Here is a guest review by my husband, Ron Kronish, who has dedicated most of his professional life to dialogue and mutual understanding across the divide in Israel and Palestine.
Viewing the new documentary The Oslo Diaries, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, last week at the Jerusalem Film Festival was a fascinating yet painful experience—-fascinating because of the courage and commitment to peace on the part of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and their senior staff and advisors, and painful because of the power of the rejectionists on both sides of the conflict who prevailed through terrorism, violence, incitement and hatred of the other in severely crippling the historic and hopeful Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in the early 1990s.
The film retraces the back channel talks which took place in Norway in 1992 and 1993 —under the auspices of the Norwegian government officially as “academic conferences “—which led to the signing of the Oslo Accord on the White House lawn in front of thousands of people from around the world on September 13,1993. The story is told through the diaries of two of the main partners in this amazing process — on the Israeli side: Ron Pundak , a young academic and on the Palestinian side: Abu Ala, Ahmed Qurei, who later became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority -- as well as interviews with many of the key players on the Israel side, such as Dr.Yossi Beilin, Uri Savir, Shimon Peres and others, but only two Palestinians other than Abu Ala. In addition, there is much good archival footage, not only of the secret talks that took place in Norway but also of the violence in the streets of the anti-peace demonstrators on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the divide.
For me the most painful parts of the film were the hatred in the eyes and the incitement in the faces of the Israeli right wing anti-peace fanatics led by the young and dangerous Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu and others, especially at the infamous rally in Zion Square in which they spewed venomous hatred against Prime Minister Rabin, which undoubtedly sowed the seeds of violence leading to his assassination shortly thereafter, in November 1995. Whenever I see the footage of these fanatic anti- Peace right wing politicians standing on that balcony shouting and screaming like madmen -- looking and sounding like Mussolini —and inciting their faithful base to extreme emotions of hatred clearly leading to violence -- it gives me the chills and makes me feel sick. In fact, in the footage of Netanyahu ranting and raving hysterically at that rally, even his hair (coiffure) was frazzled and out of shape!
The film revealed to all of us who were privileged to see it both the high hopes and the dashed expectations of the Oslo Peace Process. It showed famous footage of Palestinians rejoicing at the hope of peace by throwing flowers on Israeli soldiers, and it revealed scenes of Israelis dancing in the streets, reminiscent of the day that Israel proclaimed its independence on May 5, 1948. It also revealed terrible scenes of horrific suicide bombings on the part of Palestinian rejectionists as well as excessive brutality against Palestinians on the part of Israeli soldiers.
Despite all the problems and challenges, this important film brings us back to a period of unprecedented optimism and serious commitments to peace. I remember well the euphoria that could be felt in Israel at the time when for the first time in our history we actually believed that peace with the Palestinians was possible. Moreover, the film reveals beyond any doubt that courageous and creative leadership could lead us to peace via persistent dialogue.
If only one day we could have such competent, caring and compassionate leaders—and advisors —once again!
The Oslo Diaries (documentary, 97 minutes) is available from Medalia Productions and from Docs For Education.