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The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and afterby Edward W. Said
Synopses & Reviews
The First Step
A short while ago I was invited to present my views on the current 'peace process' to an invited group of guests at the Columbia University School of Journalism. Aside from a small number of individuals from the university itself, and one Arab UN ambassador, the audience of about fifty people comprised reporters, news directors, and columnists from television, newspapers, and radio. What I had to say was described by the title of my remarks-Misleading Images and Brutal Realities—which argued that the picture given in the U.S. media as well as by the U.S. government of a wonderful progress toward peace in the Middle East is belied and contradicted by the worsening situation in the area, especially so far as Palestinians are concerned. I gave a documented and discouraging picture of how the Oslo agreement and its aftermath have increased Palestinian poverty and unemployment; how the worst aspects of the Israeli occupation-now the longest military occupation of the twentieth century-have continued; how land expropriation and the expansion of settlements have gone on; and finally, how for Palestinians living under the 'limited autonomy' supposedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority life has gotten worse, freedom less, and prospects diminished. I laid the blame for this on the United States, which sponsors the injustices and inequities of the process; on Israel, which exploits Palestinian weakness to prolong its military occupation and settlement practices by other means; and on the Palestinian Authority, which has legalized the illegal, not to say preposterous, aspects of the 'peace process' and presses on with it weakly and incompetently, in spite of incontrovertible evidence that Israel and the United States remain unchanged in their hostility to Palestinian aspirations.
A period of discussion and questions followed, most of it dominated by two or three supporters of Israel, one of them an Israeli employee of Reuters. The irony here was that all of them attacked me personally, speaking about my lack of integrity, anti-Semitism, and so on, without ever saying a single thing that contradicted the picture I had just presented. Both the organizer of the seminar and myself tried to push past the storm of insults and slurs, asking that people dispute with me on the basis of contested facts or figures. None was forthcoming. My crime seemed to be that I opposed the peace process, even though it was also the case that what I said about it in fact was true. My opponents were in every case people who described themselves as supporters of Peace Now (i.e., liberal Jews) and hence of peace with Palestinians. I kept raising the question of military occupation, settlement policy, the annexation of Jerusalem, but I received no response-only more accusations that I had missed certain nuances and important distinctions.
I concluded from this that in some very profound way I had violated the accepted norms for Palestinian behavior after Oslo. For one, I persisted in bringing up embarrassing questions and troubling issues. We are now supposed to feel that peace is moving forward and to question anything about the 'peace process' is tantamount to being an ungrateful, treasonous wretch. For another, I spoke in terms of facts and figures, and I was unsparing in my criticism of all the parties to the peace process. But I found that I was expected to express gratitude and a general at
Fifty essays examine the consequences of the Middle East peace process, discussing how stability in the occupied territories is undermined by the expansion of Israeli settlements and Arafat's repressive leadership.
Soon after the Oslo accords were signed in September 1993 by Israel and Palestinian Liberation Organization, Edward Said predicted that they could notlead to real peace. In these essays, most written for Arab and European newspapers, Said uncovers the political mechanism that advertises reconciliation in the Middle East while keeping peace out of thepicture.
Said argues that the imbalance in power that forces Palestinians and Arab states to accept the concessions of the United States and Israelprohibits real negotiations and promotes the second-class treatment of Palestinians. He documents what has really gone on in the occupied territories since the signing. He reports worsening conditionsfor the Palestinians critiques Yasir Arafat's self-interested and oppressive leadership, denounces Israel's refusal to recognize Palestine's past, and--in essays new to this edition--addresses theresulting unrest.
In this unflinching cry for civic justice and self-determination, Said promotes not a political agenda but a transcendent alternative: the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews enjoying equal rights and shared citizenship.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Table of Contents
The first step — How much and for how long? — Where negotiations have led — Where do we go from here? — Reflections on the role of the private sector — Elections, institutions, democracy — Post-election realities — The campaign against "Islamic terror" — Modernity, information, and governance — Total rejection and total acceptance are equivalent — Mandela, Netanyahu, and Arafat — The theory and practice of banning books and ideas — On visiting Wadie — Uprising against Oslo — Responsibility and accountability — Intellectuals and the crisis — Whom to talk to — The real meaning of the Hebron Agreement — The uses of culture — Loss of precision — The context of Arafat's American visit — Deir Yassin recalled — Thirty years after — The debate continues — The next generation? — Are there no limits to corruption? — Reparations : power and conscience? — Bombs and bulldozers — Strategies of hope — Israel at a loss — Bases for coexistence — Iraq and the Middle East crisis — Isaiah Berlin : an afterthought — Palestine and Israel : a fifty-year perspective — The challenge of Israel : fifty years on — The problem is inhumanity — Gulliver in the Middle East — Making history : constructing reality — Scenes from Palestine — End of the peace process, or beginning something else — Art, culture, and nationalism — Fifty years of dispossession — New history, old ideas — The other Wilaya — Breaking the deadlock : a third way — The final stage — The end of the interim arrangements — Incitement — West Bank diary — Truth and reconciliation — A tragedy in the making — What can separation mean? — Overdue protest — Waiting — The right of return, at last — South Lebanon and after — A final summit? — One more chance — The end of Oslo
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History and Social Science » Middle East » General History