Last month Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, died at the age of 65. Some Palestinians saw his death as a metaphor for the end of the Oslo era and its twisted logic.
Erekat and many Palestinian political officials of his generation strongly supported the so-called two-state solution, insisting that the Palestinians will be able to strike a fair deal with the Israelis and their American bosses to establish an independent Palestinian state. on parts of historic Palestine.
The illusion that this is actually possible has been fueled by decades of continued colonization and disastrous agreements. It is “the opium of the Palestinian people”.
The agreements with Israel signed by Egypt in 1978 at Camp David, by the Palestinians in 1993 in Oslo and by Jordan in 1994 in Wadi Araba were supposed to be necessary steps towards Palestinian self-determination and towards “peace” in the Middle East. Orient in general.
But all of these agreements ignored the existence of the Palestinian people as a people and their basic rights, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Instead of insisting on these fundamental rights and following the lead of the South African anti-apartheid movement, which has mobilized international civil society around the idea of one person, one voice and the creation of A secular democratic, non-racial and non-sectarian state, Palestinian political leaders have reduced the Palestinian people to only those who live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
This has resulted in the formation of a Palestinian Bantustan of incongruous territories, where Palestinians live under constant terror of military occupation and where the PA does not actually exercise full authority.
The insistence on continuing on the Oslo path to an illusory two-state solution persisted even after Israel passed a nation-state law, in which it explicitly stated that the right to self-determination in “The Land of Israel” was “unique to the Jewish people” – that is, according to the State of Israel, the Palestinians cannot enjoy this right. And it persisted even as the Arab states advanced normalization with Israel without any concessions on the “peace for land” formula and the United States proposed another “peace deal” in which it offered no to the Palestinians nothing more than humiliating subsistence.
Oslo and its derivative processes ignore the elephant in the room – the apartheid regime that Israel effectively imposed on historic Palestine. They also ignore the sumud consciousness that has emerged from the Palestinian struggle. Nor do they take into account the long Palestinian legacy of civil and political resistance.
Over the years, many Palestinians have come to see Oslo for what it is and have chosen to chart alternative paths to secure Palestinian rights.
In 2001, just one year after the start of the Second Intifada, the NGO Forum of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) was held in Durban, South Africa. It offered a very clear diagnosis of the nature of the Zionist project and paved the way for a much more practical but also gradual path towards a new intersectional cooperation between oppressed Palestinians and other marginalized groups.
In 2005, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was formed and two years later the National BDS Committee was formed to chart its course forward. BDS, as well as the establishment of the Campaign for a Single Democratic State and the Great March of Return – to name but a few examples – all represent the beginning of a process of desosloisation of the Palestinian spirit. And in this process, Gaza played a central role.
Most of the events that have taken place in the Gaza Strip since the 2006 legislative elections represent an outright rejection of the Oslo accords and their consequences. When we keep in mind that 75-80% of Gazans are refugees, the anti-colonial and anti-Oslo context of the election results becomes all the more clear.
In the following years, calls for an alternative paradigm that dissociates itself from the fiction of the “two prison solution” intensified. It is a paradigm that takes the sacrifices of the people of Gaza as a turning point in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, one that builds on the growing global anti-apartheid movement that was given impetus by the assaults of 2009, 2012, 2014. Gaza and the Great March of Return.
The de-isolation of Palestine, for most Palestinian militants, has become a prerequisite for the establishment of a peace with justice. This requires a redefinition of the Palestinian cause as an anti-colonial struggle against a system of colonization and apartheid, and the reunification of the three components of the Palestinian people, namely the residents of Gaza and the West Bank, the refugees and the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The first steps in this process were taken in Durban in 2001. The WCAR declaration, in a very particular way, called on the Palestinians to advise the most effective tool of international solidarity in their struggle to end apartheid in historic Palestine. The language used in the statement was clear, diagnostic, strong and – most importantly – uncompromising on basic human rights:
“We declare Israel as a racist and apartheid state in which the Israeli brand of apartheid as a crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and segregation, dispossession, restricted access to land, denationalization, ‘bantustanization’ and inhumane acts.
And it was, for all of us in Palestine, the start of our South African moment, a step in our long march towards freedom, equality and justice.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.