March 7, 2021

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Oslo Follies: The “Revision” of the PLO Charter 1995

The following text is excerpted from my book (now) titled, Stupidity Matters: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. It discusses the alleged revision of the PLO Charter as demanded by the Oslo Accords. It was cut from an article published based on this material at the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs on the reasons for the failure of the Oslo Process and the disastrous misreading of that failure.

The Hudaybiya episode also shed light on the international game at play in the Oslo Peace Process. When American journalists discussed the Hudaybiya speech (European presses tended not even to mention it; in the US, only the “right-wing” press raised it), they immediately aroused the ire of Caliphater Da’īs. Daniel Pipes wrote repeatedly about the Johannesburg mosque speech, about the meaning of the Treaty of Hudaybiya, and the trouble any Westerner who mentioned it quickly encountered when they brought up the subject. Despite being studiously fair to the Muslim prophet on historical grounds, citing as plausible the Muslim apologetic version that the Meccans broke the treaty, and Muhammad never meant a deliberate deception, Pipes provoked furious condemnation and some of the earliest accusations of “Islamophobia” from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim ‘civil rights’ organization with ties to the same Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is a branch.[1]

The Muslim outcry essentially forbade infidel critics from examining
evidence relevant to their pressing concerns, a pattern that replicated itself
in academia, with Daniel Pipes’ work being banned by some professors as
“Islamophobic.” Instead, peace enthusiasts viewed Arafat and the Palestinian
leadership, as they themselves insisted they were while speaking English:
full-fledged modern players who yearned for their own nation and freedom, and
whom one could trust to keep commitments to the ‘peace of the brave.’ When the
opportunity presented itself, they believed, Arafat would choose the imperfect,
positive-sum, win-win, over the zero-sum, all-or-nothing, win-lose. They
‘believed’ in the Palestinian leadership and rejected indignantly – as racists!
– anyone who dared to suggest the Palestinians leadership was still in limbic
captivity to atavistic revenge.

Thus, when Arafat tried in 1995 to convene the PLO
to rewrite their charter and eliminate calls for the destruction of Israel, as
prescribed by the Oslo Peace Accords, he found the resistance too great. Even a
‘moderate’ like Hanan Ashrawi opposed such a move, which, she claimed, echoing
Saïd, “will appear to
be a succumbing to Israeli dictate.” In other words, obligations to a
positive-sum resolution took second seat to Palestinian concerns about the
optics of ‘appearing to submit.’ So instead the Palestinians delayed any actual
changes in their charter, and gave it to a committee that promptly buried the
initiative to this very day over 20 years later.

deep in an election campaign, nevertheless hailed the prevarication as “one of
the most dramatic developments of the 20th Century,” And the media did
everything it could to cover for the Palestinians: “P.L.O. Ends Call for
Destruction of Jewish State,” blared the NYT headline of the same article that
reported Ashrawi’s no-vote.[2] To
this day, the charter remains unchanged; and while Palestinians politicians and
religious figures continue to adhere to liberating Palestine ‘from the River to
the Sea,’ their spokesmen insist in English that they’ve fulfilled all their
obligations. And the media, and their invited experts, rather than challenge
them, repeat their talking points as if, “everyone knows.”[3] To
this day, in Arabic, members of the PNC insist that the issue of recognizing
Israel is ‘out of the question,’ and has ‘never been raised at any PNC

Western journalists and policy experts not only failed (and continue to
fail) to challenge such claims, they ignored the long and troubling list of
Palestinian violations of the accords, and pressured Israel, to stop harping on
the negative, lest they ‘queer’ the peace process.[5] In
discussing the Hudaybiyya speeches, Buck notes:

The speeches were
violations of the spirit, if not the letter, of the accords, and, although the
Rabin-Peres Labor government rarely acknowledged it publicly, there were many
other violations as well… “We had books and books filled with violations,” this
person told me, and added, “I saw Rabin and Peres so angry at what they had to
eat from the Palestinians.”

But of course, this was the price of peace… letting them violate the
agreement without complaining, lest those who so complain, ruin the chances for

Thus, even as Jerusalem and Washington prepared for a grand finale to
the peace process at Camp David in the summer of 2000, even as Israel’s media
prepared their people for peace, Arafat’s media prepared Palestinians for war. Palestinian
TV featured horrendous and staged footage of Israeli troops murdering
Palestinian children and raping their women – the full panoply of lethal
narratives with which the PA incited its people to war.[7] And none of the key decision-makers paid any

[1] Daniel
Pipes, “Lessons
from the Prophet Muhammad’s Diplomacy
,” Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1999; idem, “Arafat and the Treaty of
Hudaybiya,” Sept. 10, 1999; idem, “How
Dare You Defame Islam?
Nov. 1999; idem, “Do
I Win a British ‘Islamophobia’ Award?
Lion’s Den, June 26, 2004,
updated Mar. 28, 2016. Note Pipes was more generous than Arafat, who, only
weeks later, repeated the analogy to another group of Muslims, this time
specifying that the “treaty with the infidels was torn down two years later”
(Karsh, Arafat’s War, 149).

[2] Serge Schmemann, “P.L.O.
Ends Call for Destruction of Jewish State
,” NYT, April 25, 1996.

[3] Dennis Ross has an interesting account of a
second ‘try’ at getting the Palestinians to revise their charter, in which the
Palestinian maneuvering to give the impression of a change, in the presence of
the visiting President Clinton, becomes clear, and, in the end, face-saving for
all involved trumped any substantive change: The Missing Peace, pp.
**-**. On the perpetuation of this narrative even to this day, see “Everyone Agrees,”
Second Draft, December 2016.

[4] Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad
Shayyeh, “To
this moment Fatah does not recognize Israel
,” Official PA TV,
Topic of the Day
, March 26, 2017.

[5] The Prime Minister’s office prepared a white
paper on Palestinian violations of the accord, which they only released
November 24, 2000: “Palestinian
Authority and P.L.O. Non-Compliance with signed agreements and commitments: A
record of bad faith and misconduct
,” Barak Government White Paper,
November 24, 2000. Even though this came almost two months after Arafat had
opened the Oslo Trojan Horse, it met with much criticism both within Israel and
especially abroad: Aluf Benn, “White Paper Tiger Unleashed,”
Haaretz, November 29, 2000.

[6] Buck’s source fingers the fear of public
humiliation that drove Peres and Rabin not to admit they were wrong about
Arafat. Add to that the enormous (messianic) pressure to get the peace to
succeed. See Golan Lahat, Hapitui
Hameshihi: Aliyato Unefilato shel Hasmol Haisraeli
(Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 972
series, 2004), chapter **, “The Sacrifices for Peace.”

[7] Itamar Marcus, “Rape,
Murder, Violence, and War
for Allah against the Jews: Summer 2000 on
Palestinian Television,” Palestinian Media Watch, Jerusalem, Sept. 11, 2000.

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