20 Years Since Oslo

It’s been 20 years since Oslo.

We Palestinians might not be good at everything, but we are strangely talented when it comes to knowing how long it has been since certain things happened.

It’s been 65 years since the catastrophic events of 1948.  Our land was ethnically cleansed.  400 Palestinian villages were destroyed.  750,000 registered refugees have now turned into 5 million.

It’s been 46 years since the Six-Day War.  300,000 more refugees were created.  150,000 Palestinians became refugees for a second time.  It was the beginning of military occupation, daily checkpoints, and constant curfews.  Before 1967, over half of all Palestinians lived inside historic Palestine.  After 1967, a vast majority did not.

It’s been 106 years since the First Zionist Congress in Switzerland declared that “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine.”

It’s been 97 years since the Sykes-Picot Agreement.  This is when snobby, aristocratic French and English men secretly agreed how they were going to carve up the Middle East after the Ottomans fell.  Great Britain got Palestine.

It’s been 96 years since the Balfour Declaration.  Britain’s Foreign Secretary expressed British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  To the Brits’ credit, it was a very nice way of saying “we don’t want you to live here in Europe.”

It’s been 26 years since the beginning of the First Intifada. :-)
And it’s been 13 years since the beginning of the Second Intifada. :-) :-)

It’s been 11 years since they started building the wall. :-(

It’s been 10 years since the murder of Rachel Corrie.  She was the American-born activist killed when an American-made bulldozer crushed her as she non-violently protested the American-funded demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza.  Attempts to hold Israel accountable for this act have been unsuccessful.  American governmental silence has been deafening.

It’s been 23 years since the massacre at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.  22 Palestinians were murdered in Jerusalem by Israeli security forces as they protested Israeli aggressions.

It’s been 31 years since the massacres at Sabra and Shatila.  Over 3,000 defenseless Palestinian refugees were murdered at the hands of Lebanese Phalangist forces in collaboration with Israel.

It’s been 65 years since the massacre at Deir Yassin.  Over 250 Palestinians were massacred, including at least 25 pregnant women.

It’s been 5 years since the massacre in Gaza.  1,400 Palestinians were murdered indiscriminately in “Operation Cast Lead.”

It’s been 19 years since the massacre in Hebron.  American-born Israeli Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi Mosque dressed in army fatigues and gunned down Palestinians as they knelt in worship.  29 were murdered and 125 were wounded.  His gravesite became a site of pilgrimage for some Israelis.

It’s been 60 years since the massacre at Qibya.  69 Palestinians were murdered in an operation ordered by David Ben-Gurion and commanded by Ariel Sharon.  Sharon said, “Qibya was to be an example for everyone.”

It’s been 57 years since the massacres at Khan Yunis and Rafah.  Over the course of eight days, almost 400 Palestinian refugees were massacred.  Israel has never denied or acknowledging any wrongdoing.

It’s been 57 years since the massacre at Kafr Qasem.  48 Palestinians were murdered by Israeli forces for violating a curfew they had no idea existed.  Two soldiers were imprisoned for 5 years and later promoted to high-level positions inside Israel.

It’s been 65 years since the massacres and expulsions in the Palestinian cities of Lidd and Ramle.  Hundreds of Palestinians were murdered, women were raped, and businesses looted.  70,000 refugees were led, many on foot, to camps near Ramallah.  Hundreds died on the way.  Their empty houses were populated by Jewish immigrants, who still reside there to this day.

You must be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of massacres.”  I know.

It’s been 65 years since my father was exiled from Palestine for being Palestinian, and 33 years since he was exiled from Jordan for the same reason.

And it’s been 20 years since Oslo.  I remember watching it in my high school.  My teacher knew I was Palestinian and let me out of class to catch the ceremony on live TV.  I was 16.  I knew this was important, but I didn’t know how to feel.  Maybe there was something in my Palestinian DNA that told me that jubilation was not the proper response.  Oslo, instead of being the end of a process (as many Palestinians incorrectly thought), was the beginning of a process.  But it has not been a process of peace.  It has been a process of expansion, settlements, dispossession, appropriation, and killing.  It has been a process characterized by racist Israeli policies, right-wing Israeli politicians, and the denial of our very existence.

So, yes, it’s been 20 years since Oslo.  But I don’t really feel like talking about it.  I have too many other things to remember.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


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