Broken Cisterns | Sojourners

Broken Cisterns

Before it all fell apart earlier this year, and before this summer's carnage in Gaza, the Israeli-Palestine peace process was already fatally flawed. 
Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock
Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock 

My people have committed two sins: They have abandoned me, the spring of living waters, and have dug for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns ... that hold no water.

—Jeremiah 2:13

IN THE LATE 1980s and early '90s, Palestinians rose up against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in what became known as the First Intifada. Instead of acceding to the demands for justice by the "children of the stones," the response was a process of talks that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

The “peace process” engaged the leadership of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization)—then weak, corrupt, exiled, and with little vision or support—in what turned out to be a worse-than-fruitless effort that led to the perpetuation of the occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people, and which made a just peace even further away.

The process was intriguing to many of us in the peace and justice community, and it successfully co-opted us, as it co-opted the Palestinian leadership, but this process entailed both the abandoning of principled positions and the adoption of the Oslo system, a broken system that could not possibly deliver what it promised.

We were treated to a new language by Israel and the U.S., which seemed at first blush to adopt our own slogans: Where Palestinians were constantly complaining of Israel’s refusal to acknowledge them—its demonization of their leadership, and trying to have Jordan or other local collaborators speak on their behalf—the new process brazenly invited the PLO itself and its leader Yasser Arafat to participate as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

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