TEL AVIV – Twenty Palestinian activists on Wednesday stormed a meeting of Palestinians and Israelis who had gathered for a conference at the American Colony Hotel in eastern Jerusalem to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords.
The demonstrators, who were in their late teens and early twenties, grabbed the microphone, and broke glasses and other paraphernalia on the speakers’ table just as former member of the Palestinian Authority Ziad AbuZayyad began to speak.
All the while, the protesters were heard chanting slogans in Arabic, including “No normalization,” “Jerusalem is Arab and free” and “No security cooperation.”
Addressing the room in English, the activists then ordered everyone to leave.
“It was verbally very intimidating, but it didn’t feel they were there to hurt anybody,” one participant told the Times of Israel.
The conference was co-sponsored by the Palestine-Israel Journal and the Freidrich Ebert Foundation.
“Normalization” is a term used by Palestinians for perceived fraternizing with the enemy by having dealings with Israelis. The American Colony Hotel has historically been a symbol of coexistence, and its strategic location on the seam line between eastern and western Jerusalem has made it the chosen venue for many Israeli-Palestinian initiatives.
AbuZayyad stopped his speech to try to reason with the protesters, defending the conference by saying that one of the chief issues that arose was Israel’s failure to adhere to the articles in the Oslo Accords. According to AbuZayyad, Israel never had any intention of allowing a Palestinian state.
It is worth noting that AbuZayyad’s former bosses in the Palestinian Authority continue to violate many of the articles laid down in the accords, including the clause barring the Palestinian leadership from seeking statehood outside of direct negotiations with Israel.
In any case the protesters refused to listen to AbuZayyad’s reasoning and continued to order everyone to leave the premises.
Norwegian Ambassador Jon Hanssen-Bauer was one of the first to comply and he was soon followed by diplomats and foreign journalists.
Before the meeting was raided, former prime minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff and senior negotiator Gilad Sher addressed the room saying, “There is no realistic alternative to Oslo.”
“The legacy of Oslo, whichever way you look at it, is to separate Israel and the Palestinians into two separate entities,” he said.
Sher also decried the absence of American leadership and said expectations for a comprehensive agreement must be lowered.
If the 1990s formula was “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” today’s should be “whatever is agreed is agreed,” he said.