here are two complimentary views on the Middle East
peace process. One says that the peace process is not going
well for reasons such as the operations of Hamas. The other
says that it is not going well because Israel is not fulfilling
its role in the agreements. But the real question is whether
at any point Israel had any intention of allowing a genuine
peace process to develop.
The Palestine/Israel conflict did not start because of a
religious or cultural conflict, rather the root of the conflict
is the Zionist colonisation of Palestine. The conflict started
well before 1948, when land cultivated by the local population,
which was Arab, was gradually transferred, under a variety
of policies and practices and with some help from the British
Mandate authorities, to ownership by Jewish immigrants from
Europe, excluding the local population from it use. Then in
1948, Rabin - who some people consider the hero of the current
peace process - actively participated as a commander in the
execution of the policy of expelling Palestinians, which led
to a massive expropriation of Arab land for the exclusive
benefit of the Jewish immigrants. This process has continued
in different ways and at different speeds ever since, both
within Israel's 1948 borders and in the territories occupied
by it in 1967 (including the West Bank and Gaza Strip).
More recently, immediately after the initiation of the current
peace process and long before the explosion of buses by Hamas,
a massive process of land confiscation was set in motion.
What are the aims of this confiscation? Is it a question of
minor adustmenrts before real peace begins? Or is it an attempt
to impose an ultimate solution, in which there will never
be any hope of an independent Palestinian political entity
because the whole of the West Band has been fragmented into
very small Palestinians communities surrounded by Jewish settlements?
This latter scenario is exactly what is really unfolding
under the banner of "peace". There couldn't have
been a better time to do it. As a result of the peace process,
the Palestinian opposition was undermined, the Intifada was
choked off, and it became very difficult to mobilise any opposition
while the new Palestinian police force was being set up with
general euphoria amongst the Palestinians, and similarly among
the Israelis and the international community. It was difficult
to pose hard critical questions at such as time, when many
believed that a solution had almost been reached and there
were just a few minor problems in the way.
However, the Israeli death squads have continued their work,
aimed at PLO and Popular Front activists as well as Hamas.
It should be noted that the threats by the Israeli government,
that the death squads' activities might resume, show that
the Israelis never really thought this was an inappropriate
way of fighting the Palestinian opposition to the policy of
occupation, land confiscation and colonisation. Furthermore,
the death squads had never really stopped assassinating Palestinian
So why did the Rabin government get involved in the peace
process in the first place? What were their aims? Here (without
pushing the parallel too far), we should consider Israeli
policy in Lebanon for an indication of what they prescribe
for the territories occupied in 1967. The occupation of Lebanon
had been prepared long before the 1978 and 1982 invasion,
even before it became a base for forces opposing the Israeli
policy of occupations. There are records from Israeli official
sources of plans to establish a collaboration Lebanese force
that would carry out the Israeli policy in Lebanon, dating
from as early as 1953. Indeed, Israel established and maintains
its mercenary South Lebanese Army for this very purpose. The
role of the South Lebanese Army is to release Israel from
the burden of direct involvement in policing its occupied
Lebanese territory. Unfortunately, this is just the sort of
role that Israel has prescribed for the Palestinians National
Authorities (PNA), and the rest of the peace process is mainly
a cover for this.
Over the years the Israeli authorities have always attempted
to have some Palestinians to do their dirt occupation work
for them. For example, in the 1980s it was the Village Leagues,
but their activities were not very successful because they
never had any support or trust from the local community. The
Intifada completely undermined the possibility of collaboration
by Palestinians with the occupation authorities, so suddenly
the Israelis were in the worst situation possible for them,
where they themselves had to carry the full burden of the
occupation on a daily basis. There was no function which they
could have entrusted to local Palestinians to carry out on
The role Israel has prescribed for the PNA is to be responsible
for securing Israel's interests. In particular, to oppress
Palestinians who struggle for their tights, including PLO
members and supporters who view the agreements as a sell out.
Unfortunately it seems that they tricked the PNA into assuming
the very task that Israel has prescribed for them.
As regards the operations currently being undertaken by Hamas,
even if Hamas made an agreement with the PLO I don't think
there is any way to stop such actions. The extent of the despair
and the lack of any hope will drive individuals to feel that
they have no other option but to act in that way. Furthermore
it was not originally Hamas's policy to initiate such operations.
My work with women political prisoners and my study of local
politics leads me to the conclusion that originally Hamas
was mainly engaged in promoting and enforcing the oppression
of Palestinian women, who had gained a significant status
in their community at the beginning of the Intifada. Hamas
adopted nationalist rhetoric and facilitate actions against
Israeli soldiers and civilians, mainly to gain popularity
and satisfy its grassroots membership. These actions are not
an intrinsic part pf Hamas's ideology, as their main aim is
to set up an oppressive theocratic state.
Where does this leave us? During the whole period of conflict,
and particularly since the 1967 occupation, things have never
been worse than in the current situation. At present virtually
all Israeli "peace camp" has been eliminated. Traditionally,
most of the Israeli "peace camp" justified its support
for Palestinian rights predominantly as the only workable
policy for the defence of the interests of Israel. Now Israel
has managed to get the Palestinians to take over the maintenance
of the occupation, so that Israel doesn't have to pay the
cost involved in employing Israeli soldiers and other forces
in a hostile territory. This is a Zionist dream some true
- maintaining the advantages of the occupation without the
associated human or financial cost. Traditionally, most of
the so called Peace Camp had justified its support for a Palestinian
state predominantly as the best way to secure segregation
of Palestinians. Now, under the banner of "peace",
a further segregation has been imposed on Palestinians. So
it is very difficult to mobilise any opposition among the
The situation is far more desperate than it was before. In
fact, the real meaning of the Oslo Agreement is a new apartheid.
The Israeli government's aim is not just to get the PNA to
control the Palestinian resistance to the ongoing Israeli
occupation but to initiate a new phase in that occupation.
The Labour government's plan is to surround the whole of the
Gaza Strip with an effective wall, with guards and sensors,
and thereby to establish a small and fragmented Bantustan.
Much of the Israeli "peace camp", which by and large
supports ethnic cleansing, did not oppose this plan. On the
other hand, some people from the Israeli tight wing party,
Likud, such as Arens (a prominent minister in the Liked led
government) opposed the plan on moral grounds.
Israel is not giving the Palestinians control of water resources,
land resources, or free access to the sea. Everything is to
continue to be controlled by the Israelis. The Israeli press
has revealed that even the mail to and from the Palestinian
"autonomous" enclaves is censored by the Israeli
authorities. There is nothing that the Israelis are going
to give away, and they have given nothing away so far. All
that they have done is to establish apartheid.
In the past, Israel refused to abide by most of its legal
obligations as the occupring power. But now even those few
obligations it did accept have been withdrawn. In the old
days if a Palestinians in Gaza was denied the right to travel
to medical centres or educational institutions in the West
Bank, her or she could apply to the Israeli Supreme Court.
When Israel closed Gaza and stopped workers reaching their
places of employment, then the Israeli authorities were held
responsible for denying the rights for employment. But these
obligations have now disappeared, and there are are no procedures
by which the denial of such rights can be challenged: now
there is no Israeli authority that can be challenged in court
and forced to respect the right of a Palestinian in Gaza to
travel to medical centres or educational institutions in the
West Bank. In addition, and most important of all, the Israelis
have deprived the Palestininas of jobs. Israel no longer has
the obligation to provide Palestinians with jobs and has introduced
a new economic policy, whereby large numbers workers from
Romania, the Philippines and other countries are being imported
and replacing the Palestinian workforce. Although the growing
immigrant community is creating an additional political, economic
and social problem for Israel, Israel is systematically closing
down any job opportunities for Palestinians, who by and large
have no jobs to return to.
The Israeli government says that if the Palestinians won't
accept the role Israel has prescribed them, then they will
get a Likud government. This should bot be taken seriously.
The Likud would never have been able to carry out the atrocities
the Labour government has perpetrated' the Likud would never
have been sophisticated enough to follow George Orwell's prescription
in talking peace and doining war. Under the cover of peace
process, the Labour government carries out a massive confiscation
of land and colonisation, such that before long it will no
longer be possible to dream of a Palestinian state. The Likud
could never have accomplished having one half of the West
Bank confiscated with so little protest, and calling it Jerusalem.
The Likud would never have been able to manipulate public
opinion to accept the redefinition of Jerusalem as almost
on half of the West Bank - going north to Ramallah and south
half of the way to Hebron.
Supporters of Palestinian rights need to reassess our perception
of the current situation and what kind of political agenda
we want to promote. Under the peace process the worst atrocities
are being perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Without
a strong campaign against it there won't be any change.
has worked with women prisoners in Israeli gaols.