Ashrawi 'amazed' by prize attacks
Palestinian MP awarded the Sydney Peace Prize today said she was
bewildered by the storm "of hatred" her selection had created in
The decision has been loudly criticised by some Jewish groups, who accuse Dr Ashrawi of demonising Israel and failing to condemn Palestinian terror groups like Hamas.
Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer waded into the debate, suggesting former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, as a preferable candidate.
And Sydney Mayor Lucy Turnbull disapproves so much she will not attend tonight's presentation, even though the City of Sydney is the event's main sponsor.
Sanity, reason and moral responsibility are the genuine building
blocks of peace, says Hanan Ashrawi.
The Sydney Peace Foundation has taken the difficult decision to make a difference, to stand up for justice and the pursuit of peace, and to intervene as a positive force in the resolution of global conflicts. I view this peace prize as a recognition of all those who have maintained an unwavering commitment to a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, who have defied the prevailing dynamic of violence and the mutual infliction of pain and delegitimisation, and who continue to provide hope in the midst of despair on both sides of the "divide".
The Sydney Peace Foundation has chosen courageously to take sides in the struggle against injustice as opposed to the refuge of so-called neutrality or the self-interest of power. It has refused to be deflected, intimidated, or silenced, exercising a tenacity and determination that are the rare attributes of moral leadership and genuine service.
It is precisely during such times of adversity and pain, of violence and victimisation, of unilateralism and militarism, of ideological fundamentalism and absolutist exclusivity, that the world is most in need of voices and forces of sanity, reason and moral responsibility - the genuine building blocks of peace.
As we witness attempts at imposing a simplistic view of a Manichean universe, of polarisation and reductive stereotypes of good and evil, we are most in need of those who will engage in a redemptive validation of pluralism, tolerance, diversity, authenticity of identity, and the comprehensive engagement in collective responsibility. It is up to us jointly to give both a voice and an audience to the silenced, and to grant space and time to the excluded and denied.
Globally, the Palestinian question remains central to any human vision of globalisation as a test of the collective will to intervene and to maintain a global rule of law based on operative principles of justice and historical redemption. Granted, the current dynamic is antithetical to the aspirations of peacemakers who had based their endeavours on the universality of human rights, parity before the law, positive intervention, and the non-violent resolution of conflicts through redress and the elimination of grievances. A serious paradigm shift is necessary for the restoration of these human values that have been subverted in the aftermath of September 11 and the triumph of the neoconservatives and fundamentalist ideologues in key power centres.
The notion that a whole nation can be brought to its knees by the use of unbridled violence, or that the will of a people can be defeated by military means, must be discarded once and for all. Armies may be able to defeat other armies, but the limits of power are most apparent when used against civilians and non-combatants. Along with that, the fallacy that there is or can be a military solution to the conflict must be completely and irrevocably discarded.
Conversely, the emergence of the bizarre concept of a "balance of terror" has reinforced the irrational and immoral killing of civilians and the victimisation of the innocent. The drive for revenge, like the escalation of military brutality, has generated the most tragic and futile momentum for escalation and self-destruction.
On both sides, the "no holds barred" mindset has taken over as a mindless, visceral, repetitive response with horrific ramifications. The erroneous assumption that greater pain and punishment, or the escalation of failed measures, would somehow lead to "success" or the surrender of one side to the other is at the heart of the prevailing dynamic of death and devastation.
The denial or distortion of the narrative of the other has served as a convenient vehicle for the dehumanisation of the adversary and hence as a justification for all forms of violations and atrocities while evading accountability. Historical records must be reconciled, whether in the recognition of the horror of the Holocaust and all its horrendous implications, or in the historical victimisation of the Palestinian people and their dual tragedy of dispossession and exile, on the one hand, and oppression and occupation on the other.
It should also become apparent that, ironically, in this context the Palestinians and Israelis have reached the stage of dependent legitimacies rather than a competition over a singular and mutually exclusive legitimacy.
Since the essential requirement for peace lies in sharing the land of historical Palestine, it follows that there has to be a shared legitimacy based on parity and mutuality. Neither side can (or should be allowed to) destroy the other physically, morally, or legally. A full admission of equal value to human lives and rights must be internalised, with no claims to superiority on those most essential human values and attributes.
The most detrimental external interference is that of the zealots and enthusiasts who embrace the most extreme long-distance stances with the "passionate intensity" of the "worst". Blind loyalty for, and identification with, one side lead to the adoption of the most strident belligerency towards the other, hence intensifying the conflict and subverting dialogue and rational communication. Islamic fundamentalists and regressive brands of Arab nationalists have ironically joined forces with Christian evangelicals, Jewish fundamentalists, and ideological neoconservatives to fight their own proxy wars at the expense of moderate Palestinians and Israelis alike. Such radical apologists have inflicted serious damage and pain from their safe distance in Riyadh, Damascus, Washington, Knoxville, or Sydney demonstrating the type of intervention that no peace can survive. They also reinforce the worst misconceptions and fallacies by totally eradicating the legitimacy of one side, thereby justifying the false claims of the other that there is no peace partner, hence no peace option.
The superimposition of blind loyalty or guilt has revived the worst of racist labelling and dehumanisation with the additional superimposition of false analogies. It may be convenient to label all Palestinians as "terrorists" and dismiss them from the conscience of the world in the context of the "war on terrorism". It may be equally convenient to describe the Israeli occupation's measures of aerial bombardment and shelling of Palestinian civilian areas, of assassinations and abduction, of home demolition and destruction of crops, of siege and fragmentation, of checkpoints and humiliation, of illegal settlements and apartheid walls and annexation fences as legitimate forms of "self-defence".
It may be comfortable to dismiss decades of military occupation and dispossession as figments of the victim's imagination, hence irrelevant to the current conflict. However, such scoring of points only makes the solution all that more distant.
So far, the solution remains simple and attainable, having been repeatedly defined and having become part of a global consensus. The two-state solution is still possible, though becoming increasingly more difficult with the expansion of settlements, bypass roads, and the apartheid wall throughout Palestinian territory.
The bi-national state as a de facto solution will become
the only option should Israel continue its expansion and its refusal to
withdraw to the 1967 lines and remove the settlements from the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip. Territoriality will give way to demography, and the
issue then will become one of democracy, with Zionism forced to re-examine
its most basic premises.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel, but there is a need for the will and courage to act against all adverse forces.
This is an edited extract from Palestinian spokeswoman Dr Hanan Ashrawi's Sydney Peace Prize lecture, delivered last night.
Peace Prize Goes To Ashrawi Despite Objections
By By Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com
A decision to hand
Australia’s only international peace prize to a controversial Palestinian
figure has triggered a political and community dispute, incorporating
accusations of cowardice, political opportunism, and the argument that the
decision legitimizes terrorism.
Political figures from Prime Minister John Howard on down have been drawn into the debate over whether Hanan Ashrawi is a fitting recipient of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize.
A former spokeswoman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and former minister in Yasir Arafat’s self-rule authority, Ashrawi has for years aroused strong feelings among those close to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Her supporters paint her as a powerful, articulate campaigner for human rights and the Palestinian cause, while critics see her as a devious apologist for violence and one of Israel’s most cunning enemies.
Bob Carr, the Labor premier of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has rejected appeals not to present Ashrawi with the award this week.
Conservative Prime Minister Howard indicated that he did not think Ashrawi was an appropriate choice, and Sydney’s Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull said she would boycott Thursday’s presentation ceremony at the New South Wales state parliament.
Turnbull’s stance has been slated by those supportive of Ashrawi, who accused the city leader of caving in to pressure because her husband is hoping to be selected as a candidate for a seat in the federal parliament and did not want to alienate Jewish voters.
Within the Jewish community, left-wing groups like Jews Against the Occupation throwing their weight behind the decision to honor Ashrawi, while the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) lobby group and others actively protesting it.
Israeli academics have also become involved, with left-wing Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling saying she was deserving of the award, while renowned political analyst Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University authoring an international petition protesting the decision (more than 21,000 signatures as of Monday).
The most noteworthy intervention in the dispute came from an unusual source. In a letter leaked to a major Australian newspaper – against the author’s wishes – an Australian military officer serving with coalition forces in Iraq urged Carr to reconsider.
Colonel Mike Kelly, a senior military lawyer, told the premier that awarding the prize to the Palestinian activist would legitimize terrorism.
“I am well aware, having studied and been involved in the counter-terrorist effort over 16 years, that people like Hanan Ashrawi are paraded before the Western media as a ‘voice of reason’ while out of the corner of their mouths establishing the basis for slaughter of the innocents in a cynical, calculated and malevolent method of operating that completely dupes naive Westerners,” he wrote.
Kelly, who said he was a supporter of Carr’s Labor party, wrote that it would be hard to explain to a soldier in Iraq who had just lost his legs in a terrorist attack why a politician in a country that was “supposedly an ally in this war” had in effect been “comforting the enemy.”
After publication of the letter, Carr told a Sydney radio station that a military officer should not be intervening in political issues.
Carr has defended his decision, stressing that he is a strong supporter of Israel but saying there was nothing wrong with meeting senior Palestinian figures.
Critics said they had no problem with his meeting with Ashrawi during her visit, but said he should not participate in the award ceremony.
‘Far from moderate’
The Sydney Peace Prize, worth $50,000 Australian dollars ($35,470), is awarded annually by the University of Sydney’s Peace Foundation, on the recommendation of a six-member panel.
Previous recipients include former UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson and South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The foundation says this year’s winner has been “chosen for her commitment to human rights, to the peace process in the Middle East and for her courage in speaking against oppression, against corruption and for justice.”
Opponents have drawn up a lengthy list of actions and quotes by Ashrawi which they claim undermines that assessment.
They include her decision, while a member of Arafat’s cabinet, to oppose a move to remove clauses in the PLO Covenant that said, “armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.”
AIJAC recalled her support for Saddam Hussein’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait, said her views on the Arab-Israeli conflict were “far from moderate,” and accused her of “factually dubious claims about Israeli and Palestinian history.”
“She is a passionate spokesperson for the Palestinian cause but has done almost nothing to encourage Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, unlike many other more deserving Palestinians,” the lobby group said. “Instead, she has opposed the compromise needed for genuine peace and has excused violence.”
The Zionist Federation of Australia said Ashrawi “continues to insist that the ‘occupation’ is responsible for the homicide bombings which she unendingly equates with Israel’s actions of self defense.”
And opposition lawmaker Barry O’Farrell, speaking in the New South Wales state parliament, charged that Ashrawi had tried to play down the “sickening images” of Palestinians celebrating after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S.
“Ashrawi claims such celebrations either did not occur or were limited – despite the evidence of independently confirmed television footage of Palestinian policemen and members of all factions singing and dancing at the news from the United States,” he said.
Ashrawi’s defenders have countered by citing a statement on her website that says: “The solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must emanate from a spirit of tolerance and sharing, not one of blind hatred and exclusion. (CNSNews.com)
Read the international socialist view: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/nov2003/syd-n05.shtml
SYDNEY, : Australian Prime Minister John
Howard said other Palestinians deserved the Sydney Peace Prize
more than activist Hanan Ashrawi, hours before she was to
receive the award.
"I simply say that on the scale of merit I would certain would have put Abu Mazen and some others well ahead of her," Howard told Sky television.
Howard's line echoed that of Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer, who has also cited Abu Mazen as a better recipient.
Copyright © 2003 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.
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