SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
DAVID SKORTON: With literary illusions, we had chosen the Victoria Hotel, with its echoes of Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War. As our motorcade pulled up to the entrance we heard chanting in Arabic and saw a crowd of men, women, and children waving olive branches and Palestinian flags.
We ran to the crowd, embracing, kissing, shaking hands, exchanging greetings, and wiping away tears. A little girl came up to me and shyly handed me a large bouquet of white flowers. I embraced her, thinking of a Amal and Zeina.
As I felt as if I were embracing all the Palestinian children, those we had left behind, and those who had never seen Palestine. It was on behalf of that little girl with flowers, and for all our children, that I was committed to speak out and act in [? amana, ?] in honesty.
Welcome to this afternoon's session. We're very honored to welcome Hanan Ashrawi for the third time to Cornell University. Dr. Ashrawi's talk today is part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies Foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers Series.
The passage I just read to you is from Dr. Ashrawi's book, This Side of Peace. If you have a chance to peruse this evocative and very personal story, you will enjoy it as much as I did.
One of several ways that the Einaudi Center is working to maximize the intellectual impact of Cornell's resources in international affairs and link them to the world of foreign affairs and diplomacy is through its foreign policy initiative.
Cornell's Office of the Vice Provost for International Relations, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, and the Alice Cook House are also sponsors of today's lecture. Thank all of you for your efforts to bring her to our campus.
Dr. Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator, human rights activist, and scholar, widely known in the US as one of the most articulate spokespersons on behalf of the Palestinian people. Dr. Ashrawi became involved in politics after the 1987 outbreak of the Intifada, the revolt against Israeli occupation.
She was a prominent member of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process in 1991, when talks were held in Madrid. And became an official spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation there and in many subsequent discussions.
Elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996, she was Minister of Higher Education and Research in the cabinet of Yasser Arafat from 1996 to 1998.
After resigning from the Arafat administration, she founded a new independent organization to monitor human rights abuses by Palestinians, as well as Israelis, called MIFTAH, the Palestinian initiative for the promotion of global dialogue in democracy.
And she continues to serve as Secretary General of that organization. Dr. Ashrawi return to elected office just last year in January of 2006, when she again won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and currently serves as an independent member of that council.
She grew up in Ramallah, Palestine received Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from the American University in Beirut. She then earned a doctorate in Medieval Literature at the University of Virginia.
Returning to Ramallah, she was for many years a faculty member at Birzeit University, where she chaired the English Department, and later became Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
During this time, she wrote several books, the best known of which is this wonderful 1995 memoir, This Side of Peace, from which I read the opening passage.
Always an activist for human rights, particularly the rights of women, and for the independence of Palestine, Dr. Ashrawi has received numerous international awards for her peace and human rights activities. Among them are the Olof Palme Award, the Sydney Peace Prize, and the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation.
She serves on the advisory boards of such organizations as the World Bank Middle East and North Africa, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, and the International Human Rights Council.
Dr. Ashrawi has spoken to our community twice previously. And in 1995, when she was the Bartels World Affairs Fellow, and again in 2001, when she discussed the Middle East peace process before a crowd here in Bailey Hall. An event at that time sponsored by Cornell's International Student Programming Board and the Arab Club.
We look forward to hearing her insights on the topic of peace in the Middle East, who needs it? Please join me in a warm Cornell welcome, again, to Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you very much. That was a very warm and touching introduction. And I'm very grateful. I really want to thank you David and President Skorton, for your initiative, and for your kind invitation.
It came at a time in which I thought it was quite timely and necessary to reach out, and once again, to present the Palestinian case against the prevailing either sense of dismissal or refusal to deal with the facts, or even the hostile atmosphere we find ourselves in.
But before I go on. I really want to thank everybody who sponsored this visit. The, again, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
I'd like to thank the individuals, primarily Professor Nick Vanderwall, and Professor David Lee, and David Whitman, and Gus Brown, and of course, most of all, Laurie Damiani, who has been indefatigable in getting me here and taking care of me.
I feel absolutely spoiled. If you want to go anywhere where you are pampered, visit Cornell, it's lovely. And it's wonderful to be able to return here to get the opportunity to catch up with old friends and to make new ones.
This is a very hospitable place. And the Cornell experience is at once very unique and very individual, and yet very global. And I'm very happy to have this opportunity to participate in it yet one more time. And to share with you an evening, an hour or two of a candid exchange of ideas, I hope.
Now when I chose this title-- we were talking about this title-- I chose it not to be very facetious, really. But first of all, to stress the urgency, and the imperative, and the need to act immediately, and not to sit by the wayside and allow things to happen of their own accord.
And as you know the dynamic, generally, is a negative one. I also chose it in order to highlight what I call the attitude of resignation. And the sense of inevitability leading to an action.
Because people believe this is a very complex conflict, you know, it's a conflict of centuries, it's a conflict of ideologies, of history, of identities, of language, of culture, of geography, and so on. And therefore we can't do anything about it. And people before us failed to resolve it, so why should we?
The most that we can do is actually do some crisis management, or do some damage control, which is what has been happening lately, particularly in the last seven years.
And this type of crisis management or damage control, or the prevailing attitude, particularly by the US administration, that the Palestinians and Israelis haven't been exhausted enough yet. People, when they get tired of bloodletting, then they will make peace.
And this is also one of the greatest fallacies. I've always said that people who are exhausted or tired do not make peace, they continue to beat each other and bash each other up to the end.
It's people who are confident and who feel strong and empowered who decide to make peace, because it does take quite a bit of courage to pursue this sometimes not very glamorous and not very popular approach to reality.
So we have sins of commission and sins of omission. But the situation, as the title tries to indicate, is one that is fraught not just with pain, but with tremendous irony, of course. And it's these ironies that somehow have to be faced and reconciled with reality.
I'd like to state the obvious, first of all, that that peace is not only desirable, it is also possible. And I'm one of the few who still believe that it is possible. And it is something worth pursuing and we will continue to pursue it.
But it is also essential. It's essential for their well-being, not just of Palestinians and Israelis, it's essential locally, regionally, globally. Peace in itself is a value, what I call a basic human right, and a noble endeavor.
But also, in our part of the world, it's quite practical. It's very essential for many reasons, which I will get to. Now at this point, one of the most obvious ironies is the fact that, finally, the world has reached a global consensus that the two-state solution is a desirable solution.
And everybody is working for a two-state solution. It took years to get to that point politically and to get that global consensus. And of course, everybody knows what the major features or components of the settlement.
When it comes to the borders, everybody accepted the '67 lines as borders of two states. Jerusalem as the capital of both states, one city, two capitals. The settlements, and what should be done. The refugees, and the lack of return, water, and security.
And also, another irony is the fact that public opinion on both sides seems to be constant, in terms of accepting not just a two-state solution, but a constant majority. But also, advocating a peaceful resolution to the conflict, regardless of how violent and cruel the situation may be.
That is a constant majority in favor of a negotiated settlement and a peaceful resolution. And the irony is that in the midst of all this, I don't think I've seen conditions deteriorating in a way that is more painful or worse than they are now on the ground.
We see the rise of extremism and violence. We see, of course, all the terrible Ds I always talk about, the deconstruction, de-development, disintegration, and dissolution of Palestinian realities. And of course, leading to a sense of despondency, and despair.
The economy is destroyed, the land is besieged and fragmented, and, of course, the political system is nonfunctional, or I would say dysfunctional. Not just in Palestine, but I would say even in Israel, we have political systems that are dysfunctional. And we can talk about this later if we have time.
We did maintain, for a long time, that in Palestine, in order to be able to break this cycle and move ahead, we need to proceed on two parallel and interdependent tracks, or what was called processes. The peace process, or peace making, and nation building.
That you have to be able to empower the Palestinians to build their own state, to build the institutions of state, to manage to work a system of democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, and so on, in order also to be able to make peace that is viable that can lay claim to permanence and legitimacy.
And we also believe that the only way to have a viable Palestinian state is to end the occupation and to have a just peace. You cannot have a peace process without Palestinian statehood. And you cannot have Palestinian statehood while under occupation, without peace.
So these two are interdependent. And we presented this when we went through the peace process. And I told you this in '95, and I'll repeat it again-- or in 2001-- that we made sure that when we entered the peace process, we were committed to two simultaneous acts, or as objectives.
The devolution of occupation and the evolution of statehood. These have to happen. Receding occupation and ascending, let's say, statehood. And we assume in a sense that this is what's going to happen.
And here we come to the greatest ironic reversal, where we ended up now with at a de-evolution of Palestinian statehood and an evolution of occupation. The occupation reinventing itself in so many ways, in which it developed to become a system of total control, military control, without any of the responsibilities of an occupying power in accordance with the first Geneva Convention and international law.
And we ended up with the Palestinians, of course, facing the systematic dismantlement solution, as I said. And de-evolution and deconstruction of our infrastructure, our institutions, our economy. The very land in which we live.
We find ourselves in a state of multiple siege. Not just external siege territorially, separated from the rest of the world, but also internally besieged and cut off from each other with over 530 checkpoints. And with settlements expanding throughout.
And, of course, with the famous or notorious apartheid roads, where they annex our land in order to build roads that are for the use of Israeli settlements only. So the Palestinian towns, cities, and villages are totally cut off from each other.
And from, of course, the rest of the world, and from the settlers. But our land is being taken away to build settlements, but also to build roads for the exclusive use of the settlers. And along with that, we have an ongoing policy of collective punitive measures, settlement expansion, and the building of the horrific wall.
I don't know if any of you have seen that wall, but the wall betrays a mentality of distrust and hostility, and a projection of bad neighborly relations, in a sense.
It's built on our land, it's a huge horrific ugly wall, and it literally steals your horizon, so to speak. You cannot see beyond it. So it does that to both people. It's not just to the Palestinians.
To us, of course, it steals our land, and blocks our horizon, and imprisons us, and imprisons different communities in their own areas, but also separates the people from their own land.
You could wake up one morning and find the wall in front of your house. And you can't reach your land and you cannot work on your land. I found the wall right in front of my office on the way to Jerusalem.
So now neither the people from the West Bank can get to that office, nor the people from Jerusalem can get to that office. And this kind of wall blocks, in many ways, very visibly blocks possibilities of peace and reconciliation.
We still have a suffering from a policy of incursions, assassinations, abductions. We have 11,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. All of these things are still ongoing.
And yet, everybody is saying, well, the solution is obvious. And what we need is to disengage from the occupation, literally, to build a two-state solution.
And at this point, most people are remarking on the greatest irony of all, which is the irony of the punitive measures imposed on the Palestinians. The sanctions and the boycott because of the election of Hamas in Palestine.
Hamas was elected for a variety of reasons. I've discussed this with the students. And I'd be glad to discuss it even further now. In the sense that the Palestinians did not suddenly decide to become Islamists, or decide to become absolutists, or decided to support the political agenda of Hamas.
Hamas was elected for a variety of reasons. One of them is a response to the corruption of Fatah and the PA. The mismanagement, the abuse of power, the misuse of public funds, the cronyism, and so on.
So there was a response to that. And the Palestinian people in all our studies have indicated that they do not accept corruption, that they despise corrupt people. And therefore, they decided to punish Fatah and the PA.
And many people in Fatah elected Hamas. And many Christians elected Hamas. Precisely because Hamas ran for reform and change, not on its political agenda.
And of course, many people saw that Hamas had charities and functioning institutions, and they thought that these types of services should be provided by the authority.
There was also a response to deteriorating conditions on the ground. To the violence, to the extremism, to the sense of victimization and vulnerability felt by the Palestinian people. And so they decided that they're going to elect somebody who's strong enough and militant enough to respond to their militarism and ideology being exercised on them by the Israeli occupation.
They also responded to the fact that there was no prospect for peace. That all possibilities of peace were blocked. There were several feeble attempts at sort of CBMs confidence building measures, st managing organizing the occupation.
But no serious engagement or involvement globally by the Quartet or by the US to launch a viable substantive peace process that would engage the situation on the ground, and transform it, and transform realities.
So as a response to the sense of let down and despair, we also elected Hamas. I always say Hamas was elected out of-- or got the revenge vote, and the protest vote, and the angry vote, and the despair vote, in addition to the ideological vote, and the support vote. All these votes went to Hamas.
And I think the Palestinian people surprised themselves when Hamas actually got the majority. And the same as Hamas surprised itself as well.
The elections technically were free and fair, of course. There were observers, there were people who made sure, and they saw that there was no coercion, no fraudulent practices, nothing. I mean, they were free and fair, in technical terms.
But how free and fair are elections when a people, a whole nation, is living in captivity? And with this sense of vulnerability and being subject to all this violence, and extremism, and so on? That certainly would affect, influence your collective ethos, your mindset.
The whole atmosphere was tainted by the policies of occupation and by the sense of despair. But funnily enough, suddenly the US and Israel decided to boycott. Decided to impose sanctions on the Palestinian people because they elected Hamas.
So what kind of message are they sending to the Palestinians about democracy and hypocrisy? Democracy is fine, provided you guarantee the outcome. Democracy is fine, provided you elect the people we like. If you don't do that, we're not going to talk to you. We'll boycott, we'll use sanctions.
But what adds insult to injury is that for the last 40 years, we've been saying, we are under occupation, Israel has been violating international law, UN resolutions, and so on. And we asked the world to use sanctions against Israel. Economic sanctions, boycott, whatever.
And everybody said, don't even think about it. No sanctions for the occupier. So how come now there are sanctions for the occupied? So we find ourselves under occupation, besieged, with our economy in shambles, and at the same time, subject to sanctions.
Now who suffered? It wasn't Hamas that suffered. It was the Palestinian people as a whole, the people in the civil service, who found themselves without any pay. A million people without any income.
And of course, the ordinary Palestinians and so on. So this irony, double or multiple irony, dealt a blow also to any attempts at convincing people that democracy not only works, but that democracy is something about which the West is serious.
And they saw this as another instrument by means of which the West can dictate realities on the ground. It undermined the standing of the US, also the Quartet and Europe, and had an adverse impact on the Democratic Movement, and of course the moderates as a whole, and the peace movement. and led to enhancing the extreme polarization in our society.
It also led to internal violence. This polarization ended up with close to civil war. We became fratricidal, so to speak. We were on the verge of destroying each other. And we finally ended up with Palestine severed, with Gaza and the West Bank being two separate entities, with two disparate systems and ideologies.
And of course, with all sorts of attempts at trying to either vindicate Hamas, by saying it was elected regardless of what it does, it has legitimacy. Or by saying it's the culprit, it's a terrorist organization. And therefore, we're not going to talk to it.
And the same thing by saying, look, Fatah is corrupt, and so on, and we don't need to talk to them. Or by saying that Fatah is an ally and friend of the West and the US, and therefore there are Western lackeys and Israeli agent.
So you could use whatever excuse you wanted, again, to maintain your distance and not to do anything about Palestine. Most people also tried to vindicate Hamas's ascendancy by saying, look, we can work with Hamas, Hamas can recognize Israel, and signed agreements, and so on, and modify its political agenda.
And I agree, they already have. They've already modified their political agenda. They've accepted the two-state solution as an interim solution. They've accepted the dialogue with Israel. They've accepted discussions between their ministers and Israeli ministers.
And they've accepted a long-term truce. Even unilaterally, they accepted the ceasefire. But to me, I want my right to be in the opposition. Because to me, Hamas has a social agenda that I disagree with as well.
It's not enough to modify Hamas politically and to make it deliver to Israel, whether security or recognition. What happens to the Palestinian people who want a democratic, enlightened, open system?
I want to see a pluralistic tolerant system in Palestine. And it's my right to be the opposition. It's not Israel or the US who can usurp my role as the opposition. And at the same time, the legitimacy of any political party or the movement comes from having a constituency.
It doesn't come from getting approval by the West, which is a historical mistake that was done in our part of the world, and we can talk about that also later. So here people are talking about the political agenda and forgetting about the social agenda.
And at the same time, this dealt a serious blow to the secular nationalist agenda or forces in Palestine. So it's not just peace that is at stake. It's also the soul of Palestine. What kind of society do we want? This is the real struggle as far as I'm concerned.
And we end up with sort of the Palestinian people being caught between a rock and a hard place. Fatah is unable to relinquish power and Hamas is unable to wield power or set up a system of good governance.
And of course, Hamas thought that once it was elected, it had an absolute mandate. You can do whatever you want. You can start all over again. And this certainly is not true.
But the Palestinian national cause, its standing, its integrity, its support throughout the world has been dealt a serious blow. And we have to reforge and reformulate our global relations.
Internally, of course, we do have a constitutional crisis. Again, open to discussion later. A paralysis, and of course, within the three branches, we see a dysfunction. A looming humanitarian disaster is increasing, particularly in Gaza. And lawlessness and chaos are taking over.
Now politically, there are dangers at times of trying to capitalize on this rift between Gaza and the West Bank. And saying OK, let's punish Gaza and reward the West Bank. Let's starve Gaza and feed the West Bank. Let's make peace with the West Bank first and then Gaza will follow.
It doesn't happen. It's not going to work. The only way things can move ahead is if we help reconcile the Palestinians, heal the rift, go back to a genuine nation building process, lift the siege.
And move actually with a real political will to provide the people with hope for a resolution. Again, we see the transformation of the Palestinian reality of Palestine into a humanitarian project, a relief project.
Once again, we're the charity case. All our lives, we've tried hard to build an economy, developmental economy, and to present ourselves as a case for self-determination and freedom, sovereignty, dignity.
Now we have become a charity case more than anything else. And all the components of nation building have been undermined. It's something that we need to restore and rebuild. But worst of all, the term occupation was dropped it from the lexicon, from the political lexicon.
It's as if somehow the Palestinians brought all these things on themselves and the occupation is not at fault. And we talked about Israel also at this point being in a situation of political disarray and weakness, having a system that is also based on corruption, leadership crisis, and with an unlikely coalition, and labor being co-opted by Likud and so on.
I don't want to go into detail here, but very clearly there's this weakness and lack also of support have contributed to even greater hard-line policies. Habitually, Israeli policies have denied any partnership for peace. They've always said that there is no partner.
And of course, when you deny a partnership, when you deny your counterpart, when you say there's no partner for peace, what you are saying is, I have a perfect excuse for power politics and unilateralism. Because then I can do whatever I want and get away with it.
And we all know that the negation of the other and unilateralism are the politics of the strong. And militarism, when you dictate to the weak.
This, of course, was very clear in the Gaza disengagement, you remember. When we said, if you want to leave Gaza, fine, but let's negotiate. Withdraw from Gaza, let the withdrawal come as a result of an agreement. And as part of a process. In ways in which it would lead to the, again, back to the de-evolution of occupation.
But certainly this didn't happen. And we had unilateralism, which again lead to greater violence and a vindication of violence. And the power imbalance between occupier and occupied continued to be exploited.
Not only to create facts on the ground, but also to decide on the legitimacy of the interlocutor. That they've decided who is legitimate enough among the Palestinians to become our counterpart, or our interlocutor, and who was not legitimate enough.
And this type of dictation to the other by selecting who the leadership is, or who is the acceptable interlocutor, certainly it does not bode well for peace or for any kind of substantive and credible negotiations.
And another factor of Israeli policies is the imposing of preconditions. You all know what happened in the roadmap, where they imposed, where they dictated 14 reservations on the road map that robbed it of its substance.
And they transformed it into a sequential conditional approach. And the last thing is this call for normalization with the occupation. The one thing that has been constant all these years is that the occupation is an abnormal situation. And there's no way in which it can be normalized. You cannot normalize it.
Now Israel seeks to normalize the occupation as a status quo within which it can exist, if it can manage it. Or it can normalize with the Arab world, relations with the Arab world, and still maintain the occupation as an ongoing status quo.
The very, again, apparent injustice is that and all attempts at either bringing about third party intervention or US participation as a-- US always, the US always brought a strategic alliance with Israel to bear on peacemaking. And on its relations to the Palestinians and Israel.
So that has distorted its role as a peace-broker and provided cover and immunity for most of the most extreme Israeli behavior and illegal policies. It's not just the veto that was repeatedly exercised in the UN Security Council, but also attempts at providing cover for illegal behavior, including the settlements.
By saying, you know, we have to take into account facts, demographic facts created on the ground by Israel. Which meant that the US becomes a party to an illegal act. You cannot condone or bestow retroactive legitimacy on something which is illegal. And the post-September 11 universe, that has had the greatest impact on our realities.
I don't want to go back and discuss, again, the extreme polarization, [INAUDIBLE] and universe, the devils and angels, the preemptive strikes, the militarism, and unilateralism, and all these things that emerged after September 11th.
But somehow we found ourselves on the side of the devils and Israel on the side of the angels. And somehow as people under occupation-- again, the issue of conflict and conflict resolution became somehow disappeared off the map. And the issue became one of democracy.
So in all those neocon theories of the greater Middle East, the broader Middle East, even the new Middle East, very little was done to address the longstanding conflicts and issues that shape people's minds and attitudes, and that aggravate the conflict and lead to instability.
What people were talking about was the fact that the freedom deficit, the knowledge deficit, and the lack of democracy are the problems in the region. But we tried to convince them that freedom of occupation-- freedom from occupation-- is a freedom that we need.
And we need to be free to develop our own resources, our on potential, our on state. That's what we need. It's not just the basic fundamental rights and freedoms, because we were working on these issues.
Somehow we have to convince the US that solving the Palestinian question is key to unleashing all these forces of democracy and enlightenment into the region. Solving the Palestinian question will lead to stability, is the proper antidote to extremism and violence. And that the Palestinian question has always been abused and used by those who are looking for a justification for their extremism.
So we need to rescue the Palestinian cause from those who would abuse it. And we tell them very frankly, as I said, that it is not up for grabs. And the region itself cannot be fragmented. We are not and we can never be-- in the Arab world, in the Middle East-- discrete isolated hermetically sealed entities. We are interrelated.
And Arab public opinion is formed on the basis of what happens in Palestine, and Iraq, and Lebanon. You cannot just isolate these countries and say what happens in Palestine has nothing to do with Lebanon. And Lebanon has nothing to do with Iraq and Syria and so on.
So it didn't take much for people like Baker and Hamilton to write their report about the need for an integrated approach to the region. The inter-connectedness, the fact that the Iraqi disaster and the Lebanese debacle have a lot to do with the Palestinian question.
And the fact that if you want stability in the region, you want to counter a sense of betrayal and extremism, you have to solve the Palestinian question and distance yourself or curb Israeli behavior and injustice, because the Palestinian question continues to be one of the most visible concrete expressions of injustice and pain.
And it's an open wound. And it has to be healed, it has to stop if we're going to move ahead, if we don't want to be captives of our own pain and responses to pain. And we cannot also resort to inventing a new and another simplistic paradigm in the region.
A polarization where we talk about the axis of extremists versus the Quartet of moderates. I'm sure you have heard this language recently. As though you know you can easily divide the region and deal only with those guys who agree with you and believe in your own principles. And you can punish those who disagree with you.
There's a way in which you can adopt a comprehensive integrated approach, stressing peacemaking as the key to relations in the region, and to restoring credibility to the US and its standing in the region.
It is time now to take the bull by the horns so to speak. And to move with urgency. And to address substantive issues, permanent status issues. Not side issues, again, technical issues, even CBMs, confidence building measures, are symbolic gestures.
We cannot deal with virtual states. Let's sit back and see how we can paint a virtual state, what the Palestinian state will look like. We need to be able to build that state and to remove the occupation.
We do not want to deal with symbolic moves, nor substitute action, for action substitute frequent flyer mileage. Because we have lots of visits coming and going, and people visiting, and exploring, and talking, and so on.
But out of these visits, we need to see an emerging political will, really, to have not a peace process for its own sake, not a process that would proceed for years, as we had seen in the last couple of decades.
But really the political will to sit down and resolve all these crucial issues. And it's true, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We know what they are. Let's move with it. If you want an envoy like Tony Blair, fine, we will have an envoy.
But that envoy has to be empowered, has to have the proper mandate, has to work politically. It's not a question just of helping the Palestinians build their institutions. We can build our institutions. And we do have to know how to build our institutions. We just want to be free to build those institutions.
If Tony Blair wants to function effectively, then he must have the mandate to deal politically with the situation, to mediate. And we do need mediation, but we also must have the ear of the principals, the people who send him.
Those who send an envoy have to empower him. And have to give him the proper tools to cope with reality. If not, then it will be another let down. We've seen what happened to Jim Wolfensohn before. We've seen what happened to Álvaro de Soto, who gave up in exasperation when all their efforts were thwarted by the US administration.
And when we talk about the political horizon, in Arabic, we always have this expression, you need the political horizon. What we're talking about is sort of a sense that there can be a political opening.
But one of the attributes of the horizon is the fact that it's ever receding. And so we don't need an ever receding political view, we need an opening where the horizon is really the ability to get out of this imprisonment by the wall and by the occupation.
Again, we keep hearing things about the two-state solution as the vision. It seems that, again, not just in Palestine, but in the US, you have people who have visions. So the president had a vision of a two state solution, which is well and good.
But any vision, as anybody can tell you, including the vision Israel with Palestine, is that it's as good as its implementation. If it remains in your head, or just a verbal sort of linguistic construct that you repeat constantly, and does not find its way to enactment, then it doesn't mean anything.
So is there the political will to translate this vision into a reality or not? And it has to be done before the possibility of establishing the two-state solution becomes impossible. It is actually receding very rapidly, becoming more and more difficult, if not impossible.
Some people are talking about the de facto solution of a bi-national state. Again, we can discuss this if you want, if we have time. But that is not an easy choice at all, frankly.
We were talking earlier about perhaps setting up a coalition of the willing for peace this time. Maybe this is what we need. It's not a unilateral issue. And it cannot be solved unilaterally.
And it's not a bilateral issue, because we all know that when you have a situation of occupier and occupied, that is a power asymmetry that cannot be handled bilaterally. You are negotiating under duress and coercion, so to speak.
And they have an unlimited reservoir of actions that they can take to influence your decision and your reality. But it is multilateral. That's why we said, we need, whether you are happy with the Quartet or not, whether it needs modification, it needs expansion, the Arabs have to be there. We do need certainly an international coalition of the willing for peace.
And I would advise the US administration this last year to try to replace the troop surge in Iraq for a peace surge in Palestine. That might serve the region and the globe much, much better.
There is talk of the November meeting. Now the November meeting can only work if it is-- or can work if it is transformed into a real and international conference, with a real agenda, with sufficient preparation before it.
I know that Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are matter meeting to work out the political framework. Some people want to go back to more declarations of principles or formulation. We have enough principles. We know what the principles are.
What we need are the elements, the concrete components, of a solution. No more principles and frameworks. And we need to engage with the available tools. There are several available tools.
This is a unique opportunity. Still, the Palestinians have accepted the 78-22% divide. They have accepted the two-state solution. And it's not easy. But this is an opportunity to work with this historical compromise to create the two-state solution.
That is an Arab Initiative on the books and the Arabs are behind it. And they're willing to respect it and implement it. And the components are very clear. It's based on the American formula of land for peace.
You relinquish the land which you conquered which is not yours, and you will have peace, and normalization with the Arab world. There's also an international need and an international will, in Europe and elsewhere, to move ahead rapidly with the Palestinian question.
And we have the tool of international law and legality. We have UN resolutions. And of course, the Palestinian question remains a real test for the global rule of law.
So who needs peace in the Middle East? We all know who needs peace in the Middle East. The Arabs need it to conduct the security threat or rationalization, in order to move towards a more homegrown authentic form of democracy reform and rule of law, instead of the sort of artificially externally imposed democratic systems.
The US needs it to rearticulate and reshape its relations in the region, its standing, its interests, and, of course, the stability and security of the region. This is the real war against violence, and against lawlessness, and against chaos and instability.
Not by creating more wars and sending armies, but by having the courage to make a just peace. The international community needs it as a ripple effect of stability and security in the region. Of course, safeguarding the sources of oil, we understand that, the language of interest.
And the global rule of law and as a test of international legitimacy. The Palestinians and Israelis need it, because we both need to be liberated from the shackles of the occupation, and the brutality, and the pain of occupation, in order to replace this lethal proximity with good neighborly relations.
And I reiterate, although the road has been extremely difficult, and although the instruments have been flawed, but the objective, nonetheless, remains noble. Thank you very much.
Thank you. And we go there now? I gained 10 pounds instantly, that's my microphone.
DAVID SKORTON: I wonder if before we start the Q&A, if we can thank Dr. Ashrawi one more time for the address.
Well, not only was it a very important talk, but we have plenty of time for questions. And there are microphones in both aisles. So Dr. Ashrawi has very kindly agreed to take any and all questions. We have about a half hour.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Mm-hmm. Half hour.
DAVID SKORTON: So please come to either microphone, and start off with the gentleman here, please.
AUDIENCE: Dr. Ashrawi, you mentioned that you see connection between the Iraqi situation and Palestinian issue. Could you please describe a little bit more in detail what the connection between sectarian war in Iraq between fighting between Shiites and Sunnis, and Palestinian issue?
And second question is, do you see any potentials to achieve peace in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israeli West Bank territory will be joined as part of Jordan? This sort of happened-- I mean, some scholars or in media, I read several articles on the subject.
That there is some thinking that Palestinian territory could be part of Jordan. And that can make it easier to achieve the peace? Thank you.
HANAN ASHRAWI: You want me to answer one by one, or shall I take a--
DAVID SKORTON: One by one, if you don't mind.
HANAN ASHRAWI: --whole set of questions and then try to answer them?
DAVID SKORTON: However you like it. Usually the custom is one by one, but it's up to you
HANAN ASHRAWI: One by one. Well, the thing is to talk about the interrelatedness of the region would take another couple of hours, so to speak. But let me say that attitudes and perceptions are shaped in many ways by what happens in Palestine.
Everybody every single, whether regime, or non-state actor groups, and so on, try to use the Palestinian question for their own interests. And to justify their on actions.
Saddam Hussein, for example, used Palestine as a clear case, as a clear example. He said the liberation of Palestine was the main objective of his regime.
And the same thing now in al-Qaeda, for example, you have Osama bin Laden claiming that he's trying to liberate Palestine. Even though he has nothing to do with Palestine, Palestinian question.
Attitudes like that have been shaped. That's what I'm talking about now. In waging a war against Iraq, the US stirred up a hornet's nest, increased violence, and extremism, and terrorism, and so on, and led to feeding instability in different parts of the Middle East.
So instead of waging a war, and instead of destabilizing the region further, and instead of creating internal rifts, and reconstructing Iraq or destroying Iraq, the solution to dealing with the ills of extremism, and violence, and even terrorism in the region would have been the peaceful approach.
And that would have undermined autocratic regimes. That would have helped build democracies in the world. And would help, in the region, would help undermine extremism and violence, and create democracies.
It's absolutely antithetical to what we were advocating. And the interrelatedness has a lot to do with shaping public perceptions, opinions, and public policies. And with the regime's perception of their own legitimacies with their own people and their own support.
As far as Jordan is concerned, I don't think you'll find, either on the Jordanian side or the Palestinian side, any willingness to go back to the past experience. In which the West Bank was part of Jordan for a while, from 1951 until the disengagement.
I think Jordan is a country that has its own borders, its own sovereignty, its own institutions, laws, it has developed a real national identity of its own. And the last thing they want is to have territorial claims in Palestine again.
And I've been assured repeatedly that they don't have territorial claims in Palestine. And the Palestinians have been fighting the occupation, and want to get rid of any type of external, in particular, Israeli occupation. Not in order to go back to Jordan, but in order to have of state of their own. To live in peace, and freedom, and sovereignty.
So I think you need to be able to end the occupation, have a Palestinian state. After that, then all options are open. After that, people can begin talking about federations, confederations, alliances, because the region-- like Europe, like elsewhere-- should move towards more coalition, towards more building bridges rather than self-enclosed states.
Its much more important to have regional cooperation now. But the only way to do that is to be able to liberate Palestine, and have a Palestinian state. And then as act, if this is an act of sovereignty to work on a confederation, perhaps even going beyond Palestine, Jordan.
Why not Israel? Why not Egypt? Why not the others? Why not Syria, Lebanon? Sooner or later, the region would move in that direction. Provided the causes of conflict are removed.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you. Please.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Dr. Ashrawi. Thank you for coming to Cornell.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Hi.
AUDIENCE: We really appreciate it.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I've noticed that as long as there have been disagreements within the Palestinian community about how to deal with Israel and how to govern their own affairs, you have consistently been on the side of democracy, of peace, negotiations, and liberal values.
And you came together with other Palestinian intellectuals and other liberals before the last election to form your own centrist party, something that was-- didn't have the corrupt stain of Fatah and didn't have the Islamist stain of Hamas. Unfortunately, it didn't do too well in the elections, as you know.
HANAN ASHRAWI: We barely got our seats. We barely kept our seats.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. I think it was like 2.5% of the vote. So I was wondering why you think your party didn't do as well as it did. I know there's been a recent effort by Salam Fayyad, the current prime minister, to try and reinvigorate it.
Do you think there's any prospect for really creating a third force in Palestinian politics that can both govern Palestinians justly, and make peace with Israel?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Yeah. I think it's very important that we do have a third alternative. It's very important that we have a pluralistic system, multi-party system, rather than the simplistic polarization I talked about.
A corrupt nationalist regime versus the religious alternative as being the only alternative. And generally, the other regimes have found it much easier to suppress democratic forces than to counter the Islamists. Anyway, so they never really came to full fruition in the political arena.
In Palestine, and we tried very hard, we cautioned against following this example. And we have several components. We call ourselves pluralistic, but the left wing has become very weak.
The left factions, as I said, I think, today or yesterday, the left factions were reduced to very, very small numbers. The three factions got two seats. And they had been in existence for 30, 40 years.
And the PFLP that was supposedly the second largest organization got only three seats. And we formed not a party, but a bloc, and we got two seats. So it tells you that is any-- we got two seats in one month, while parties that had been in existence for decades got three of them, got as much as we did so. We're not matching ourselves too much.
But why didn't we capture the imagination of people? We are the proven, the known reformers, and so on, and democrats, and peace. Because people told us very openly that we were too nice. We didn't have militias.
In this polarization, in a situation where you have violence and extremism, and a sense of threat of being vulnerable and on the defensive all the time. You want somebody strong. You want somebody with the funds, with the militias, with the power, with the weapons.
And this has been a distortion in the Palestinian political system for some time now. The sources of power and legitimacy were seen as having money, having weapons, and having privilege benefit.
These are the three things that you deliver to your own constituency. And if you don't have these things, if you don't hand out positions and appointments, if you don't hand out funds, and if you don't have your militias, you don't have the ability to influence.
If you have only your principles, and your mind, and your record, and your ability to deliver, let's say, services, it's not enough, because we're living under occupation. So we were trying for some time to try to refocus on how to form new parties, political parties. And we need them.
And how can the old factions transform themselves into contemporary political parties and systems? And how can new ones emerge without adopting the tools of corruption, let's say, or power control, without handing out positions, and privilege, and money, and weapons?
And since we didn't have those, we didn't do it. But we did, relatively, we did very well. There is hope. What we're trying to do now is join forces with a variety of currents in civil society, whether in the private sector, in academia and others, people who do not belong to Fatah or Hamas.
The only requisite is that you are independent, democratic, and realistic, let's say. I don't want to say pragmatic. But democratic, and independent, and honest.
And we've been working on having a sort of mass movement. We've had several meetings in different places, in Ramallah, and Bethlehem, in Jerusalem, and Hebron, and the north, in Nablus.
And it's not a political party, we're just trying to bring together people who think that we can make a difference. That it's not too late. And not necessarily for elections. People are saying, are you preparing for the new elections?
No, we're trying to say that Palestine cannot be just split down the middle like that. That there is room for people who can provide a different agenda and a different model. it remains to be seen, but we're working at it.
AUDIENCE: Thanks a lot.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Dr. Ashrawi.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Hi.
AUDIENCE: Do you encourage institutions of higher education to divest of Israeli assets? And if so, why? And President Skorton, would you mind giving us your view of this issue?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Yeah. [LAUGHS]
As I said, I mean, for years, we've been asking for divestment and sanctions. The BDS, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions for Israel. Instead it was used against us. We were the ones who were boycotted. The people were divesting from us and used sanctions against us.
I think if it's an act of will, I know that the first was to the church, the Methodist Church, I think, was it? Then the Episcopalian thinking of it. And that's something.
And in Europe, and in England, you have, of course, the teachers' union and the other union that had. And it's growing. And I think as a question, as a decision, as an act of will, in order to send a clear message to Israel, what it really makes sense is that you will be held accountable.
And if governments do not hold you accountable, non-governmental institutions, and individuals, and groups will hold you accountable. And this is what has been happening, in the same way as the Palestine solidarity movement, for example. When they saw that there was no attempt by governments to provide protection for the Palestinians, they decided to do it themselves voluntarily as an [? activist. ?]
So sometimes where governments failed and where they lack the will to do something, individuals, and non-governmental organizations, and groups can make the difference.
DAVID SKORTON: I'm glad to tell you how I feel about it. And as you know, and as I've written on campus several times, I think, in general, a university's long-term investment pools should not be used for political reasons.
Nonetheless, within a few weeks of when I came here last year, I suggested, and our board backed up, divesting selectively in Darfur. So I think it's two times in my 30 years in higher education, once years ago in South Africa, and secondly, in Darfur, I thought it was a worthwhile thing to do for the very reasons that Dr. Ashrawi is bringing up.
I personally do not think we should divest from Israeli companies. But I think the principle-- or from the Israeli investments.
I think the principle of discussing the social aspects of investment is critically important. And the principle of direct action by institutions, nonprofits, and individuals is what most social change has been based on over the centuries. Not necessarily governmental actions.
So I believe in the principle. I don't believe in its application, in this particular case. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to come speak with us today. In your speech, you made clear that your view that the security fence that the Israelis built is contradictory to peace. And yet, on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that since the completion of the wall in 2006, there have been only two Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel.
Whereas before that, between the year 2000 and 2006, nearly 1,000 Israelis were killed in suicide bombing attacks. Wouldn't you agree that a security wall is also an aid to peace?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Not at all, no. I think this is selective reporting. Because since 2006, Hamas did declare, just before election 2005 actually, did declare a unilateral ceasefire.
And said that they would stop suicide bombings and acts of violence on their own. And they did. So it's not a question of-- I tell you, people who are bent on doing something, if they want to carry out any act of violence, they can find ways. Above walls, under walls. Through walls, if they want to do it.
It's not a wall that will prevent violence. It's dealing with the causes of violence. And to us, the wall has become another expression of coercion, imprisonment, injustice, and lack of freedom. And to many Israelis, also, because some of them live on the other side of the wall, yes.
And when you steal people's horizons, and the distance, the space, you're preparing for not just more conflict, but for a relationship that's abnormal in the future.
If you really want security, you deal with the causes of violence. And we end the occupation. And we build relations of mutual trust and mutual benefit. And you don't need walls.
I believe historically walls all over the world have proven to be a failed policy. I don't see a single wall that succeed-- except maybe--
--as tourist sites. The Great Wall of China, I think is the only site. But as a nice tourist site. But everything, every other wall failed to protect those who built it, created more hardship, and generated great violence. And it's an eyesore. And to me it's just an affront.
It keeps reminding me of-- it does that to me. Can you imagine what it does to people who cannot go to their land? Who are imprisoned by the one who can go to the hospital? Who cannot go to their work, whose children cannot go to schools, because they're inside the wall, and there's one gate and it's armed by Israeli soldiers, and they decide when to open it.
And we've had several cases of women delivering, or having stillbirth, or aborting, or something, because they couldn't leave and go to the hospital in time. We've had several cases of really very drastic health problems. And of children, again, not being able to go to school.
So this wall is very oppressive. And it represents, in many ways, it embodies the worst of the occupation. So to say that in 2006, 2007, there were no suicide bombers because of the wall is wrong. It's a non-sequitur.
There were no suicide bombers because Hamas declared a ceasefire. And Hamas now is calling on everybody else to declare a ceasefire, because Hamas is interested in telling people that it can deliver security.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you, please.
AUDIENCE: I'd like to thank you again for coming.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: As we all know, for better or for worse, America has played a very significant role in this conflict. I'd like to ask you, if you were President of United States of America, how would you change American foreign policy that would--
HANAN ASHRAWI: Wow.
AUDIENCE: That would [INAUDIBLE] a lot of help resolved in politics?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, I'm a really long way to doing the right thing if I had that power, yes, certainly. First of all, I would rescue American foreign policy from special interest groups, particularly APEC and others.
I would do what is good for the US, because you elect a president to do what's good for his or her country. And what's good for the US to become a real peacemaker, is to do justice unto the world, is to wield power with responsibility.
And there is the responsibility of power, the same way as there is a responsibility of money, investing responsibly, look what happened in South Africa. But here, the US has the responsibility, has the capability, has the power.
Israel cannot remain a domestic issue on questions of self-interest, or political careers, or campaign votes and funds, and things like that. There has to be the freedom and the courage to take decisions that are just, that are moral, yes, but that are not absolutist, you know.
We're not there to deal with divine inspiration, and divine dispensation, and ideology. We're here to deal with human justice and legality. And the tools, as I said, are there and available.
You have international law, you have UN resolutions, everybody-- common sense, the law-- everybody tells you occupation is illegal and unjust. Get rid of the occupation. You have to have-- you have to intervene.
The US cannot isolate itself, we all know that. I mean, the traditional conservative view of isolationism doesn't work. And the neo-conservative view of exporting the democratic revolution doesn't work.
What you need to do is act responsibly, end the occupation. The principles that are often declared and reiterated, the land for peace principles, the peacemaking, and so on. All these things can be implemented, can be done. And I don't see why not.
And if you define your role in relation to what's good for Israel, quite often what's good for Israel is to have a just peace and to get rid of all those things that are giving both Israel and the US a bad name and bad standing.
So sometimes you need to be very firm with your friends, if you need to make a just peace. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: Please.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Dr. Ashrawi, thank you very much for coming here and speaking to us. My question is, just how sincere do you think Hamas is, when they say they're willing to settle with Israel, a two-state solution?
Are they sincerely willing to recognize a permanent solution? And how does this square with their charter, in which they declare all the land to Palestine, which they interpret as including Israel, is part of a waqf, which means they have a religious obligation to maintain that land and they can't give it up. Is there any wiggle room in that? And how do they square the two?
HANAN ASHRAWI: I think there's credit by saying that the two-state solution is a temporary solution, is a transitional solution. And by offering long-term hudna, or cease-fire. They see this in ideological terms, as a long-term struggle. Therefore, it might take centuries.
And so within that time frame, they're quite willing to have interim agreements, temporary agreements, two-state solutions, on so on, because ultimately, their position is the fact that Palestine is an Islamic waqf land.
But the time frame is how they find the leeway, was what you talk about as wiggle room, to say that they can accept, they can make political compromises, they can be pragmatic.
See, Hamas is different from other Islamist movements that are global in that it doesn't have a global agenda. It just has the Palestinian agenda. And therefore, its ideology can be very pragmatic when it comes to dealing with-- and like any other party, now that they joined elections, now that it entered the elections, and it joined the political system, it wants recognition.
And it's willing to pay the price to get that recognition. Part of the price is political flexibility and pragmatism. Part of the price is dealing with security and providing security. They declared the unilateral cease-fire and they kept it.
And they're saying we are the security at this. And this is how it's competing with Fatah, by the way. And they're quite desperately telling the rest of the world, talk to us. We can deliver. Talk to-- they're telling the Europeans, the Americans, the Israelis, we're the [? others, ?] we're your interlocutor, talk to us.
So it's not that they see the great devil or the enemy and they don't want to talk. They want legitimacy. They want recognition. They want to be talked to. And they want to stay in power.
AUDIENCE: So the time frame--
HANAN ASHRAWI: They're no different from any other party, I think, in that sense. They want to be in power, and they'll pay the price. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: The time frame, then, if there was a generous settlement from the Israelis and the Americans, a very generous settlement, would they be willing to say, OK, this is our land. But we'll give it to you for-- let you use it for the next 10,000 years or something like that?
And then, in return for this generous--
HANAN ASHRAWI: You'll have to ask them. I have my role as the opposition to Hamas will be in the social agenda as well. So I have to make sure that Palestinian society remains and develops as a democratic, enlightened, pluralistic, tolerant society. That's my job.
With women's rights, with all the basic freedoms and rights protected. That I want to see in Palestine. My question is not whether Hamas can deliver to Israel, even though we all pay the price if it carries out acts of violence.
But my question is I don't want anybody to feel-- any party to feel that it possesses the culture, and the nature, and the soul of Palestinian society, and can shape it in its own image.
I want the freedom. And I want the ability to develop within these principles. And to give the Palestinians those rights and freedoms to develop.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you. Please.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for speaking to us, Dr. Ashrawi. It's good that we have the opportunity to be educated by hearing your views on this issue from the Palestinian point of view.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: My question is somewhat a follow up to the previous. I think a major, if not the major, problem from the Israeli point of view is the fear on the part of many, if not most Israelis, that at the end of the day, many Palestinians, if not most Palestinians, what they really want is the destruction of Israel.
I'm disappointed that in preparing your talk, you chose to say nothing about what Palestinians as well as Israelis might be able to do today to begin to address this fear, since I think it's unlikely that there really will be a major movement toward a two-state-- a satisfactory two-state solution, till there has been significant progress.
Do you have any thoughts?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Yeah, I do actually. And we're always asked, how do we allay those fears, how do we assuage Israeli fears, and how do we give psychotherapy to the collective Israeli mindset?
My point of view has always been that we made the commitment. We made the commitment to the two-state solution. We made the commitment to a peaceful resolution. We signed these agreements and we will abide by them.
And unfortunately, we're not the ones who are occupying Israel. It's Israel who is occupying us. So I don't know if I can give Israel a priority assurances and guarantees that once they stop their occupation, I'm not going to occupy them.
No. It seems once you end logic of occupation, you end it once and for all. For everybody, I hope. We don't need more occupation. And two, there are those who don't want peace, frankly speaking. And who don't want to a resolution.
And therefore, like all extremist, ideological, I would say regimes and individuals, they're always incite, they always create fear and a sense of insecurity in order to present themselves as the hard-line tough guys who can respond to those fears and insecurities.
So in Israel, you have those people who will generate fear because you cannot trust the Palestinians Well, how do you know? I mean, these are really very racist statements, that the Palestinians are untrustworthy, they're liars, they're this, they're that. How do you know?
We are offering peace. We have signed agreements. We are willing to abide by them. And we're saying we accept Israel on 78% of historical Palestine. And we're willing to exchange the occupation for good neighborly relations, mutual benefit. That's what we can do.
Now there will always be the extremists who will create and generate fear and insecurity. I think those are the ones who themselves need to be addressed.
Not by us, but by the Israelis themselves, and the Israeli peace camp, and the Israeli logical and rational people, who do sometimes-- the problem is quite often settlers. And people like that have a vested interest, have an agenda.
They don't want to see a solution. And they want to perpetuate the conflict. And annex more land as a result. But I can tell you on the Palestinian side there even greater fears.
And because we are the vulnerable ones, because we're the victims, the fears are very real. People are saying now we're being dismantled. This is the continuation of 1948. The Israelis want to destroy the Palestinian national identity, Palestinian national rights.
They want to take the land, expel the people. And they give you very visible concrete examples, not just an abstract psychological fear and insecurity, but real examples.
So I deal with my own people as well, and their fears, because they see in Israeli concrete policies and measures every day, an attempt at the deconstruction of Palestine.
And I gave a talk in Oxford on the deconstruction of Palestine, as an identity, as a nation, as institutions, as a way of saying that the Palestinians are not a question of self-determination, but population centers living in fragmented, isolated [? bantustans, ?] or different collectives.
And therefore, Israel can easily annex the land without the people, get rid of the people, or give them some sort of autonomy. There are all these fears.
So it depends on the nature of the fear, the reality of the fear, or whether it can be addressed in concrete terms, or whether maybe you need to deal with them in a more psychological approach. But I think it's the responsibility of those who want peace, who are rational, who are logical, on both sides, to deal with the fears of their own people as well.
DAVID SKORTON: Let's take one more from each side, and then it will be our lapse time. So, please, sir.
AUDIENCE: I would like to discuss the issue of women.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Good. [CHUCKLES]
AUDIENCE: It's on your mind, I'm pretty sure. And you are an anomaly in this regard, because we just have discussed Hamas. And you mentioned a few items about Hamas. And we saw what happened in Iraq, the new constitution for Iraq, which is extremely negative to women, in comparison what was, even during Saddam Hussein.
And I'm concerned, quite concerned, that in national struggle like Palestinian struggle, the women always end up with the short end of the stick.
HANAN ASHRAWI: You're right.
AUDIENCE: And that with all your goodwill and good intention, when I see the cabinet of Hamas before, majority, if not all of them men.
HANAN ASHRAWI: All men, yeah. They had one woman, [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: And considering the achievement of women, Palestinian women in the past, this is sad, extremely sad. Do you have feeling guarantee of the future? That in the future, it will be even worse for a woman. And you really should carry on this message, very strongly.
And not only a matter of liberation, or end of occupation, a new state. But women must play a certain role. They are absolutely absent, close to absent, from the picture.
HANAN ASHRAWI: You're absolutely right. But let me say that the Palestinian women's movement is alive and well. You know the history of the women's movement. It started in the 1920s, actually, but mainly urban centers and the well-to-do, prominent middle class women and so on.
In the 1970s, the sort of new women's movement, the gender approach to reality, interpretations, and so on, started with the-- then, remember, in the states, those of you my age, the consciousness-raising sessions, and women's groups, and so on.
We didn't start as part of a global women's movement. And we did have Israeli counterparts we addressed, and so on. And we did challenge the prevailing traditional male-oriented, male dominant patriarchal society of Palestine.
That women's movement underwent different stages, depending also on political development. In any phase, when you have imminent danger and threat, generally, the women come out and face that threat.
And the Intifada, as you know, the First Intifada, in particular, the women were very active. They took the forefront, the challenged the army, they formed committees, they formed alternative organizations, we built our on institutions.
And the men were very happy to see that women do that because we faced the army, and we built, and so on. But the moment there were any gains to be made, generally, the men came back and said, now this is man's work.
Now we need to be in power. And you've done your job. You know, good for you, pat on the back, go home, go to the kitchen, and that's fine. [LAUGHTER]
And we said, no. And the women's movement was quite strong. But what happened was, in setting up the Palestinian Authority, I would say that women's movement made a serious mistake in focusing most of its efforts on nation-building, democracy, reform, and social institutions. And therefore, they were in civil society.
Many of us were asked to be in the cabinet. I accepted once, I refused about eight, nine times. For a variety of reasons, part of which because I didn't accept the agenda or the team.
And I told Arafat this, if you want me to be part of this, I'm not a symbol. I'm not a token. And I'm not an excuse to exclude other women. I'll be there if that is the proper team with the proper agenda, and if part of shaping the agenda.
I'm not that just there as an appeasement, or a tokenism. And so I insisted on making a difference from outside the system with the women's movement as well.
Once I told them we need four, five women in the cabinet and I will accept it. I told this to the students, I think. I'll accept the cabinet position provided we have five women.
They said, OK, give me five names. He always thinks that's the challenge, he thought. So I said, fine, I will give you the five names. He was asking, well, are they-- how educated are they? What are their specialties? What is that history in this struggle? How powerful can-- an so on.
He started asking me all these-- how honest are they? What is their constituency? And I said, have you asked any of the men these questions? Do you have any man who fulfills all these requirements?
Or is it that when it comes to women, we have to be perfect? And we have to be measured by more stringent standards? But you can have any man for any reason, provided he's a male, become a minister in your cabinet.
So that's what's happening. Then we went back the symbolism, numerical sort of musical chairs. OK, we'll have one, we'll have two.
Jimmy Carter wrote in his book that Arafat fact told him, I have Hanan, that's equivalent to 10. So that's how I was used to getting with the others.
Then you don't have whether she's somebody's wife, or daughter, or so on. And we said, no, you have to choose the woman because she's worthy, because she's proved herself to be deserving. Not because she's related to a man and in some way or another.
Now I can tell you that in Iraq, I agree, the constitution is very threatening. It's very bad for women. I'm a believer in affirmative action for women. And I fought for this.
I fought for this in the legislative council. I fought for what we called positive intervention on behalf of women in the elections. That's why we have women in the legislative council.
And I really want to be able to influence all legislation in a way as to provide opportunities and affirmative action for women everywhere, and to create oversight.
Now we're advocating the establishment of a higher commission for women. I don't want a women's ministry. We have one. You know what happens when you have a women's ministry?
You will refer all women's issues to that ministry. And then all the other cabinet members do not have to do anything about women's issues. You deal with women, you're the woman. No.
I said I want an oversight commission that has the power and the mandate to examine every ministry and to hold them accountable, and the civil service, to make sure that women are there in the right place. Not 50% secretaries, but 50% decision-makers.
That's the issue. So we need intervention, we need affirmative action, and we we're working on the institutions. And you'll be glad to know that women's movement has lobbied very hard the legislature.
Unfortunately, right now, the legislative council is paralyzed. It's not getting anywhere. That is by-- somehow, by coercion, by repression, by example, they're creating an atmosphere of fear and repression, in Gaza, in particular.
And we really need to counter that. And we need to be able to have a rule of law where you have just laws that would protect women and women who have also to the law.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you for your question.
AUDIENCE: You emphasized earlier that the elections that put Hamas in power were free and fair. And then continued to say that mutual trust is essential to create peace on both sides. So my question is essentially that you, yourself, just stated that Hamas ultimately doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist.
So how can Israel make the case to its people that we should negotiate and make peace with this group that ultimately doesn't recognize our right to exist. And more so, whose spiritual leader advocates the use of terrorism when dealing with Israel? I'm just wondering how that could be possible.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Yeah, because I don't think that Israel should negotiate with Hamas, since Hamas is not empowered to negotiate. The one party that is empowered by law in Palestine to negotiate is the PLO.
AUDIENCE: Right, but I meant that the majority of people elected-- you said that it was fair and free, the majority--
HANAN ASHRAWI: Free and fair, technically, as I said. But in terms of the atmosphere and so on, I don't think they were free and fair. They were tainted by the occupation.
Now Hamas got about 42%, 43%, of the vote. But most of this 43% were not really Hamas people. They were people who were reacting to the situation. As I said, even Fatah who voted for Hamas, Christians voted for Hamas, and so on.
So we need to deal with the reasons. We need to be able to provide the hope. Lift the siege, provide the freedom to think rationally, not to think through pain, not to react to violence. To sit back and create, in a sense, a sort of rational pragmatic discourse, political discourse, and therefore, influence elections in that way.
AUDIENCE: Do you think that would be accomplished if Israel recognized the Hamas government currently?
HANAN ASHRAWI: No, I'm not asking Israel to recognize Hamas. There's no government. I mean, Israel doesn't recognize parties, parties do not have to recognize states or governments. It's the wrong focus. You know, it's the wrong approach.
There are political systems are structured in Palestine. You have the PLO that represents all Palestinians. Therefore, you talk to the PLO. But if Hamas formed a government, you do not impose sanctions on the Palestinian people because Hamas formed a government.
That strengthens Hamas. It doesn't weaken it. And it punishes all the people. This is my point.
Two, I think most people, including Israel, and there are voices in Israel now that are asking for negotiations with Hamas, because Hamas can deliver security. It's for the wrong reason again, they want to talk to Hamas.
To me, you have to deal with the totality of the party. If you want political concessions from Hamas, you will will get them, I am sure. And you will get them within the scope that Hamas wants, in order to stay in power.
That's not the issue. It's not telling the Israelis, Hamas is going to love you, and recognize you forever, and so on. In the same way as there are parties in Israel that do not-- not just do not recognize Palestine, but are calling for the transfer of Palestinians, and the eviction, and so on.
DAVID SKORTON: We're going to have to wrap up here, Dr. Ashrawi.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Within the political system, yes, you do have pluralism. But you don't treat parties as though they are states. And you do not treat states as though they are insecure individuals who need reassurance from everybody they meet, saying, I recognize you, I know you.
No, you have to deal with political realities. You have to lead, you have to take leadership positions, you have to sign agreements, you have to move ahead, and generate a new momentum, a new dynamic, and create a reality of mutual trust.
You cannot wait till you have mutual trust to sign an agreement. You sign agreements, you create new realities, then you generate trust, OK?
Thank you. Thank you very much. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed this, thank you for the opportunity. [INAUDIBLE] OK, all right. Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: I want to thank Dr. Ashrawi again on behalf of all of us. I think the best way that we could honor the work that she has done for all these decades is to continue to have a serious dialogue here, far beyond this hour and a half that we spent together.
So thank you so much for informing us. And I hope that you will keep our feet to the fire as Americans in doing our part. But thank you again for the time you spent with us.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you, my pleasure. Thanks for the invitation. [INAUDIBLE] I appreciate this.
Thank you everybody, it was wonderful. Great to be here.
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Founder and Secretary General of MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator, human rights activist, and scholar.
Dr. Ashrawi holds a B.A. and an M.A. from the American University of Beirut and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. From 1973-95, Dr. Ashrawi was a faculty member of Birzeit University where she held several positions including that of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
She is the recipient of numerous international peace, human rights and democracy awards, such as the Olof Palme Award, Sydney Peace Prize, the Defender of Democracy Award, and more recently, the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation, among many others. She has also received several Honorary Doctorate Degrees from universities in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Arab World.
Ashrawi's book, This Side of Peace, is a memoir of her experience as an envoy and a Palestinian.
This lecture is sponsored in part by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series.