Post-Oslo Myths

George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and Ariel Sharon have all recently expressed a commitment to try restarting Mideast talks.As things move forward, it is self-evident that any successful new process must overcome three obstacles that doomed the Oslo process of 1993-2000:

1) the Palestinian leader’s inability to accept a final settlement with Israel,
2) Palestinian promotion of suicide terrorism, and
3) the historical Palestinian/Arab rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Yet, as movement toward new talks begins, anti-Israel ideologues in the media have begun chipping away at all three of these established truths ? rewriting history and denying the fundamental challenges facing the region:


In the Buffalo News, academic Jerome Slater claims that Oslo failed not because of Arafat, but rather because of Israel and Ariel Sharon. Slater writes:

Arafat’s real bottom line was not the destruction of Israel… but a genuine two-state compromise settlement… it is a myth that Arafat “never made a counteroffer” and walked away from the bargaining table or that the negotiations broke down when the Palestinian Intifada broke out.

Slater presents himself as more knowledgeable than those who actually conducted the negotiations ? ignoring President Clinton’s famous response to Arafat’s compliment that Clinton is ‘a great man.’ Said Clinton: ‘I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one.’

And Slater ignores the testimony of Dennis Ross, who directed the entire negotiating process during those years. In his recent book ‘The Missing Peace’, Ross recalls the end of the negotiations:

If there had been any hope for an agreement, it was gone now… Arafat was not going to say yes under any circumstances… As he had so often in his career, Arafat was seeking to have it both ways, creating the illusion of being positive by accepting the ideas, but practically rejecting them with his reservations. (p. 13)

Slater’s article distorts this all-important aspect of the historical record ? the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s far-reaching peace offer of 2000.

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In a Dec. 22 article in The Nation, Baruch Kimmerling brushes aside the Palestinian culture of suicide ‘martyrdom’ (one factor that killed Oslo), and fabricates in its place a supposed Israeli promotion of death culture. In an article entitled ‘Israel’s Culture of Martyrdom’, Kimmerling claims that

in the case of Israel the connection between nationalism and death is especially visceral… Zionism, the state’s ruling ideology, is a triumphal creed shadowed by death… It is deeply ironic that the very same society now claims to be shocked by the ‘martyrdom culture’ in the occupied territories.

Kimmerling goes on to describe ‘European Jews who colonized Palestine,’ Israeli leaders ‘unburdened of almost any moral restrictions, or even obedience to internal and international laws,’ and an ‘obsessive commemoration of the Holocaust and of Jewish victimhood… the victory of death over life.’

A similar denial of Palestinian promotion of martyrdom recently appeared in the International Herald Tribune (Dec. 18), where Roger Avenstrup claimed that ‘time and again, independently of each other, researchers find no incitement to hatred in the Palestinian textbooks.

In response, expert Itamar Marcus said those like Avenstrup ‘are tragically enabling the Palestinian Authority to avoid necessary changes in its education system.’ Marcus gives a number of examples of Palestinian schoolbook lessons that the Koran views the Jews as ‘the enemy of God,’ that Israel resides on Palestinians’ ‘stolen homeland,’ and of an Islamic religious obligation to destroy the Jewish state.


This week, both the LA Times and The Guardian published an op-ed from David Hirst that challenges the very legitimacy of the state of Israel:

The real trouble is that… the U.S. has never been able to acknowledge the real nature of the problem… is essentially one of decolonization… If the Palestinians were to secure the redress that other colonized peoples have, there would be either no Israel (as there is no Algerie francaise) or there would be a binational state (like South Africa).

Read carefully: Hirst claims that all of Israel is an illegitimate colony.

Hirst ignores the plain historical facts that: 1) Jews have dwelled in the Land of Israel for 4,000 years ? millennia before Islam ever began, and 2) those who immigrated as Zionists did not come to extend colonial European influence.

This type of historical revisionism has undermined every effort of peaceful Arab/Israeli coexistence, including Oslo. As Mahmoud Abbas said just days before the outbreak of violence in 2000:

They [the Jews] claim that 2,000 years ago they had a Temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.  (August 25, 2000, Kul Al-Arab, an Israeli Arab newspaper)

The LA Times ostensibly published the Hirst op-ed as a public service, in the interest of open debate. But by promoting such a radical and distorted viewpoint, the Times actually performs a disservice ? obscuring the real issues and distancing the hope of Mideast peace.

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With the hope for renewed discussions in the air, media promotion of outright falsities from the Oslo era is unwelcome, for it only undermines possible progress.

HonestReporting subscribers are urged to be on the lookout for these and other post-Oslo myths.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.