade of Gaza is tightened. An anonymous Palestinian official told the press that Israel wants 40% of the West Bank in the final agreement, and ‘[has] shown no intention to dismantle any settlement’. On 9 September Palestinians marched to the presidential headquarters in Ramallah in a PFLP-led demonstration against the negotiations.

Israel has stepped up its invasions into the West Bank, raiding homes, arresting, shooting and killing ordinary Palestinians. The UN says the Israeli army has conducted an average of 76 search and arrest operations in the West Bank every week this year. On 26 August, when thousands of Palestinians resisted an invasion into Qalandiya refugee camp, Israeli soldiers shot and killed three young men. Another was killed in Jenin with more wounded. Palestinians demonstrated across the West Bank and closed shops in Jerusalem in protest at the killings. In Jenin, Islam al Tubasi was shot and killed. The fires have spread to Hebron, where two IDF soldiers were killed during invasions. Israel responded by allowing settlers to enter a Palestinian house in the area. Residents are injured by bullets, stun grenades and teargas as they mobilise against Israeli actions, which do nothing to suppress the spirit of resistance among the Palestinian youth.

In Jerusalem, Israel is targeting the Temple Mount, the site of Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. On 5 September hundreds of youths fought back with stones as Israeli soldiers attempted to escort a group of ‘guests’ into the area. Fascist Israeli politicians demand total annexation. Moshe Feiglin, now the deputy speaker of the Knesset [Zionist parliament], says Israel should have total control of the Temple Mount. On 18 September clashes continued as youths threw stones at soldiers blocking their entry with live rounds and teargas.

A Palestinian official said the ‘peace’ talks were in ‘a quiet crisis’. The negotiations are opposed by working class Palestinians, whose rejection of the PA is becoming louder. Speaking to Israeli TV on 23 August, PA President Mahmoud Abbas conceded that: ‘I know how concerned you are, therefore I want to make some issues clear. I assure you that following the end of successful peace talks, the conflict will be resolved, we will not demand to return to Jaffa, Akka and Safad.’ His own family are refugees from Safad. Abbas added that ‘the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, everything else is Israel’. He later claimed his views were ‘not policy’ but his own opinions. There were demonstrations immediately. In Gaza, Palestinian refugees held banners demanding their right of return. In a 2012 interview Abbas had promised, ‘As far as I am here in this office, there will be no armed third intifada [uprising]... never.’

On 5 September Britain and the World Bank announced that the PA would receive $72.2 million for ‘reform and development’ of public services. But the economic situation is unsustainable. The PA’s strategy of normalisation won’t work. The PA loses over £192 million a year in taxes to Israel. In 1988 the mayor of Ramallah laughed that the only independence that Israel would grant is the ‘power to collect garbage and exterminate mosquitoes’. In 2012 the bourgeois PA was up to $3 billion in debt, relying on donations, loans and corruption, while Palestinian workers suffer from poverty and occupation. Government workers are on strike over rising living costs and students are striking and demonstrating against tuition fee hikes.

There is growing resentment of the PA among Palestinians. Abbas told the 26 prisoners released in a ‘good will’ gesture by Israel in early August, ‘You are just the beginning and the rest will come.’ Yet no-one believes that their freedom will come from the PA men who drafted the ‘great betrayal’ of Oslo (see box). Hamas is also seen as being compromised by its position of social control in the blockaded Gaza strip. Some Palestinians are calling for a new national leadership. Ramzy Baroud writes in the Palestine Chronicle that this ‘must come from the streets of Gaza and Ramallah, not academic papers or press conferences’.

Louis Brehony

Free Palestine!

Boycott apartheid Israel!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013


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