Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Attorney Diana on Life in Palestine

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Attorney Diana on Life in Palestine

Article excerpt

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian attorney now living in Ramallah and serving as a legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority's negotiations support unit, concluded a 10-day tour sponsored by Global Exchange with a Nov. 11 talk in Fairfield, New Jersey hosted by that state's chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

Buttu began by saying that Palestinian resistance has been reduced to breathing, to staying alive, to finding food and water. Meanwhile, she said, the world insists that the Palestinian Authority institute reforms and have elections before international law and the Geneva Conventions can be applicable.

For 54 years, Buttu continued, Palestinians have not experienced an Israel concerned with peace and reconciliation, but rather an Israel that wants to rid itself of Palestinians and keep the land. Palestinians supported the Oslo process because they assumed it would lead to self-determination on the entire 22 percent of Palestine left them by Israel's territorial expansion of 1948. They even accepted the division of their land into Areas A, B and C, and the proliferation of checkpoints that severely limit their freedom of movement, because they assumed it would all end after five years, in May 1999.

However, Buttu said, Oslo turned out to be only a continuation of the process of getting rid of the people while keeping the land. Oslo was a green light for colony construction--of which Barak did the most. The seven years of Oslo saw a 63 percent increase in Israeli settlement housing units, even though 40 percent of them remain empty. Under Sharon, 44 new colonies have been established.

Moreover, Buttu argued, the PLO became a security subcontractor for Israel. Nobody questioned whether Israel's security needs were legitimate, she pointed out, or why the oppressed should provide security for the oppressor. Buttu likened the situation to the victim of a rapist being asked to ensure that the rapist doesn't get hurt in the process.

Throughout the "peace process," she said, people in the U.S. and Canada--even those sympathetic to Palestine--ignored or were uninformed about what was happening on the ground. "Occupation," "international law," and "justice" were terms absent from the Oslo discourse. Consequently, after the failure of Camp David, Palestinians were accused of turning down Barak's so-called generous offer and of being "psychologically unprepared for peace. …

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