FRESH AIR

Hanan Ashrawi proves – yet again – why she should never have been a candidate for any peace prize

Nov 6, 2023 | Alana Schetzer, Allon Lee

Image: IMF/ Flickr
Image: IMF/ Flickr

Today, November 6, marks exactly two decades since then NSW Premier Bob Carr presented Palestinian official, activist and academic Hanan Ashrawi in the State Parliament with the then largely unknown Sydney Peace Prize, an award that prompted major national controversy.

In recent weeks, Ashrawi has made outrageous statements in interviews that have whitewashed Hamas’ barbaric crimes against Israel on October 7 – vindicating yet again the stance taken by the Australian Jewish leadership in 2003 that she should never have won the award.

 

2003 – A deeply inappropriate choice

The Sydney Peace Foundation’s citation feted Ashrawi’s “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.”

The consensus in the Australian Jewish community was that Ashrawi was a deeply inappropriate choice.

As AIJAC’s Jeremy Jones – then-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry – said in the Sydney Morning Herald after the initial announcement in early August 2003: “Every decent person, including Palestinians, wants a peaceful and just resolution and there are people we look to for change and reconciliation. Hanan Ashrawi is nowhere on that list. She is an old-style propagandist.”

Documented evidence of her statements spanning the previous 15 years showed that Ashrawi’s smooth-talking, unflappable exterior masked a hard-line PLO activist and apologist for terror. Just a few of the many examples included:

  • Supporting Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
  • On April 30, 1993, United Press International reported Ashrawi said, “I don’t think of Hamas as a terrorist group. We coordinate politically… the people we know and talk to are not terrorists.”
  • On April 25, 1996, the New York Times reported 504 PLO members voted to revoke clauses in the Palestinian national charter calling for Israel’s destruction, a revocation required by the Oslo Accords. Ashrawi was one of only 54 to vote no, saying, it “will appear to be a succumbing to Israeli dictate.”
  • In November 1999, Ashrawi outlined her vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was essentially the PLO’s 1974 “phased plan” to create a Palestinian state as a stepping stone ultimately leading to Israel’s elimination, saying, “Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will be able to permanently establish separate states… Ultimately, they will have to merge and form a one-person, one-vote democracy in order to survive.”
  • Despite abundant video evidence showing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank celebrating the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Ashrawi vehemently denied this happened.
  • In June 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, Ashrawi signed a petition in Arabic that condemned terrorism against civilians, not on the grounds it is immoral but “because we do not see results from these actions.

Unfortunately, the objective evidence demolishing Ashrawi’s credentials as a peace activist was rejected.

The communal leadership was accused of attempting to bully, intimidate, and silence a brave Palestinian peace activist.

The criticism of the Sydney Peace Foundation and Carr’s refusal to reconsider his participation left a bitter legacy that still reverberates all these years later.

 

2023 – Same old apologist for terror and denier of inconvenient facts

Yet, ironically, with near perfect timing, Ashrawi’s blatant lying regarding Hamas’ massacre of more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in Israel on October 7 has validated once again the Jewish communal leadership’s opposition to her being bestowed with a peace award.

In multiple interviews since October 7, Ashrawi has tried to defend the indefensible – by accusing Israel of lying, spinning and misrepresenting Hamas’ self-declared objectives and attempting to discredit claims civilians were massacred en masse by Hamas.

Despite multiple news reports – and considerable documentation – revealing Hamas’ goal was the murder of civilians, on Oct. 18, Ashrawi told Sky News UK’s Mike Austin that Hamas’ invasion was a well-planned military operation in which “Palestinian fighters…[broke] free of their prison, and…[were] able to face the Israeli army, stand up to the Israeli army.”

Austin retorted this was “mass murder on a huge scale. 1,400 Israelis are killed. It was an act of terror. It was an act of brutal terror. They basically came over to murder as many civilians as they could.”

Without batting an eyelid, Ashrawi asserted that civilians who died were collateral damage, replying, “You assign that as their motivation that they just want to kill as many civilians… This was a deliberate act of resisting an occupation army that has been surrounding Gaza, besieging Gaza, regularly, bombing and shelling Gaza, killing.”

Pushing back Austin asked, “So it’s justifiable in your view?”

Ashrawi said, “I don’t justify the killing of civilians, ever,” and accused him of repeating “misrepresentation[s]”, “distortions” and adopting Israel’s “narrative” of what happened on October 7, “lies that were disproven later.”

Interviewed on YouTube show Democracy Now! on Oct. 26, Ashrawi claimed that the savage rapes of Israeli women and the decapitation of Israeli babies didn’t occur.

Not only that, but she said that evidence of these heinous crimes had even been faked, labelling those war crimes as “all that nonsense”. She also cast doubt on the fact that it was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket – aimed at Israel – that had misfired and hit the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital car park in Gaza. This is despite video evidence and confirmation from the US Department of Defense and numerous independent media investigations.

She also claimed that US President Joe Biden “blindly parrots everything he hears from the Israelis,” despite offering no evidence to back up her accusations. Such claims are almost incredible when it is beyond dispute that Hamas shamelessly lies and uses propaganda to discredit Israel and its allies.

Interviewed by Indian magazine Frontline on Oct. 30, Ashrawi rejected any comparisons between Hamas and the Islamist terror group ISIS, saying, “Do you know what Hamas is?… Hamas is a political and military organisation. It is at the head of a government. It has an organisation, an institution, social welfare programmes. It is not just a group of fighters who appeared out of nowhere. It is part of the political fabric. They stood in the elections.”

No one should be at all surprised by Ashrawi’s contemptible claims about Hamas and insistence that documented mass murder of Israeli civilians in the October 7 terrorist attacks – the largest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust – was nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

This has been her basic modus operandi since her first appearance in the late 1980s.

Given the febrile hatred for Israel seen in some circles since October 7, there’s no guarantee that even Ashrawi’s ridiculous massacre denials would make her ineligible to receive a peace prize in 2023.

Despite showing time and time again that her “commitment to human rights, to the peace process in the Middle East and for her courage in speaking against oppression” – the supposed basis for the 2003 award – is pure myth, Ashrawi’s media skills and the support of starry-eyed and often gullible backers has ensured she has continually got away with absurdly being portrayed as some sort of peace activist.

With Israel currently fighting a major war in Gaza to prevent Hamas from having the ability to repeat October 7 “again and again”, as it says it intends to, perhaps the key lesson demonstrated by Ashrawi in 2003 and 2023 is that two conflicts are happening simultaneously; the physical battle between Hamas’ terrorists and Israel, and the propaganda war being waged by Hamas and its apologists, like Ashrawi.

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