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The Revolt of the Guinea-Pigs
By Amira Hass


Amira Hass writes for the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.  This article appeared in the Wednesday, February 21, 2021 edition, and was sent to us by the author with permission to post it here.

Members of Israel's security and intelligence establishments (and their representatives in the political system) are now announcing the imminent collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA).  One arm of the security establishment orders concrete blocks placed at entrances to Palestinian villages, preventing the residents from reaching their fields or their jobs in the cities, while another sheds crocodile tears over the population's lost income.  One order prevents PA officials from reaching their offices in the various cities, while a press briefing explains to reporters that the PA is not functioning.  With one statement the political establishment prevents the supply of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip and blocks the transfer of tax and tariff income to the PA, while another notes the growing gap between the Palestinian public and the PA, which cannot supply that public with decent services.

This feigned innocence fits in well with the victorious, Israeli, representation of the events: Arafat initiated the Al Aqsa Intifada in breach of agreements made with him—or at the very least, he did not stop it.  Arafat is not putting the Intifada down, and therefore Israel's policy of collective punishment and acts of repression—military, financial and logistic—are a legitimate defense of the attacked side: Israel.

According to this representation of reality, everything started with the first Palestinian stone, the first Palestinian bullet and the road-side bomb on the Netzarim-Karni road.

There is probably little chance of convincing the Israeli public today that there is a link between that stone, bullet and bomb and the fact that the Oslo years did not offer the Palestinian public a future of independence, nor a hope for social well-being.  Those who in recent years gladly adopted the victorious, Israeli, version of reality—alleging that the occupation is over because the PA got administrative control and policing powers over most of the Palestinian population in isolated enclaves—cannot be and are not interested in recognizing the occupied population's right to rebel.  Those who yield to the victim-mindset that is daily fed by Israeli occupation mechanisms; those who count their own dead and wounded while remaining indifferent to the huge number of dead and wounded on the other side, are making no attempt to understand the meaning of the experiment that began in the last decade of the 20th century.

The Oslo lab experiment must be judged, not on the basis of the promises and declarations of its architects, but on the basis of the Israeli policy implemented on the ground.  In short, the experiment tried to examine the possibility of continuing the rule over the Palestinians by shutting them into autonomous bordered-off areas, and taking over as much as possible of their water and land resources.  An integral part of this experiment was cultivating excess privileges for the Palestinian leadership—giving it the stamp of approval and Western legitimacy as substitutes for recognizing United Nations resolutions regarding the solution for the conflict.  Regardless of the personal feelings and past record of each member of this over-privileged leadership—long out of touch with its own people—it served at one and the same time as both one of the guinea pigs and one of the junior partners running the experiment.

The movement restrictions, the freeze on transferring funds to the PA and the destruction of the PA's economy are not an invention of recent months.  They were a fundamental ingredient of the Oslo experiment, and of Madrid before it: On the one hand, international conferences allocating huge sums to the Palestinian Authority to compensate for the infrastructure destruction caused by the Israeli occupation since 1967; and on the other hand, a sealing of the borders—sending half the population below the poverty line and causing losses totaling more than the donations.  This happened in March 1993, in the summer of 1995, and in the winter of 1996.  The collective punishment policy at the time was not only a conditioned reflex of a veteran and experienced occupation mechanism, but also a tactic intended to ensure the taming of the Palestinian leadership into accepting the rules laid down by the victorious side: We will draw your people's borders of independence; you will persecute anyone who opposes this; you will become rich, thanks to the special freedom of movement we will grant only you; and we will all call this a peace process.  If you break these rules, we have the power to jeopardize your public position, weaken your rule, and cut your sources of income.

The experiment is not over yet: It has neither been deemed a success nor declared a failure.  CIA-favorite Jibril Rajoub's talks this week in Washington indicate how important the success of the experiment is to the United States—not only to Israel—and how crucial it is to some in the Palestinian leadership.  The main problem, overlooked by the scientists, is that the human guinea pigs are rebelling against the experiment.

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