Director Bartlett Sher has given us one of the best films of 2021 in the form of a striking political drama film, Oslo. Narratively, the film revolves around the peace accord between the historically rivaled states, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). While the film in itself is a complete draft of events that took place, we will try to highlight some missing links for a better understanding.
Is ‘Oslo’ A True Story?
The film is based on a broadway play of the same name written by J. T. Rogers. The play is a dramatized version of the real events and thus, the film follows a real story too. Thematically, it explores a secret channel established between Israeli negotiators and members of PLO. The purpose of it was to create a peaceful multinational negotiations channel in order to end the long Palestinian war in the middle east.
What are the ‘Oslo Accords?’
During 1993, Israeli forces had captured Gaza and other Palestinian states, but their actions were looked upon as tyrannical by the entire world. Both the parties wanted a way out, Israel wanted to get over the war, and Palestnians wanted their home back. But their representative organization, PLO, wasn’t able to trust the Israelis and thus no communication was initiated.
It is when a Norwegian Terje Rød-Larsen and his wife, Mona Juul created a negotiating model to put both the parties on a table to share dialogues for peace. It was illegal for any Israeli to communicate with an IPO member, therefore, the channel had to be kept secret.
Terje brought PLO spokesperson Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and Israeli professor Yair Hirschfeld under one roof in Oslo, Norway. The documents thus prepared by PLO and Israeli officials in Borregaard Manor came to be known as The Oslo Accords.
Why did Norwegian minister Mona Juul create the Oslo Channel?
Mona and her husband Terje promised each other that they will only play the role of facilitator in building the communication between the two rivals. They will not, under any circumstance, take an active part in the conversation or mold any party’s decision. However, even with all her neutrality, Mona had her share of interest, but it was entirely humane rather than materialistic.
From the beginning of the film, the screen flashes the riots and military killings in the city of Gaza. Those visuals were screened from Mona’s perspective who was haunted by the bloody violence. When Israel Foreign Ministry legal advisor Joel Singer asked her interest in creating peace, she told him about what she saw in the war-stricken city. From the corner of an alley, she saw an Israeli and Palestinian Boy facing each other, with an expression of fear on their face, yearning to be anywhere but here, and doing anything else but killing each other.
In the end, she writes a line in her report that says, “For if we do not sit across from our enemies, and hear them and see them as human beings, what will become of us?” The line demonstrates her yearning for peace between two nations that have been shedding blood for so many years.
Why did Abu Ala never make a call to Tunis during the secret conference?
Norwegian security personnel told Terje that Abu Ala never made a call to Tunis, to connect with PLO leader, Yasser Arafat. He just sits in the room and stares at the wall, thinking something and when enough time has passed for a phone call, he comes back with new instructions. The revelation leaves a smile on Terje’s face who understood what was going on.
As depicted in the film, Arafat’s voice was never witnessed. Thus, it could be theorized that he might have given the sole decision-making power to Abu Ala for the treaty with the Israeli government. Abu also once stated that Arafat isn’t well versed in English, and that could also be a reason. It could be speculated that Arafat was just a warrior and Abu Ala his advisor. No matter what their role was, both of them wanted peace. They were yearning to go back to their homes.
Conflicts and Negotiations of the Accord
From the beginning, PLO was appealing for the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the land of Gaza. They wanted to create their own government in Israel and Jericho. However, the Israeli government was not keen on giving up Jericho, as it was just 25 kilometers away from Jerusalem, the city which has been the root of all conflict.
PLO argued that Gaza alone would make them an island surrounded by a sea of Israeli forces and hence they wanted Jericho as well for their own safety. Abu Ala also demanded that Jerusalem would be the common capital of both countries.
In the end conversation, Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres agreed upon the document formed through the Oslo Accord, but the subject of Jerusalem was diplomatically skipped in the name of constructive ambiguity, i.e. to be discussed later in simple words. Terje plays a prominent role in convincing Shimon Peres to skip the Jerusalem subject, and thus, the facilitator who promised not to interfere finally becomes a part. You cannot be a hero and stay away from the battlefield, after all.
‘Oslo’ Ending Explained – Was it a Success?
As per the film, before the acceptance of the treaty, Israel Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995. The assassin opposed the Oslo Accords and the death of Yitzhak shunned the labors of Terje Rød-Larsen and Mona Juul.
In 2000, the two parties met again at Camp David in July 2000 to settle the remaining issues, but in September 2000, violence re-erupted in the occupied territories, fueling the Second Intifada.
Mona’s final report suggests that Oslo was a failure but she believed that this channel was worth doing.
Bartlett Sher’s film and J.T. Rogers’ written draft is a moving portrayal of two humans trying to build peace. Whatever the result may be, their endeavors make us realize that anytime in history, peace is worth fighting for. Two boys nurtured by the same soil fighting against each other in the name of religion, lineage, or belief, and if the mere sight doesn’t break your heart, then I don’t know what will.
Oslo is a 2021 Historical Political Drama Film based on a play written by J.T. Rogers.