Panel says making stereotypes of Palestinians will defeat spirit of Oslo Accord of 1993

Attempts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict either through a two-State arrangement or recognition of a government acceptable to both sides would succeed only if Israel upholds the Palestinians' rights and eschew its “oppressive policies” involving military occupation of West Bank and control over Gaza.

This was the consensus in a panel discussion on “The future of Palestine” at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here on Sunday.

Speakers said making stereotypes of Palestinians would defeat the spirit of the Oslo Accord of 1993, while admitting to the mistakes of the past would help strengthen the peace process.

Palestinian lawyer-activist Raja Shehadeh, playwright David Hare, Palestinian-British writer Karl Sabbagh and president of Al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh addressed the session that was moderated by JLF director William Dalrymple.

The hour-long discussion at the regal Durbar Hall of Diggi Palace analysed various aspects of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict and addressed the key issues of mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement and the high wall raised by Israel through the occupied West Bank.

The speakers affirmed that while Israelis and Palestinians should not allow themselves to be the prisoners of the two-State solution, the international community too should not remain a silent spectator to the violence resulting from the conflict and continuation of an unjust order bringing instability to the Middle-East.

Mr. Shehadeh said Jews and Arabs were not incompatible and had had a long history of co-existence during the Ottoman Empire and in Spain. “Before the emergence of narrow nationalism, Hebrew was sometimes written in Arabic script and its Semitic origin was a [matter of] pride for Jews.”

Mr. Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks, which received the Orwell Prize for political writing in 2008, said the restoration of Palestine with its borders as they existed before the 1967 war would only be feasible if it made a federation with Jordan and Israel. Until a permanent solution was found, there was no justification in denying basic rights to Palestinians.

A reference was also made to the much talked about Arab Spring, which the panellists said would inspire Palestinians to “rise against tyrants” and make Israel realise the futility of its lop-sided official policies.

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