2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient Dr Hanan Ashrawi spoke to a group of Cornell University students last week on the possible ways to bring peace to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
In the lecture titled “Peace in the Middle East: Who Needs It Now?”, Ashrawi repeated the two solutions that have been oft mentioned: an end to the “occupation” by Israel and a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders.
Reponding to a question lifting the occupation will endanger civilian life in Israel, Ashrawi said: “You know I always get this question … I don’t know, how do we give psychotherapy to the collective Israeli mind? … it’s pretty racist to say, ‘you cannot trust Palestinians … how do you know?”
Ashrawi’s talk is part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series.
Last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he will call for new elections after Hamas took over Gaza.
Elections in Palestinian territories are not due till 2010.
Independent Palestinian lawmaker and 2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient Dr Hanan Ashrawi supports the idea of elections. In an interview with bitterlemons.org, an online forum with both Palestinian and Israeli views on various issues, Ashrawi said:
“I think elections are an absolutely necessary instrument of democracy and therefore the only way to settle disputes and allow the public to elect representatives and hold their representatives accountable. Elections are an essential tool for the creation of a responsible system of good governance.”
Click here to read the full interview.
Former Palestinian education minister Dr Hanan Ashrawi said a third party is needed to solve the crisis of the Hamas-Fatah conflict.
In an interview published in Middle East Online, the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient said one of the most important first steps towards resolving the crisis is “to put an end to the requisitioning or taking over of the Palestinian institutions, then halting the violence”.
Ashrawi said the Hamas-Fatah conflict needs to be “normalised” “through the resumption of a calm balanced dialogue that responds to and respects a genuine political will based on democracy”.
She said a third party, “ideally an Arab third party”, is needed to achieve such dialogue. An European third party is the next best choice as “Europeans enjoy greater credibility than the Americans”, she said.
At a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting on Wednesday, Archbishop Tutu has pleaded for an end to the fighting in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Nobel Laureate and 199 Sydney Peace Prize recipient was presenting a report by the fact-finding mission he led into the killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military in Beit Hanun last November.
Tutu called on both Israel and the Palestinian authorities to hold accountable those responsible for the incident. He urged Israel to prosecute soldiers responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians when it shelled the Gaza town last year and the Palestinian authorities should hold to account militants who fired rockets into nearby Israel.
“Regardless of whether the casualties at (the town of) Beit Hanoun were caused by a mistake, recklessness, criminal negligence or were willful, those responsible must be held accountable,” Tutu told the HRC.
The mission report expressed concern about the “the seemingly intractable and unending cycle of human rights violations” that has affected the daily lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.
“True peace and security can never come from the barrel of a gun. These conditions come only when the human rights of all are respected,” Tutu said.
Separately, Tutu said he is in despair over the fighting between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza, but he understood why the rival factions are fighting each other, the Voice of America reported.
“When you are oppressed, it is so very easy to turn on yourselves,” he said. Referring to apartheid South Africa, Tutu added: “At home, we had horrendous instances of internecine conflict. And you would say, for goodness sake, do we not realise that it is, in fact, playing into the hands of those who are abusing us, who are oppressing us.”
The increasing division within the Palestinian forces could mark “the end of the Palestinian state,” said Palestinian legislator and 2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient, Dr Hanan Ashrawi.
“If you have two separate systems, there is no way that you can have a Palestinian state that is contiguous,” Ashrawi said. She added that if the situation contines, Gaza will become a “hostile” Palestinian ministate controlled by Hamas, while the West Bank would remain under Israel’s control with a Fatah-run militia in control of the cities.
Amidst the political troubles in the West Bank, a battle for young Palestinian minds is also raging.
According to an Associated Press report, Hamas has in the past year begun to take control of the curriculum and syllabus of Palestinian schools in the West Bank.
For Dr Hanan Ashrawi, an independent Palestinian lawmaker and 2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient, this is a battle for the Palestinian soul, part of a wider Hamas campaign to expand its influence in all spheres of public life, also including newspapers to unions.
She said: “You are seeing the gradual transformation of a largely secular national … education system and curriculum into a more ideological, closed system.”
According to the AP report, there is increasingly Islamic content in school syllabus.
Dr Ashrawi, a former higher education minister, said she had asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hand control of the curriculum to an independent commission of experts. However, she has not gotten any commitment.
A Canadian current affairs programme recently interviewed 2003 Sydney Peace Prize recipient Dr Hanan Ashrawi on the chaos of the current state of the Palestinian political life.
Listen to the podcast of the interview.
Watch the video of the interview.