Peace back on hold

It may take another generation before real peace is achieved between Israel and Palestine, Hanan Ashrawi said.

If some of the responses to her Irvine Auditorium speech Oct. 25 serve as any guide, her sad prediction may be correct.

Ashrawi is the founder and secretary general of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy and the former spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks. The Penn Arab Student Society and the Middle East Center invited her to campus to give the Palestinian viewpoint on the peace process.

Before an audience in which kippahs outnumbered keffiyehs and bare heads outnumbered both, Ashrawi explained that three things are necessary for a just peace: the recognition by each side of the other’s humanity, full implementation of existing U.N. resolutions and a geographically viable Palestinian state.

Israel, she said, has not done any of these things. Instead, she said, it failed to fully implement U.N. Resolution 242, which acknowledges the rights of states in the region to exist within secure borders, and has made effective Palestinian administration of the occupied West Bank almost impossible by overlaying a grid of Jewish settlements on the area.

“In the finest ‘white man’s burden’ fashion, [the Israelis] say, We are doing them a favor by giving them back some of the land, in little reservations, but they are not grateful,” she said. “The days of the white man’s burden are over.”

Ashrawi was also critical of the Western news media’s reporting on the region — “They see the facts and reach the opposite conclusion,” she said. She also expressed sympathy for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s predicament and praised the “courageous voices” of the Israelis who have called for an end to the occupation and “were given the Palestinian treatment” in return.

Not everyone in the audience agreed with her. While she was given a respectful hearing by all, a sizable number remained seated during standing ovations at the start and end of her talk. And during the question-and-answer period after the talk, one pro-Israel questioner began by complimenting Ashrawi on her “use of deception and misrepresentation” in her speech. She responded with an off-mike comment that drew hearty laughter from the small segment of the audience that could hear her.


Originally published on November 9, 2000