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

      Arab Studies Quarterly
      Pluto Journals
      Palestine, Oslo Accords, Hamas, resistance, Nakba , liberation


            Two decades later, how should we conceptualize the relevance of the Oslo Accords today? This article reconstitutes our understanding of the Accords through three parameters and purports that the legacy of the Interim Agreement is one that oscillates between what it has failed to achieve with regard to the Palestinian quest for statehood and what it continues to do as a mechanism influencing the “brand” Palestinian politics that can be practiced (uninhibitedly) within the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). In this way, charting the path for future research, this article concludes that any subsequent studies on Palestinian politics and political behavior would need to account for both what the Accords has not done and what it continues to do.


            Author and article information

            Arab Studies Quarterly
            Pluto Journals
            Spring 2015
            : 37
            : 2
            : 161-176
            © 2015 The Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.


            Social & Behavioral Sciences
            liberation, Nakba ,resistance,Hamas,Oslo Accords,Palestine


            1. Author Interview, , June 2013. (Also cited in: , “Bringing Back the Palestinian State: Hamas between Government and Resistance,” Middle East Critique 24:2 (2015).)

            2. Author Interview, , June 2013. (Also cited in: . (2015). Bringing back the Palestinian State: Hamas between Government and Resistance. Middle East Critique 24(2), [Page numbers not yet available].)

            3. “About Us,” Journal of Palestine Studies , accessed May 12, 2014, http://www.palestine-studies.org/jps.

            4. See: “20 Facts: 20 Years since the Oslo Accords.” Oxfam International (September 13, 2013); , , and , “20 Years since Oslo: Palestinian Perspectives.” Heinrich Böll Stiftung (December 5, 2013); “Oslo at 20: Unfinished Peace Process.” Al Jazeera America (September 2013); , “20 Years of Oslo: The Green Line's Challenge to Statehood Project,” Journal of Palestine Studies XLIII:1 (2013), 41–50.

            5. , Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement: 1949–1993 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 638–662.

            6. Darwish resigned from the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee following the signing of the Oslo Accords.

            7. , The Adam of Two Edens (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000), 123. (Also see: , “Mahmud Darwish's Allegorical Critique of Oslo,” Journal of Palestine Studies 31:2 (2002), 66–77).

            8. , “Rocks and Rockets: Oslo's Inevitable Conclusion,” Journal of Palestine Studies 30:3 (2001), 77.

            9. The 1993 Declaration of Principles mandated the creation of a Palestinian police force under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, the institutional mechanism for Palestinians self-governance. While Article VIII specifically outlined establishment of the police force under the title “public order and security,” its responsibilities were further detailed in the context of different aspects of post-Oslo Palestinian politics in Articles III, VI, XIII, and Annex II.

            10. The UN Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted on November 22, 1967, in the wake of the Six Day War and emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” In that it affirmed that “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” could only be achieved through Israeli withdrawal of troops from occupied territories and recognition of “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” The UN Security Council Resolution 338 was adopted on October 22, 1973, and called for the end of the Yom Kippur War.

            11. Read as “the abandonment of an armed struggle against Israel.”

            12. Arafat vaguely alluded to these principles in his speech at the UN General Assembly (GA) on December 13, 1988. With the USA unhappy with the equivocal nature of Arafat's speech, he called a press conference the next day where he specifically accepted the above principles. Arafat's speech at the UNGA can be accessed from: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/pal/pal5.htm.

            13. “Israel-PLO Recognition: Exchange of Letters between PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat,” The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL), accessed April 23, 2014, http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/36917473237100E285257028006C0BC5.

            14. This could be seen as the logic and framework of the relationship between the PLO and Israel that continues to enjoy primacy today.

            15. “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements,” The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL), accessed April 23, 2014, http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/71DC8C9D96D2F0FF85256117007CB6CA.

            16. , Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), 8.

            17. It was the Nakba or “catastrophe” of 1948 that rendered Palestinian a people without a home and relegated Palestine to the pages of history. What then ensued was a period often termed as the “lost years” where the Palestinian cause seized to exist on the landscape of international politics. But, ever since the 1950s with Palestinian student organizations emerging across urban centers of the Middle East, for the Palestinians in exile, the aspiration has been to chart the return of the Palestinian cause as an “issue” of international concern and to transform the “memory” of Palestinian into a tangible and manifested reality. Then, with the path “home” from exile being all but tumultuous, the Oslo Accords was, for some, a climactic juncture as it symbolized the recognition of Palestinian aspirations as legitimate on the South Lawn of the White House. (For more on the “lost years” to the “road to return” see: , Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 178–180).

            18. , “Rabin and Arafat Seal Their Accord as Clinton Applauds ‘Brave Gamble’: Old Warriors Now Face Task of Building Upon Foundation.” The New York Times (September 13, 1993).

            19. , “The Oslo Accord,” Journal of Palestine Studies 23:3 (1994), 38.

            20. This effectively left organizations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad outside the realm of official politics, despite being representative of a significant section of the Palestinian populace.

            21. The key symbolizes the Palestinian “Right of Return” and Holy Koran represents the righteous path to liberation.

            22. While this is a criticism of all negotiations, with the Oslo Accords still determining the framework of direct negotiations with Israel, it could be seen as an implicit criticism of the Accords as well.

            23. Author Interview with Hamas-appointed Translator (name withheld on request), , June 2013.

            24. See: , “Hamas in Transition: The Failure of Sanctions,” Democratization 16:1 (2009), 59–80; , The Political Ideology of Hamas: A Grassroots Perspective (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009), 147; , Identity and Religion in Palestine: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 3; , “A ‘New Hamas’ through Its New Documents,” Journal of Palestine Studies 35:4 (2006), 6–27; , “The Hamas Agenda: How Has It Changed?” Middle East Policy 17:4 (2010), 131–143.

            25. The implicit claim being that Hamas is transitioning into becoming an organization informed primarily by its socio-civilian activities rather than its armed operations.

            26. , “Hamas and the Oslo Accords: Religious Dogma in a Changing Political Reality,” Mediterranean Politics 4:3 (1999), 40.

            27. , “Hamas and the Oslo Accords”, 40.

            28. , “Armed Struggle and State Formation,” Journal of Palestine Studies 26:4 (1997), 20–21.

            29. , Hamas: A Beginner's Guide (London: Pluto Press, 2006), 44.

            30. , Armed Struggle and the Search for State , 23.

            31. , Bombs and Ballots: Governance by Islamist Terrorist and Guerrilla Groups (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Group, 2010), 132.

            32. For an overview see: , “The Crisis Within: The Struggle for Palestinian Society,” Critique 9:17 (2000), 5–30.

            33. , “Hamas and the Oslo Accords”, 39.

            34. Rooted in the ideology, organizational structure, and operational network of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Hamas was the immediate successor to al-Mujamma' al-Islami or the Islamic Center, established in the Gaza Strip in 1973. Founded by Sheikh Yassin and ten others, it controlled mosques and zakat committees, and used the available financial resources to run a multitude of social service activities including medical facilities. What the MB in general and the Mujamma in particular built on were Arab (nationalist and socialist) failures of 1967 and subsequently the rise of the Islamists in the Middle East. That said, while vehemently criticized by nationalists and leftists in Palestine, at this juncture the Mujamma limited itself to non-violent activities in bid to build a “strong community” capable of facing a brutal Israeli occupation, a logic commonly relayed in Islamist oppositional tactics against colonizers. By 1985, the Mujamma had garnered approximately 2,000 members and was tacitly supported (and legalized in 1978) by Israeli authorities in a bid to create an oppositional front to the PLO authority. It was then at the “breaking point” of the First Intifada that the Mujamma transformed itself into an armed faction in the form of Hamas. (, “Crescent and Sword: The Hamas Enigma,” Third World Quarterly 26:8 (2005), 1376; and , The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence and Coexistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 27; , Hamas , 15).

            35. , Bombs and Ballots , 127.

            36. Hamas' social service operations are broadly categorize as educational (kindergarten, schools, enriching group activities, summer camps, and universities), medical (clinics and hospitals), religious (mosques and Quran memorizing institutes), and welfare (distributing financial and material aid, especially during economic crises, Muslim holidays, and Ramadan). (, “Social-Civilian Apparatuses of Hamas, Hizballah and Other Activist Islamic Organizations,” Digest of Middle East Studies 21:1 (2012), 130).

            37. , Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 15.

            38. This quote is also drawn from my conversations with the Hamas-appointed translator who escorted me around a Hamas summer camp. For more on Hamas summer camps and what they symbolize for the Palestinian struggle, see: , “Summer Fun, Hamas-Style.” Open Democracy , 12 July 2013, accessed from: http://www.opendemocracy.net/somdeep-sen/summer-funhamas-style-0.

            39. and , “Hamas as a Political Party: Democratization in the Palestinian Territories,” Terrorism and Political Violence 25:1 (2013), 76; , Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence (London: Hurst & Company, 2007), 144–145.

            40. In a US Congressional Research Service report titled “U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority,” Zanotti notes that the Palestinian security forces are often modeled as a national army—“housed in barracks, classified by military rank, and subject to a military style command structure” (, “U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority.” Congressional Research Service (January 8, 2010), 13). But with the legal mandate to act like a real army, its function is often limited to policing and maintaining law and order in the Palestinian territories. In practice, this has also meant that the internal security forces have played a key role in eliminating oppositional forces from the areas under their direct control.

            41. Socio-civilian operations allow organizations to achieve this goal without extracting the material and human costs frequently associated with military confrontations with Israel and PA security forces.

            42. It is important to remember that the mandate to govern through the PA would be determined by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections.

            43. It is important to note that at the time of its signing the financial incentives of the Oslo Accords played a very important role as the PLO faced a significant financial crisis with the dwindling financial assistance from Iraq and the Gulf States during the Gulf crisis and “threatened the neopatrimonial system of control maintained by Arafat” (Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State, 656–657). In 2014, the budget of the Palestinian Authority is said to be US$4.2 billion. An income of US$2.7 billion is expected from taxes and fees, while US$1.6 billion is expected in foreign aid.

            44. With these responsibilities mandated by Article VI of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, Article VII declared that the PLC (once elected) would establish a Palestinian Electricity Authority, a Gaza Sea Port Authority, a Palestinian Development Bank, a Palestinian Export Promotion Board, a Palestinian Environmental Authority, a Palestinian Land Authority, and a Palestinian Water Administration Authority.

            45. and , “From Occupation to State-Building: Palestinian Political Society Meets Palestinian Civil Society,” Government and Opposition 33:3 (1998), 275.

            46. And bring Palestinian factions within its dictates.

            47. Essentially denoting factions with whom Israel is willing to engage in direct negotiations.

            48. It is important to note that this transformation was not without opposition from within the ranks of Fatah and the PLO. But despite “spirited resistance,” Arafat was able to garner the approval of the Fatah central committee. From the PLO executive committee, Arafat received only 9 (out of 18) votes in favor of the Accords but “resignations or self-imposed absences of five opponents” meant that he was able to proceed with the Interim Agreement (, Armed Struggle and the Search for State , 658).

            49. Text of Arafat's speech can be accessed at: http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cahier/proche-orient/arafat74-en.

            50. , The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 1.

            51. , Armed Struggle and the Search for State , 667–670.

            52. , “Challenges and Counterchallenges: Hamas's Response to Oslo,” Journal of Palestine Studies 28:3 (1999), 19.

            53. and , “Elusive Ingredient: Hamas and the Peace Process,” Journal of Palestine Studies 33:4 (2004), 41.

            54. , “Inducing a Failed State in Palestine,” Survival 49:3 (2007), 14.

            55. , “Inducing a Failed State in Palestine,” 16.

            56. , “Hamas in Transition,” 69.

            57. , “Inducing a Failed State in Palestine,” 17–18.

            58. , “The Ascendance of Political Islam: Hamas and Consolidation in Gaza Strip,” Third World Quarterly 49:8 (2008), 1586.

            59. , “The Gaza Bombshell.” Vanity Fair (April 2008).

            60. Author Interview, Gaza City, May 2013.

            61. Author Interview, Gaza City, June 2013.

            62. , “Armed Struggle and State Formation,” 20–21.

            63. Author Interview, Copenhagen, October 2012.

            64. , Armed Struggle and the Search for State , 660.

            65. This was ensured through the establishment of the State of Israel.

            66. The official declaration of the State of Palestine was penned by Mahmoud Darwish and was announced by Yasser Arafat on November 15, 1988.

            67. “Thousands of Palestinian Police Transferring to Gaza.” Haaretz , accessed May 4, 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.588931.


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