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Rabin’s legacy is not peace. It’s occupation.

This essay is part of a collection of essays commemorating the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The collection was produced in partnership with BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change.

For many, Yitzhak Rabin’s legacy is one of peace. For me, living in the West Bank under occupation without basic human and civil rights, it is the opposite: The “peace” he offered only succeeded in hiding the occupation and enabling Israel to maintain control over us Palestinians.

For many, Rabin’s story is one of a reversal, from a general to a peaceful negotiator. Not for us. We Palestinians never forgot that Rabin started his life as a war criminal. He participated in evicting Palestinians from their own land and villages and cities during the Nakba — the catastrophe, as we Palestinians refer to 1948.

Issa Amro

Issa Amro

In 1967, under Rabin’s command, the Israeli Defense Forces achieved victory, capturing the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank. My hometown of Hebron was conquered. Four of my uncles have never come back to live in my occupied city. I was born during the curfew in Hebron. I started my life as an infant under the military occupation that Rabin helped found. It seems likely that I will end my life under that occupation still, without basic rights.

For me, Rabin’s name doesn’t call up heroic, peaceful negotiations. It recalls the “iron fist” policy of his days as Defense Minister deporting Palestinian nationals, and his infamous order to combat the First Intifada, a popular uprising: “We Will Break Their Bones.” The image of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms of Palestinian youth is etched in my mind. It comes back to me when I see Rabin’s photo or even read about him.

And still, I was happy when Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. I was a kid then, and the peace agreement inspired me to dream of freedom, justice and equality. I hoped that I would start to get over my fear of Israeli soldiers, too. And I wanted to convince my father to forgive, both his own injury and his father’s killing at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

When I read the news about Oslo, I believed Rabin had changed, and that he would bring in substantial reforms. But after reading the Oslo agreement, after living under it, I realized that what it offered was nothing more than a cosmetic change, turning the occupation into a tidier, more palatable enterprise in much the same way that Apartheid turned South Africa into a neatly codified, yet still unequal society.

It did this by making us economically dependent on Israel. The Oslo Accords set limits on production and the import of energy for Palestinians, making our energy sector highly dependent on energy imports from Israel. The Israel Electric Corporation issues invoices to Palestinian distributors. Late fees are quickly incurred. The whole system is a huge loss, and it’s only one of the ways we are dependent on the Israeli market. And to enforce this state of dependency, Oslo created a Palestinian Authority without any actual authority to micromanage our lives on Israel’s behalf.

This state of dependency that deprives us of dignity and rights is worse than anything Rabin did while he was in charge of the Israeli army.

Today, 25 years after Rabin’s death, my people and I are still living without basic human rights. And thanks to the the way the occupation grants rights to Israeli Jews living in the West Bank, we routinely suffer from the violence of Israeli settlers, who attack us with impunity. Meanwhile, I have been indicted by an Israeli military court for nonviolent protest, and expect to be jailed under that law.

For me, Rabin’s legacy is not that he furthered the cause of peace and justice for the Palestinians. His legacy is about control and occupation and suffering.

I hope that one day soon, we will have an Israeli leader who will recognize all of our rights, including the right to self-determination. When that happens, I hope to also change my impression of Rabin.

Issa Amro is a human rights defender from the West Bank city of Hebron. Amro is currently facing 18 charges in Israeli military court for his nonviolent activism against the Israeli occupation, and faces years in Israeli prison. In 2007, he established the Youth Against Settlements center, after preventing settlers from occupying the property. In 2014, he helped establish a kindergarten for children who otherwise had to cross a checkpoint to reach school. Amnesty International is calling on Israel to drop the charges against Issa and says if convicted he will be declared a prisoner of conscience. Issa has been published in the Nation, the Hill, the Forward and more.

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