The Oslo predicament and the PA’s failure, collaboration and repression… (Part I)

At the end of June, the EU and US-trained Palestinian Authority (PA) police, the mukhabarat and un-uniformed thugs attack on two consecutive days Palestinians protesting against the invitation of Israeli war criminal Shaul Mofaz to Ramallah. Mofaz was Chief-of-Staff of the IOF from 1998 until 2003, and then Israeli Defence Minister from 2003 until 2006, making him directly responsible for Israeli war crimes during the Second Intifada and the during the 2006 war against Lebanon. Under his command, the IOF carried out numerous atrocities, such as the massacre in Jenin refugee camp in 2002 and the murder of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children[1] .

The repression targeted everyone, on Saturday June 30, at least 20 people were treated in hospital for their injuries with another three seriously injured. One protester was kidnapped by police and mukhabarat, beaten, and then released, receiving X-rays and treatment for his injuries. Around fifty demonstrators marched from Al-Manara Square to the hospital, and stayed in the courtyard to offer solidarity with the injured, and to defend the injured from further police violence and kidnapping. Journalists, Palestinian and foreign, reporting the demonstrations were also attacked by the police and mukhabarat, with several being struck with batons and at least three cameras being stolen by police. The Sunday June 1, a protest was organized in response to the regime’s violence and was also repressed violently ( for more information on these two protests check: http://www.stopthewall.org/2012/07/02/palestinian-authority-police-brutality-against-anti-mofaz-protests)

The PA has indeed engaged itself in an increasing negative path for a while now; it has limited the democratic rights of the Palestinians, while implementing neo liberal policies impoverishing the people as a whole. Repression against Hamas members and institutions, as well as any groups or individuals challenging its authority have been widespread in the West Bank, just as for example the youth movements demanding the end of the political division which were severely repressed last year on March 15.

The PA is also guilty of collaborating on security issues with Israel. The Palestine Papers revealed by Al Jazeera channel in January 2011 how deeply this collaboration went, including PA officials urging Israel to tighten the illegal siege of Gaza, efforts by the PA to block Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners,  and secret committees to undermine the previous Palestinian national unity government established in 2007.

The PA has also been more interested in continuous and fruitless negotiations with Israel and collaboration with the international community, while still trying to weaken Hamas’ power.

The PA’s failure originates greatly from the Oslo agreement or predicament, while not forgetting that the failure and errors of the PLO leadership are older.

Political and economic consequences of Oslo agreement and others

The Oslo Agreement was concluded in September 1993 between the Israeli State and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), following months of secret negotiations and meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials. The agreement did neither achieve peace nor establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State as presented by the Medias and the international community; on the opposite it maintained Israeli control and domination in all areas. Through the Oslo agreement, Israeli strategy was to maintain control over the Palestinian inhabitants of the OPT, but without imposing a direct military rule over Palestinians cities and villages.

The Olso agreement fragmented officially the West Bank into 3 zones:

–          Zone A is under full control of the PA and represents 18% of the territory

–          Zone B is under the administrative control of the PA and the security control of Israel, and represents 21% of the territory

–          Zone C is under the full control Israel and represents 61% of the territory[2]

During the Intifada from 200 to 2005, Israel nevertheless re occupied zone A supposedly under the full control of the PA.

The withdrawal of Israeli settlements and Israeli soldiers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 did not change the fact that Israel continued to control the air and maritime space of Gaza, which became an open air prison especially after Hamas take over in 2007, while the Rafah Border crossing was supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission. The closure and the siege of Gaza by the Israeli authorities has been actually a continuing occurrence since 1989, as a component of an articulate strategy to fragment the OPT.

The Oslo agreement was also designed to retain under Israeli domination Palestinian movement, goods, the economy and the borders, although the Palestinian residents of the OPT were to be governed by the PA whose rule and power relied on the goodwill and the blessing of the Israeli and US governments[3].  The main duty and commitment of the PA was to guaranty “the security” of the State of Israel as stated in the Declaration of Principles (DOP), commonly known as the Oslo Agreement, in other words to behave as a police for the occupying power. The PA has therefore acted as the police Israel protecting it and the settlements inside the OPT, while also oppressing opposition activists to the Oslo agreement and policies.

The Oslo process aimed to enforce even more the prior fragmentation of the OPT by the creation of Palestinian Bantustans and to give the benediction of the great powers on a servile PA. Through the 2000s, the formalization of these Bantustans has increasingly taken form with the construction of the Apartheid Wall surrounding villages and cities in the West Bank, despite the resistance of the Palestinians and the popular Intifada which lasted from 2000 to 2005. The Israeli authorities multiplied checkpoints in the West Bank; various ID cards have been allocated to OPT inhabitants according to their origins, and the release of authorizations and permits entirely controlling the movement of people and goods.

We can observe that collective punishment measures continued while land confiscation expanded as well to build colonial settlements and build the Apartheid Wall. The number of settlers in the West Bank reached today half a million, while they were less than 300 000 in 1993.

These decisions were also made to extend control over the OPT and its natural resources, especially water which Israel still controls 80%[4], by enlarging the size and number of colonial settlements and settlers, and break up the OPT into many subdivisions.

The Apartheid wall was not build on security claims as promoted by Israel but to expropriate more lands, annexing to Israel approximately 43.5% of the West Bank according to the construction plan, to increase the colonization in the West Bank[5]. The Wall also has a consequence to create new Palestinian refugees by refusing them the access to their land and to effective water resources and by restraining freedom of movement to such an expanse that staying in the city or village fell to be a viable option[6].

These policies of land expropriation and control over natural resources led to the deepening of the weakening and marginalization of the agriculture and industrial sectors and their aptitude to incorporate Palestinian labor.

In conjunction to the Oslo agreement signed in 1993, an economic agreement called Paris protocol was concluded in 1995. It granted exact prospect of which Palestinians products were given permission to export and import, and regulated also taxations and other economic issues.

The Israeli authorities pursued their policy of “de-development” started in 1967 towards the OPT. These policies maintained the same objectives of establishing on one side military, economic and political control over the OPT and protecting Israeli’s national interests, while on the other side dismantling the Palestinian economy and undermine its indigenous economic base in a way that weakens national aspirations[7]

NGOs

The growth of NGOs in the OPT has also been part of these neoliberal policies and creating a more dependent situation for Palestinians to foreign aid. The NGOs in Palestine managed to alleviate the pressure generated by daily needs, but they do not perform a development role in the full sense of the term. Accordingly, NGO’s overwhelming focus on services at the cost of ignoring productive activities has pushed the Palestinians toward further dependence on the Israeli economy. Palestine local activism and mass organizations, mainly led by the left, were mostly based on a mobilization idea before the peace process, in other words that the activities were initiated, decided on, and carried out with the involvement of the grass roots. Following the establishment of the PA, however, the conditions of foreign funding turned these groups into organizations of the professional elite, with particular discourses of efficiency and expertise. This tends to create distance between NGOs and the grass roots. Thus what happened is that NGO activism meant and until today in reality is the activism of the NGO leaders, and not that of the millions of targeted people. These NGOs serve very often more their employees than the potential beneficiaries.

A report written by the Palestinian organization Dalia Association has shown that most donors who argue that they are already meeting local needs are actually also often the ones that refuse to engage with Palestinians working outside of the largest locally-run organizations. In addition, the report adds that “aid is administered in a way that disempowers Palestinian civil society by undermining local agendas, ignoring local leadership, and discouraging local initiative. In the long-term, trust in local institutions is damaged because communities perceive their NGOs as serving donors’ foreign agendas, rather than local ones [8]. The Dalia Association led a research that sought to better understand the problem of dependence on international aid, which reaches a nearly $1 billion annually and are injected in the Palestinian economy. The report argues that only few organizations out of the over 150 civil society activists and development professionals who were interviewed defended the aid system, while the far majority criticized the donor-driven agendas, misuse of resources, corrupt practices (both by donors and NGO recipients), and inaccessibility of aid to those grassroots activists best positioned to make real contributions on the ground[9].

Aid dependency is actually clearly an issue in the OPT, which expanded by over 500% in the last decade, exceeding $3billion in 2009[10]. On a per capita basis the Palestinian population received one of the highest levels of aid in the world, while aid effectively amounted just less than half of the economy in 2009[11] and covered 42% of recurrent PA spending in 2009, and 38% in 2010[12]. This aid despite intended to reduce poverty, increase respect for rights, and promote stability according to most of the donors has done nearly nothing. Only very little development has taken place, and even less that is sustainable

The Dalia association has tried to talk about and debate their finding after an intense and vast assessment about the needs, perceptions and preferences of community based organizations with prominent donors through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee which is the organization that transfers aid to the PA from Europe and the US, but this latter did not answer to the calls for discussion of the Palestinian organization[13].

Political, social and popular resistance

Resistance against Israel’s continuation occupation of the OPT on one side and of the policies of the PA and lately Hamas in the Gaza Strip have been present since the Oslo agreement. They have taken different forms social protests against the PA neo liberal and austerity measures, to resistance, both peaceful and armed, against Israel’s occupation forces, and finally for political demands against the PA and Hamas.

In 1997 strike was initiated and led by a grassroots committee of teachers who bypassed the traditional union structures allied to Fatah to seek higher salaries. It was confronted with harsh repression by the PA security forces that arrested dozens of teachers.  Industrial actions by teachers were sustained off and on until 2000, when the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising put an end to organizing attempts in the name of “national unity”[14].

In September 2000, Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Haram al-Sharif and the shooting deaths of demonstrators at the site against the background of the Camp David (II) summit collapse in July will lead to the “2nd Intifada”. The 2nd Intifada was much more militarized than the first one and popular mobilizations including strikes, demonstrations and civil disobedience were very weak and quasi absent in comparison to the first uprising. The population of the OPT in its far majority has been left with virtually no active role in the uprising due to the collapse of popular, neighborhood committees mass organizations at the end of the 1st Intifada because of Israeli violent and repressive measures, but moreover the Oslo agreement and process and decisions of state formation that derived from it[15].  The demobilization of the population and their increasing disaffection from political action until the uprising has been one of the most striking consequences of PA rule[16]. The many NGOs that appeared after the Oslo agreement were not able to play the role of the popular originations in the first Intifada. These organizations actually lacked any mass base and their programmatic emphasis on developmental and governance issues have rendered them unable to organize and mobilize at the mass level.

The five years of Intifada, which ended in 2005, resulted in the death of 4166 Palestinian deaths, including 886 children and 271 women; 554 extra-judicial assassinations; 253 of them were bystanders; 3530 disabled or maimed; 8600 imprisoned, including 288 children and 115 women, 2,329,659 dunums of confiscated land; another 73,613 dunums of razed land plus 1,355,290 uprooted trees; and 7761 demolished homes and another 93,842 damaged[17].

The promulgation of the PRDP fiscal decisions resulted soon after in the launching of a strike by public sector employees in February 2008. They protested the wage cuts and the “certificate of payment” promoted in the PRDP plan, and demanded as well a raise in the travel expenses component of their salaries because of increasing costs of travel, which was a direct consequence of Israeli military checkpoints and fuel prince increase[18]. The strike was nevertheless to a large extent a failure in reverting implementation of the PRDP. The traditional connection and link between public sector employees and their trade union representatives on one side and Fatah on the other side in the West Bank was one of the principal reasons in the unsuccessful strike action. Strikes and other labor actions are often inclined to be constrained on behalf of political self interests and expediency because of this link and relationship, just as in 2000 with the teachers strike and the Intifada[19].

These past few years also saw the growing importance of popular committees in various villages struggling against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, which affected and threatened their existence for many of them. The popular committee of the village of Budrus organized weekly protests and managed to regain 95 percent of its lands that were expropriated by Israel’s apartheid wall in 2003, while the village of Billin have been demonstrating on a weekly basis since 2005[20].

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) was established in 2008, to organize coordination between the different popular committees as more and more West Bank villages started their own weekly protests. The PSCC, despite its success in generating international support and media awareness, has nevertheless been criticized for its lack of mobilization strategy towards the Palestinian population and concentrating too on targeting outside actors. The protests actually do not include the majority or even half of the villagers, and some of those who are involved in it prevent their wives and daughters from participating in[21]. Criticisms also target the structure of the committee which is constituted on undemocratic basis, with self-appointed individuals from the different villages accomplishing the leadership roles. The financial assistance, more than half a million shekels ($125,000) each year, given by the PA Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, to the PSCC is denounced by some activists and in their opinions it serves this latter political agenda that is not the same that the PSCC[22]. During the seventh annual Bilin conference in April 2012 for example, Salam Fayyad described these “popular protests are the steps toward an economically independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders”, while protesters were chanting at these same demonstrations “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free[23]. Finally the PSCC also receives funds by other NGOS that also follow their own objectives and agenda, not related to Palestinian real needs or by trying to impose a certain way of organizing mobilization and protests.  According to an activist Beesan Ramadan who attended conferences organized by the Spanish NGO, the Spanish deputy consul Pablo Sanz explained the participants that non violence is the “proper way to resist”, while saying that Palestinians should be “pragmatic” and should consider not throwing rocks in protests. Sanz explained that the consuls’ jobs are rendered more difficult if they are confronted with rock throwing when they assisted to protests with European officials[24]. The need to rethink popular mobilization especially towards Palestinians is the main issue for many activists.

Increasing socio economic difficulties on its side continue to affect negatively Palestinians standards of living and to mobilize them against the consequences of the neo liberal policies of the PA.

In the beginning of January 2012, Palestinians organized several demonstrations throughout the West Bank to denounce Mr. Fayyad policies, protesting soaring prices and recently approved tax increases. These measures included new taxes on many in the private sector, but among the most contentious elements were raising taxes (the top bracket went from 15 to 30 per cent and has since been reduced to 20 per cent), providing tax collectors with extra-judicial authority; reducing exemptions; and retiring some 26,000 PA employees who had been in their jobs longer than fifteen years[25].

In May 2012, Public sector workers were on a partial strike over the application of rewards to workers and retirees. The public workers also requested that the union must be consulted in any amendments to laws involving workers’ rights[26]. The strike was halted when most demands had been agreed to but has yet to be implemented.

The 2011 -2012 university year in the West Bank witnessed many student protestors notably against the rise of fees and political issues. In the University of Birzeit close to Ramallah, well known for its activism, students mobilized on different issues such as solidarity hunger strikes with Khader Adnan and Hana Ash-Shalabi, and frequent demonstrations at the nearby Atara checkpoint, often met with violent repression by the Israeli occupation military forces[27]. Students from Birzeit and other universities have also played a major role in the demonstrations outside Ofer prison.

Students moreover launched campaign of strikes and occupations over the rising cost of tuition, and this movement spread was to other universities such as Bethlehem University, reflecting increasing socio economic difficulties in the WB and the growing discontent of students towards it. In Birzeit University for example, the student organization Qutub particularly, which includes student members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as some independent leftists, mobilizing at few occasions against the rising cost of university. Qutub organization challenged the high prices of textbooks, sold to students by the university, by making photocopies and selling them to students at the cost of production. Qutub also established a stand on campus offering sandwiches for one shekel (US$0.26) each, after observing that students were choosing not to eat in the cafeteria because of the expensive cost[28].

In March 2012, students at the Arab American University in the city of Jenin demonstrated outside the university’s administrative headquarters, demanding for the reinstatement of 400 students who could not pay full fees for the semester[29]. The student council of the university also called for boycotting classes until further notice.

Conclusion

The Oslo predicament has led Palestinians to struggle on different areas and against various actors in the same time, while popular organizations and mobilization have been weakened by Israeli Occupation forces on one side and on the other side the PA and its “state” process formation. We will see in the second the article linked to this one (PA’s dependency on external actors and neo liberal policies), how the PA’s dependence on external actors on political, security and economic aspects explains partially it’s failure and has led it to derive from the path of liberation of the Palestinian people and Palestinian lands “from the river to the sea”, as song by the Palestinians in many demonstrations, in one Democratic and Secular State and to work for the right of return of the millions of refugees.


[2] Alissa S. ( 2007), The economics of an independent Palestine, in the book Hilal J., Where Now for Palestine?: The Demise of the Two State Solution, 131

[3] Hanieh A. (2008),  Palestine in the Middle East: Opposing Neoliberalism and US Power, Part 1; http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/hanieh190708a.html#_ednref5

[4] Alissa S. ( 2007), The economics of an independent Palestine, in the book Hilal J., Where Now for Palestine?: The Demise of the Two State Solution, 127

[5] Alissa S. ( 2007), The economics of an independent Palestine, in the book Hilal J., Where Now for Palestine?: The Demise of the Two State Solution, 129

[6] Adam Smith Institute, (March 2004) Negotiation Support Unit, Israel’s “Security” Wall: Another land grab

[7] Alissa S. ( 2007), The economics of an independent Palestine, in the book Hilal J., Where Now for Palestine?: The Demise of the Two State Solution, 124

[8]Dalia association (2011 April), An Appeal by Palestinian Civil Society to the International Community to Respect Our Right to Self Determination in the Aid System http://www.dalia.ps/files/pAppealForRights.pdf

[9] Dalia association (2011 April), An Appeal by Palestinian Civil Society to the International Community to Respect Our Right to Self Determination in the Aid System http://www.dalia.ps/files/pAppealForRights.pdf

[10] See: OECD-DAC data from World Development Indicators database (extracted May 2011) and http://www.pmof.ps/news/plugins/spaw/uploads/files/accounts/2010/01/table7_eng.pdf this includes, budget support, development support, NGO and direct assistance, as well as aid channelled through

UNRWA

[11] Source: World Development Indicators. Only the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Mayotte received a greater volume of aid per head

[13] Dalia association (2011 April), An Appeal by Palestinian Civil Society to the International Community to Respect Our Right to Self Determination in the Aid System http://www.dalia.ps/files/pAppealForRights.pdf

[14] Hanieh A. (2008),  Palestine in the Middle East: Opposing Neoliberalism and US Power, Part 1; http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/hanieh190708a.html#_ednref5

[15] Hammami R. and Tamari S. (2001), The second uprising : end or new beginning?,   Journal of Palestine Studies XXX, no. 2 (Winter 2001), pp. 5-25.

[16] Hammami R. and Tamari S. (2001), The second uprising : end or new beginning?,   Journal of Palestine Studies XXX, no. 2 (Winter 2001), pp. 5-25.

[17] Baroud R. (2006) The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle

[18] Hass A.( 6 February 2008) , Democratic Suspicion, Haaretz

[19] Hanieh A. (2008),  Palestine in the Middle East: Opposing Neoliberalism and US Power, Part 1; http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/hanieh190708a.html#_ednref5

[20] Alsaafin L. ( 2012 July 10), How obsession with “nonviolence” harms the Palestinian cause,    http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482

[21] Alsaafin L. ( 2012 July 10), How obsession with “nonviolence” harms the Palestinian cause,    http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482

[22] Alsaafin L. ( 2012 July 10), How obsession with “nonviolence” harms the Palestinian cause,    http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482

[23] Alsaafin L. ( 2012 July 10), How obsession with “nonviolence” harms the Palestinian cause,    http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482

[24] Alsaafin L. ( 2012 July 10), How obsession with “nonviolence” harms the Palestinian cause,    http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482

[25] Internatinal Crisis Group Report, (2012 May),  THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES:

PALESTINIANS AND THE END OF THE PEACE PROCESS,

[26] Maan Agency (2012 May 20), Union: Public sector to strike Monday, http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=487479

[27] Al Akhbar (2012 May 26), Palestine: The Underappreciated Student Left, http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/palestine-underappreciated-student-left

[28] Al Akhbar (2012 May 26), Palestine: The Underappreciated Student Left, http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/palestine-underappreciated-student-left

[29] Maan agency (2012 March 20), Jenin students protest financial exclusion, http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=469302

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  1. […] Filed under Activism, Adam Hanieh, Arab revolutions, Arab World, Corruption, Democracy, Economic Crisis, IMF, Neo-Liberal Policies, Neo-Liberalism, NGOs, Occupation, palestine, Palestinian Authority, résistance, refugees, Socio-Economic Conditions, USA foreign politics, World Bank · Tagged with Colonization, corruption, Neo liberal policies, Occupation, Palestine, Palestine Authority, Zionism ← The Oslo predicament and the PA’s failure, collaboration and repression… (Part I) […]



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