Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

"It's Nakba, Not a Party": Re-Stating the (Continued) Legacy of the Oslo Accords

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

"It's Nakba, Not a Party": Re-Stating the (Continued) Legacy of the Oslo Accords

Article excerpt

The question is what comes first, building a state or liberation. today we have a government but it's a government without a state. And this principle is a problem of oslo. For people in Gaza, the normal people, liberation is the most important but what combination should we have? not West Bank, of course. the problem now is that we don't have a term of reference. neither are we part of the Palestinian Liberation organization and neither are we part of Palestinian Authority.

-Wesam Afifa, director General, Al-resalah Media institution (Hamas-affiliated)1

The oslo Accords were a mistake. in the beginning it was sold as the first step for the Palestinians to create a state. But we can see that it was false hope and painted a rosy picture. they deceived us by giving us false hope. it was a big illusion ... it was not there to create a state but it is there to decrease the cost of the occupation.

-Ghazi Hamad, Hamas deputy Foreign Minister2

To say that the Oslo Accords or the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements have had an emblematic impact on our study of Palestinian politics would be an understatement. A simple word search of "Oslo" through the back issues of the Journal of Palestine Studies, a peer-reviewed publication focused solely on "Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict,"3 lists a myriad of articles that while studying vastly different aspects of the politics of the "Holy Land" still use the Oslo Accords as a point of reference. But despite embodying an illustrative centrality to academic (and public discourse) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may still seem particularly curious that two decades after the official signing of the Oslo Accords, it continues to be held responsible for the crises Palestinian politics faces today. It is true that the year 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords and prompted non-profit organizations, think tanks, media outlets, and academics4 to re-emphasize the "missed opportunities" of the post-Oslo period. But back in October 1993, Edward Said had already declared the agreement to be a (tragic) spectacle of Palestinian rights being traded for public recognition by a tired, weary, politically challenged and materially deprived liberation faction.5 Similarly, Mahmoud Darwish6 in "A Non-Linguistic Dispute with Imru' al-Qays" deemed the Accords a mere euphemism for a "triumphant" Israel and a "diminishing" scope for achieving Palestinian aspirations for a national home.7 Finally, the most spectacular criticism of the Oslo Accords came in the form of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005), through which Palestinians insisted, "... this time around, the struggle will continue until Israel both agrees to a genuine peace and actually implements it."8 Then, with all this already said, how should we understand the relevance of the Oslo Accords to Palestinian politics today?

In order to answer this question, this article reconstitutes our understanding of the Interim Agreement and outlines three critical legacies that inform the status of the Accords in Palestinian politics 20 years after its signing. Accordingly, the first, and the most pertinent, legacy of the Accords remains hinged on its inability to establish a Palestinian state. In light of this, for Palestinian factions, the Oslo Accords is a continuous reminder of the need to persist with the liberation struggle and the logic of resistance. Second, the Oslo Accords (and its failures) brought to prominence Hamas or the Islamic Resistance Movement as an organization that was able to garner immense legitimacy as an oppositional force operating outside the dictates of the Accords. Since its 2006 election victory, the organization could be seen as influenced by the statist logic imbued in the Accords. Nevertheless, before 2006, it pioneered the manner in which the Palestinian resistance could be persisted with outside the framework of Oslo despite the resources available to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for "policing"9 those in opposition to its logic and mandate. …

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