The Israeli Right has taken on the re-writing history. And they are successful. In November 2015, I published a post about my personal impressions of the twentieth anniversary of Rabin’s murder entitled Forgetting and Forgiving Rabin’s Murder, capturing my surprise when I encountered last year’s non-political-nonpartisan Rabin commemoration. How Rabin the peacemaker turned into Rabin the IDF chief of staff and “Leftists like former President Peres, who attended the rally, were not allowed to speak, but representatives of religious Zionism – were.”
Last week, when former President Shimon Peres collapsed on the twenty-third anniversary of the Oslo accord, I was surprised to see the myth-making around the Oslo Accord. These are stories of the good-old-days before radical anti-Zionist leftists (i.e. Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin) inspired by Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History decided to destroy it all and pursue a fantastic vision of a new Middle East.
Shalom Boguslavsky’s text translated by Ayala Emmett confronts this newly written history of the pre-Oslo times. Between the lines you can learn about the strange beliefs Boguslavsky is fighting. We need to know this if we are to help Israelis fight it.
Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo
From my perspective the Oslo Accord was an enormous leap, which from the outset, in retrospect and for various reasons rather than land successfully on the other side –fell flat on its face.
I want, however, to talk about the pre-Oslo phase, because twenty years after there are people reconstructing the history of that time as an imagined utopia – no borders, Arabs working for Jewish employers and the rare terrorist attacks. Occasionally the first Intifada sneaks into this idyllic story. But when it does it is accompanied by a newly invented interpretation: it was not Palestinians in the Territories who rebelled demanding independence after 20 years of military occupation. It was the fault of “The Leftists who had released thousands of terrorist prisoners” in the Jibril Accord. Where have all the thousands of terrorists come from in that utopian period that ended when Oslo destroyed it? Nu, do we really have to explain how an Arab become a Terrorist? It’s the force of nature.
Or is it perhaps because in the good old days, Palestinians were imprisoned en masse not only for “terrorism,” which indeed existed, but for things like owning “banned books,” at home. On Palestinian history, for example.
It was a time when soldiers were instructed to order people on the street to climb electric poles to remove “PLO flags.” On one such occasion a man lost both his hands and the State Attorney, the settlements’ hero, Plea Albeck argued that the man should not be compensated because there was no harm done. He could still make Falafel with prosthetic hands.
At that time Israeli soldiers were stationed at every street corner in the centers of Palestinian cities. During my army service I sat for coffee with some older reserve soldiers who shared nostalgic memories about “the good old days.”
One of them recounted how he and a friend were bored one day and decided to stand in the middle of market place and whenever a Palestinian with a wristwatch walked by one of them would hold the Palestinian’s hand and the other would smash the watch with a club.
Another told how he caught children who threw stones and brought them to his unit. The other soldiers “of course started beating them.” He went to fill out forms and when he came back he found two dead bodies.
These were not testimonials of Breaking the Silences. The soldiers were not beating for the Sin committed. They just offered entertaining anecdotes sipping coffee.
According to the newly constructed history, however, pre-Oslo time was great. The Arabs started the Intifada not because we had been in a violent conflict for decades. Neither because in the conflict’s latest phase they suffered a restrictive military rule in which a Palestinian could not operate a Shawarma kiosk without the permission of a Jewish officer. No, the problem was Leftists who woke up with peace fantasies.
What else is new. You would have heard similar stories from slave owners in the US South, French landowners in Vietnam and British Gentlemen in India.
My personal views of the Oslo Accord, its promoters and fundamentals are mostly negative. Maybe I’ll write about it in the future. But let’s not get confused here. Oslo did not damage an acceptable situation. It was an attempt to fix a terribly broken condition.
When you encounter those who repaint a not-so-far history in nostalgic, warm and soft filters with flashes of Instagram—ask them to restore it. Let’s see what they’ll say then.
I can promise that it’s not going to happen. They will tell you how they are dying to restore it; but the Leftist and the High Court of Justice, the European Union and all the oldies-do-good just won’t let them.
The truth is that those rewriters of pre-Oslo life don’t really want to change things. Oslo never brought much but a few Palestinian enclaves surrounded by walls and check points, and public distrust that the conflict would ever be resolved. And those who re-write history just love life post Oslo.
Original text: Shalom Boguslavsky in Drop the Scissors and Let’s talk about it (Taniakh Et haMisparaim v’bo Nedaber Al Ze), September 14, 2016
Translation: Ayala Emmett
Introduction: Maya Haber