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Hanan Ashrawi's hardline views are not worthy of this peace prize

By Peter Wertheim - posted Friday, 31 October 2003

No doubt the Premier, Bob Carr, is genuine in his support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The same cannot be said for the Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi, to whom the Premier has agreed to present the Sydney Peace Prize.

Ashrawi has been openly and bitterly opposed to the Oslo peace process since its inception in 1993. At that time she was part of a Palestinian delegation in Washington, DC, that had walked out of official peace talks with the Israeli government. She had no knowledge of the secret peace talks that had been taking place in Oslo between the PLO and the Israelis.

The announcement in September 1993 that Israel and the PLO had formally recognised each other caught her by surprise. Ashrawi was not impressed, and has been a bitter and vocal opponent of the Oslo peace process ever since.


The peace process secured significant political, territorial and financial gains for the Palestinians. In January 1996, the Palestinians voted in their first ever democratic elections. Ashrawi was one of the candidates elected to the newly constituted Palestine National Assembly.

In April about 570 PLO delegates met in Gaza to vote on a proposal to remove the clauses from the PLO Charter calling for the destruction of Israel. The proposal was endorsed overwhelmingly by 504 votes to 54. Ashrawi was one of the minority who voted "No" to the proposal.

Earlier this year when the "Performance-Based Roadmap to Peace" was endorsed by the international community, Ashrawi immediately issued a public statement to the Palestine Press Centre denouncing the initiative.

There are, of course, legitimate criticisms that can be made about the peace process and the "road map", from both the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives.

Neither initiative has satisfied, or can satisfy, the totality of the expectations of both peoples. We do not live in a world of perfect justice and "justice" in any event, is often in the eye of the beholder. Few, however, would have argued from day one, as did Ashrawi, that the peace process and the road map should not even be given a chance to work.

Jews and Palestinians have a long and proud history. They differ profoundly in language, culture, religion and temperament. It is little wonder that the international community came to the conclusion decades ago that the interests of justice and peace require that there be two states for two peoples in the Holy Land, one Jewish and one Arab.


This simple and obvious proposition has also been officially accepted by the PLO and the Israeli Government. But it has never been embraced by Ashrawi. Her track record consistently suggests the opposite.

Two other aspects of Ashrawi's record also belie her commitment to peace. She publicly applauded the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. And in 1993 she became an apologist for terrorism, describing Hamas as "a legitimate component of the Palestinian political spectrum". Hamas is an Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks that have targeted and killed or wounded hundreds of civilians. Its charter also calls for Israel's destruction.

Ashrawi certainly presents well in the media. She is articulate and intelligent. But she is also dogmatic and ideologically driven. Her carefully cultivated media image as a moderate cannot disguise her consistent history as a rejectionist and a maximalist.

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This article was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 October 2003.

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About the Author

Peter Wertheim is a former president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and a Sydney lawyer.

Other articles by this Author

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Related Links
Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Hanan Ashrawi's home page
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
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