he interplay between Palestinian
feelings of alienation as a result of the Nakbeh and the implications of 1948,
the feeling of being uprooted and treated as a sub-human in the refugee camps
amid world apathy, and Palestinian insistence on the preservation of their
identity has led to the reassertion of Palestinian-Arab identity and national
consciousness since 1967. Between 1948 and 1967, Israel and others were intent
on liquidating and negating “Palestinianism,” that is, the attachment of
Palestinians to their native land. And it was not surprising in the early 1970s
that Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, articulated the idea that
Palestinian identity did not exist at all.
Palestinians under occupation or in the Palestinian Diaspora insisted on
their collective identity despite arguments against it, including hostile Arab
regimes and western powers as well as a powerful mass media in the West which
has made the terms “Palestinian identity” and “terrorism” seemingly synonymous.
The June 1967 War was a decisive
Israeli victory but a thoroughly humiliating experience for Arab regimes and
the Palestinians on the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab Jerusalem. For
Palestinians, however, it was an historical turning point which was given
impetus by fierce Palestinian resistance in the Battle of Karameh in March 1968
against Israeli incursions into the East Bank of Jordan.
This was in response to the dire
need after the 1967 War for a Palestinian organizational structure that
directed the growing sentiment of Palestinianism and a Palestinian quest for
self-determination and statehood. From this point on, the PLO became synonymous
with Palestinian national identity as well as the sole legitimate
representative of the Palestinian people as acknowledged by the Arab Summit
Conference and the United Nations in 1974.
PLO’s anti-Israel operations worldwide and the resistance of the 1968 Battle of
Karameh led to a renewed sense of Palestinian self-respect and a determined
activism, something in sharp contrast with the low state of morale in other
Arab countries resulting from the June 1967 defeat. In the words of the 1988
Palestinian Declaration of Independence “And as a result of long years of trial
in ever mounting struggle, the Palestinian political identity emerged further
consolidated and confirmed. The collective Palestinian national will forged for
itself a political embodiment, the Palestine Liberation Organization, its sole
legitimate representative recognized by the world community as a whole, as well
as by related regional and international institutions, even as it suffered
massacres and confinement within and without its home.”
The massacres at Sabra and
Shatilla in 1982 and the resistance in
refugee camps in Lebanon in the 1980s further intensified the
reassertion of Palestinian national identity. But the 1983 expulsion of the PLO
from Lebanon only underlined the importance of the occupied Palestinian
territories. And this was the prelude that would form the preparatory
groundwork for the outbreak of the popular uprising (al-Intifada) in December
1987 against Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East
PLO’s insistence on destroying the Israeli entity in the 1960s and early 1970s
gave way gradually to a more pragmatic approach, more in tune with changes in
the balance of world powers. This
pragmatism became an argument for a two-state solution on the historical soil
From the First to the Madrid Middle East Conference
Intifada which broke out in December 1987 was a turning point in Palestinian
life and in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Young Palestinians in the occupied
territories were motivated to change the status quo: the unbearable political
and economic realities associated with the Israeli military occupation since 1967.
Palestinians from all walks of life, young and old, men and women, participated
in this massive, unarmed and for the most part non-violent resistance to
Israeli occupation whose major goal was to achieve self-determination and a
Palestinian state with Arab Jerusalem as its capital. The resistance led to
hundreds of martyrs, mostly young, from all walks of life.
Intifada was successful in generating world sympathy and in putting the
Palestinian dilemma on the agenda of regional and world powers. Various peace
initiatives were introduced by Arab, European and American leaders. In addition
to the 1991 Gulf War, the Intifada was one of the major catalysts that led to
the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference and “The Land for Peace” negotiations
in October 1991.
national identity was clearly defined in the 1988 Declaration. It states that Palestine “is an Arab state,
an integral and indivisible part of the Arab nation … in heritage and
civilization. It is the state of
Palestinians everywhere where they enjoy their collective national and cultural
identity … under a parliamentary democratic political system which guarantees
freedom of religious convictions and non-discrimination in public rights of men
or women, on grounds of race, religion, color or sex.”
The PLO’s 1988 peace initiative
for a two-state solution and the PLO’s espousal of a secular ideology are not
admired by many Palestinians who refuse to accept the reality of the state of
Israel. Those espousing political Islam, among such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad,
reject the secular orientation of this conception of Palestinian national
identity. An Islamic identity assumes a
greater role among these groups who have been playing a greater role in Palestinian
society since the outbreak of the Intifada in 1987. They consider Palestine a
Muslim land and the Palestinian problem a Muslim problem of concern to the
Muslim world. The priority of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is the transformation of
Palestine into an Islamic society as a first step toward the total liberation
of the land from the Jewish State. In this group’s vision of society, religion
and politics are interdependent paerts with the Qur’an and Sunna serving as a
guide to people in every aspect of life.
trend toward political Islam in Palestinian society is an important part of am
Islamic resurgence in the Arab world since the Arab defeat in 1967 and the
emergence of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, and it has drawn much if
its strength from the pathetic state of the Arabs in their historical
confrontation with Israel and from the unmitigated failures of the Arab regimes
to build viable societies.
From the Oslo Accords to the Camp David Summit Conference
Palestinian-Israeli talks in Oslo, Norway were held under the mediation of the
Norwegian Foreign Minister. They eventually led to a draft of the Oslo Accords
(Declarations of Principles) signed secretly on 20 August 1993. On 13
September, PLO Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin exchanged letters of
mutual recognition. Shortly after, The Oslo Accords were officially signed at a
White House ceremony on 19 September 1993. In the ensuing months several
interim agreements were signed between the PLO and Israel
including the control of Border Crossings and the Area of, Protocol on Economic
Relations Cairo Agreement on Gaza-Jericho Self-Rule Accord, Early Empowerment
Agreement on the Transfer of Civilian Authorities, Oslo II / Second Stage of
Palestinian Autonomy, Hebron Agreement, Wye River Memorandum for the implementation
of Oslo II and the resumption of the final status talks, and Sharm Esh-Sheikh
Agreement, 4 September 1999, for the implementation of Wye River Memorandum.
should be noted that the Oslo Accords stipulated that Palestinian-Israeli
negotiations would comprise two phases: an “interim period” (Oslo Accords), not
to exceed five years, during which time Israel would gradually withdraw from
Palestinian areas; and a second phase in which a “final status” agreement based
on U.N. Security Resolutions 242 and 338 would be reached concerning Jerusalem,
the refugee problem, settlements, final borders and water resources, the
original target of which was set at 4 May 1999.
more positive aspect of the Oslo Accord was the arrival of Palestinian police
forces followed by Chairman Arafat and Diaspora Palestinians to the Palestinian
homeland to set up the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Likewise, on 20
January 1996, free Palestinian elections took place to elect 88 members of the
Palestinian Legislative Council and the President of the PNA. Eighty percent of
Palestinians in the PNA areas supported the Oslo process by early 1996. And 75 per cent of Palestinian eligible
voters participated in the 1996 elections.
Palestinian-Israeli people-to-people programs and other similar
Palestinian-Israeli NGO activities were established between 1993 and 2000.
These people-to-people activities comprised the social, cultural, economic,
political, educational and religious spheres.
For example, these initiatives by Palestinians and Israelis, which were
usually sponsored financially by a third party (European, American or
Japanese), saw participants from all ages and at all levels: secondary schools,
university students, academicians, politicians, economists, clerics and lay
people. For example, one can point to the Seeds
of Peace summer camps for
young people, Peace Research Institute
Middle East (PRIME) which was
organized by academicians from Palestinian and Israeli universities, and tens
of inter-faith dialogue activities which included, among them, joint activities
by the Israeli Interfaith Association,
Rabbis for Peace and the Palestinian Christian-Muslim Al-Liqa’
the record of the Oslo process, 1993-2000, was dismal, marred by instability
and bloodshed chiefly resulting from the confrontations of September 1996
following the Israeli inauguration of an underground tunnel below Al-Aqsa
Mosque. And with the outbreak of the
Al-Aqsa Intifada of in late September 2000, seventy percent of the above
mentioned agreements remained ink on paper mainly due to the inherent pitfalls
of the asymmetrical formula of the Oslo Accords which left the Palestinian
National Authority area—its air, land, borders, economy, including imports and
exports, to mention a few areas—under total Israeli control. Palestinians came
under the mercy of Israeli security-oriented policies and measures which were
pre-empting as well the “final status” talks through the creation of new facts
on the grounds in regard to Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza, all of which led to Israeli strangulation of Palestinians
psychologically, economically, geographically and politically. For example, Palestinians from the PNA areas
have been prevented from entering Jerusalem since March 1993 thus preventing
Christians and Muslims from reaching and praying freely in their holiest
shrines, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Al-Aqsa Mosque and from reaching
their work places, receiving medical attention, as well as educational and
strategies of minimizing the Arab presence in Jerusalem are also seen in
Israeli policies which aim to control the number of Palestinians who legally
reside in the city. This includes the confiscation of East Jerusalem
identification cards, in the case of those Jerusalemites who live abroad or in
the West Bank for more than seven years, or those who travel abroad but do not
possess re-entry visas, or those who apply for residency / citizenship
elsewhere. If a Jerusalemite marries a non-resident spouse from the West Bank
or Gaza or from abroad they must endure a painful family reunification process.
A Jerusalemite can register their children as residents only if the father
holds a valid Jerusalem identification.
As a result of these policies thousands of East Jerusalem identification
cards have been revoked since 1967.
Israeli measures to hamper Palestinian land developments are seen in the
methods used to expropriate Arab land and to control development in East
Jerusalem and neighborhoods. These methods include military orders and other
measures issued between 1967 and the 1990s, with the following justifications:
“closed military area,” “absentee property,” “public use,” “unregistered land
as state land,” “fallow farm land,” and “green areas.” In addition, strict
licensing and permit requirements are geared toward the same Israeli
goals. And while Palestinians in Arab
Jerusalem used to control 100 percent of the land before 1967, they now control
less than 20 percent of the land due to land confiscation for the purpose of
settlement projects, opening of roads and building inside Arab quarters.
prelude to a comprehensive and just peace Palestinians insist that the Israelis
annul all measures of annexation of Arab Jerusalem and must remove all
settlements established in the 1967 occupied territories which Arab Jerusalem
is an integral part. Furthermore, not a
single Palestinian, whether at home or abroad in the Palestinian Diaspora, will
accept a Palestinian State without Arab Jerusalem as its capital. It is very clear that much creative thinking
and good will are needed to defuse the present volatile situation and to solve
the thorny problem of Jerusalem.
2000, President Clinton hosted a 15-day three-way summit in Camp David with the
aim of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian “final status” agreement. The two thorny
issues of Jerusalem and the refugees prevented the two sides from reaching an
agreement and proved once more the complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli
impasse and the difficulties of reconciling the deeply entrenched differences:
Israeli claim of Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital under Israeli
sovereignty and Palestinian demands for Arab (East) Jerusalem as the capital of
a Palestinian State. Likewise, a one-time “family reunification” of some
100,000 Palestinian refugees proposed by the Israelis at Camp David totally
contradicted Palestinian insistence on the “right of return” for all
Palestinian refugees (U.N. Resolution 194) including to inside Israeli borders.
high expectations of the Camp David summit were shattered with the return of
Israeli and Palestinian delegations.
Thus, a highly volatile situation continued to prevail in
Palestinian-Israeli relations on the eve of the outbreak of the Intifada of
Al-Aqsa on 29 September 2000.
From the Outbreak of the Al-Aqsa
Intifada to the Present
morning of Thursday, September 28, 2000 Likud opposition leader Ariel Sharon
and members of his Likud party made a provocative visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque under
maximum security and protection of thousands of police forces. Clashes with
Palestinians ensued which left many injured.
After Friday prayers on September 29, Israelis used excessive force
against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque leaving five Palestinians dead and over
160 injured. The Friday bloodshed soon sparked a widespread uprising in the
West Bank, Gaza and among Arabs who live in 1948 areas.
Thus, the outbreak of the Intifada was not only a direct result of Sharon’s
provocative visit to Al-Aqsa, but was a result of accumulating Palestinian
frustrations and grievances since 1967 and the failure of the Oslo process,
1993-2000, to provide them with minimum sense of individual and collective
security from Israeli military, economic and political hegemony.
October 2000, tens of Palestinians and Israelis were killed and hundreds were
injured. In Israel alone 13 Arabs were killed in an uprising which broke out in
the aftermath of Al-Aqsa Mosque disturbances. By mid-October 2000, a Middle
East Peace Summit was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. At the conclusion of the
summit, attended by leaders of the PNA, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, U.S., UN and the
E.U., a fact-finding committee was established to examine the outbreak of the
Intifada. The committee was headed by former Majority Leader of the U.S.
Senate, George Mitchell and included among its members E.U.’s Javier Solana,
Turkey’s Suleyman Demirel, Norway’s Thorbjoern Jagland and Warren B. Rudman,
former member of the U.S. Senate. The report was published on 20 May 2001 and
included an examination of events leading to the outbreak of the Intifada and
ways to rebuild confidence and resume negotiations and commitment to existing
agreements. Immediate unconditional cessation of violence and resumption of
security cooperation were also highlighted. The Mitchell report was accepted by
all sides of the conflict.
Americans put forth a “Bridging Proposal” in November 2000 to overcome the
post-Camp David deadlock. These proposals included Israeli withdrawals,
settlement blocks, early-warning radar systems, the refugee problem, and
Palestinian and Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian delegations met in January 2001 in Taba
(in the last days of the Barak government) to study the American proposals. At
the conclusion of the Taba negotiations, both delegations declared “they have
never been closer to reaching an agreement.”
However, the Sharon government completely ignored the Taba peace negotiations
and their optimistic tone when it took over from the Barak government.
meantime, Palestinian-Israeli confrontations continued unabated and no
opportunities for the realization of the Mitchell Report could be glimpsed. In
June 2001 CIA Director George Tenet proposed a ceasefire and a security plan to
end the violence, both of which were accepted by Israelis and Palestinians. The
plan foresaw security cooperation between both sides, measures to enforce
ceasefire, etc., followed by Israeli redeployment to positions held before 28
September 2000 as well as lifting of internal closures and border crossings.
The plan was intended as a prelude to the realization of the Mitchell Report
and the eventual Palestinian-Israeli “final status” political negotiations
based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the “land for peace”
2001 through March 2002 brought destruction to the Palestinian people, the
Palestinian National Authority and its infrastructure, and Palestinian cities,
towns, rural areas and refugee camps. Israeli occupation of Palestinian major
cities, towns and refugee camps resulted in death and hundreds of casualties,
not to mention the severe destruction that was done to the Palestinian economy
and other sectors, including educational institutions. Response by young Palestinians to Israeli
assassinations of key activists in the Intifada and Israeli incursions into the
territories and daily humiliation of Palestinians, likewise, led to Israeli
military and civilian casualties.
reluctance to mediate in the closing months of 2001 and the early months of
2002 only accelerated the bloodshed and eventually led to the bloodbaths of
March and April 2002 from the Israeli occupation of PNA areas and refugee camps
and from suicide bombings. However, the reactivation of American role in
mid-March 2002 saw American sponsorship of United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1397 which called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The arrival of Bush’s envoy General Zini
shortly after to arrange for Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire in accordance with
the George Tenet Plan of 13 June 2001, which would serve as a prelude to the
realization of the Mitchell Report and the resumption of the “final status”
talk, gave impetus to optimism. Likewise, the introduction of the much-heralded
initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah concerning total Arab recognition of
Israel and normalization of relations in case of total Israeli withdrawal to
the June 4, 1967 boundaries, which was translated into the Pan-Arab resolution
in the Beirut Arab Summit on 28 March 2002, was a very positive development.
this optimism did not last long and once again Israel began reoccupying West
Bank PNA areas on March 29 following the suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in
Natanya. President Arafat was put under virtual house arrest in his Ramallah
headquarters while the whole governmental complex surrounding it was destroyed
and completely surrounded by Israeli tanks and troops. The Israeli reoccupation
of Palestinian territories was highlighted by the destruction of the Jenin
Refugee Camp—dubbed a massacre by Palestinians. The tragic events in Jenin led
to the formation of a United Nations fact-finding mission (UN security Council
Resolution 1405) which was aborted by Israeli conditions. Other highlights of
the reoccupation were the standoff between the Israeli military and
Palestinians besieged in the ancient Nativity Church of Bethlehem and the
bloody reoccupation of Nablus and the destruction of its ancient quarters. The
United Nations Security Council reacted to Israeli reoccupation by sponsoring
Resolutions 1402 and 1403 which call for Israeli withdrawal from occupied West
Bank PNA areas. For its part, Israel declared its intentions to withdraw as soon
as its forces’ mission is completed, that is the destruction of the so-called
Palestinian quest for
peace with Israel is not tactical but strategic. In the above mentioned Palestinian
Declaration of Independence (Algiers, 15 November 1988) it is clearly
stated that “despite the historical
injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their
dispersion and depriving them of the right to self-determination, following UN
General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two
states, one Arab and one Jewish, yet it is this resolution that still provide
those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of
Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty.”
Thus, since 1988 all factions of the PLO have given their full support to the
two-state solution with Jerusalem being the capital of both peoples.
majority of Palestinians, thus, do not aim to throw the Israelis into the
sea. Instead, they want to live in
dignity in their Palestinian state within the 4th of June 1967
borders and next to their Israeli neighbors and in less than 22% of the total
area of Palestine. This Palestinian position is fully supported by Arab leaders
in their Pan-Arab resolution of 28 March 2002.
more and more of the Israeli grassroots will become aware of Palestinian and
Arab quest for healing and reconciliation since 1988.
on Palestine, Volume 1, PASSIA, Jerusalem. 1997, pp. 331-332.
 On the
Charter of Hamas, see Documents on
Palestine, Vol. 1, PASSIA, Jerusalem, 1997, pp. 314-325, and Ziad
Abu Amr, “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer 1993, pp. 5-19.
Shaqaqi, “Victims of the Death of Oslo,” Wajhat
Nazar (Points of View, Cairo, March 2002, p. 16.
 See Adnan
Musallam, “The Volatile Politics of Jerusalem”, The Jerusalem Times
weekly publication (East Jerusalem), Friday 27 October 2000; and Allison B.
Hodgkins, Israeli Settlement Policy in
Jerusalem: Facts on The Ground, Jerusalem, 1998.
 PASSIA Diary
2001, pp. 278-279.
 PASSIA Diary
2002, pp. 291-292.
 See Al-Quds daily (East Jerusalem), p. 22
for the full text of the Pan-Arab Resolution.
 Documents on Palestine, Volume 1, PASSIA,
Jerusalem, 1997, pp. 331-332.
Adnan A. Musallam received his PhD in Contemporary Arabic Thought from
the University of Michigan. The author of several scholarly works on the Middle
East, he is currently Associate Professor of History, Politics, and Cultural
Studies at Bethlehem University.