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In response to the many requests AIJAC has received with respect to Dr Hanan Ashrawi and her controversial Sydney Peace Prize, we have complied the following brief profile:


  • Hanan Ashrawi came to prominence as a Palestinian spokeswoman during the first intifada years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, before becoming a negotiator at the Madrid peace conference of 1991. Her fluent, polished English, neat attire and passionate statement of the Palestinian position made her a media favourite in the West, and she used that prominence to gain a position as Minister for Higher Education in the government of Yasser Arafat upon the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
  • Ashrawi is regularly portrayed as a peace activist, but her activities and comments since coming to prominence suggest she is anything but reasonable. She not only supported the Iraqi attack on Kuwait in 1990, she also supported the military coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. She has a long history of terrorist apologias and anti-Israel incitement, while her positions on the Arab-Israel conflict are far from moderate. Whilst in recent times she has condemned Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, these statements have been issued mainly to foreign audiences, and she appears to express no ethical opposition to these tactics, only practical ones. In addition, she is well known for outrageous accusations against Israelis, and factually dubious claims about Israeli and Palestinian history.
  • More recently Dr Ashrawi is remembered for her vehement denials that Palestinians around the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington despite video footage on all major television networks showing Palestinians doing just that. During her tenure as Minister for Higher Education she voted against the Oslo treaty-mandated amendment of the Palestine National Covenant to remove clauses which nominate "armed struggle (i.e. terrorism) as the only way to liberate Palestine", and characterises Israel as a "geographical base for world imperialism" and demands its destruction.
  • In short, the portrayal of Hanan Ashrawi as a "moderate" or a "peace activist" cannot be sustained. She has consistently rejected any and all compromises on the issues of refugees, Jerusalem, and settlements, and has staunchly defended the Palestinian's "right" to "resist" Israeli "occupation" which include the use of violence. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that she continues to reject the legitimacy of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and is at best ambiguous about a two-state solution. In the words of Itamar Marcus, head of the non-profit media monitoring organization named "Palestinian Media Watch", "Hanan Ashrawi is not a moderate in any Western sense of the word."
  • Whatever one's views about the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israel conflict, Hanan Ashrawi is a wholly inappropriate person to receive a peace prize. She is a passionate spokesperson for the Palestinian cause but has done almost nothing to encourage Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, unlike many other more deserving Palestinians. Instead, she has opposed the compromise needed for genuine peace and has excused violence.


On Violence

"(Barak, Sharon, and Netanyahu) suffer from this racist, white man's burden attitude. We're not behaving like good little natives. We're not grateful to our colonizers for the bits and pieces they want to hand to us. The real problem is occupation. Everywhere in the world people have the right to resist except Palestinians who are supposed to be good little boys and girls and die quietly." (London Telegraph, December 15, 2000).

Note: "Resistance" is the preferred Palestinian term for terrorist violence against Israel. The "right to resist" implies a right to use violence against Israel, including terrorism.

"The only language Sharon understands is the language of violence" (Voice of Palestine, September 9, 2001)

Note: Her message to Palestinians is that they have to use violence against Israel led by Sharon.

"The settlers have become legitimate and select targets of Palestinian resistance." (AP, November 15, 2000)

Note: Ashrawi here clearly states that it is legitimate to target civilian inhabitants of Israeli settlements. Regardless of your views on the legitimacy of the settlements, to target civilians is a war crime under international law.

"The Israeli occupation has also hijacked the concept of security rendering it applicable only to Israelis while depriving the Palestinians of every aspect of personal, political, legal, territorial, historical, cultural, economic, and even human security…Israel has also abused the essence of the concept, exploiting it for the sake of eradicating any mention of the occupation, and claiming the illogical right to have a secure or even a safe and pleasant military occupation that is in itself the very antithesis of peace, security, and human rights." (World Conference Against Racism, Durban South Africa August 28 2001)

Note: Ashrawi here implies that Palestinian violence is an inevitable and just response to Israeli occupation.

Question: "Whose fault is it that we saw another atrocity near Tel Aviv yesterday in that pool room?"

Ashrawi: Well, nobody ever thought that occupation would be a very safe and pleasant and modern situation. A foreign military occupation is by definition lethal and is a source of tremendous violence and tremendous hostilities. So I think instead of dealing with the latest cycle and the latest escalation, it's better to deal with the causes and put an end to this occupation." ("Hardball with Chris Matthews", CNBC, May 8, 2002).

Note: Here Ashrawi again argues that terrorism is an inevitable response to Israeli policies.

"I believe that the issue does not deal with the responsibility of those who carried out this operation or who sent the suicide bombers to Jerusalem. The issue has to do with the atmosphere that prevails in the wake of the Israeli measures, the tense situation of the peace process, and how the Palestinian people have lost their trust in the peace process" (Jordan Television, August 5, 1997)

Note: Ashrawi's response to a suicide attack on an Israeli bus is that it is the fault of Israeli policies.

"We've been very reasonable and very gentle and nonviolent, and look what they got us: more suffering for our people..." (NY Times, August 23, 1992)

Note: Implies that violence is a preferable path for the Palestinians, as well as creating a fictitious history of Palestinian non-violence.

"I don't think of Hamas as a terrorist group. We coordinate politically...the people we know and talk to are not terrorists." (UPI, April 30, 1993)

"We, the undersigned, out of our sense of national responsibility, and in light of the difficult situation of the Palestinian people, hope that those who stand behind the military actions against civilians in Israel, will reconsider their actions and will cease to encourage our boys to perform these operations, because we do not see results from these actions We believe that these operations do not advance the fulfillment of our endeavour, for freedom and independence Military actions are defined positively or negatively not by their own criteria [i.e. the success of the attack itself] but rather according to the achievement of political goals" (Al Quds, June 19, 2002)

Note: This petition, signed by Ashrawi amongst others, is one of the very few condemnations in Arabic of terror directed against Israeli civilians attributed to her. Note that the condemnation is wholly on pragmatic grounds, with no moral dimension.

On the Two State Solution

Question: "Tell me, Hanan, is the two-state solution morally right or simply pragmatic?"

Ashrawi: "Oh, pragmatic. I don't think it's moral" (The Age, June 19,1993)

In a speech in November 1999, "Ashrawi ended her speech by discussing the idea of a bi-national state...Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will be able to permanently establish separate states, Ashrawi said. Ultimately, they will have to merge and form a one-person, one-vote democracy in order to survive." (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Dec.1999)

Note: It is clear from the above that she continues to reject the legitimacy of Israel and hopes for its ultimate dismantlement.

Speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C. in 1997, Ashrawi said: "Any kind of Jewish immigration into Israel is going to take place at the expense of the Palestinians." (Transcript of Conference on the Middle East Peace Process at the Center for Strategic and International Studies-Judith Kipper, Moderator; October 9, 1997)

"You should go back to where you belong; what right do you people from Russia and Brooklyn have to our land?" (Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, Nov. 16, 2001)

Note: These two statements make it clear that Ashrawi is essentially opposed to Jewish immigration to Israel, and continues to regard all of Israel as Palestinian land to which Jews should not be allowed to come.

On the Peace Process

"(Barak's) vision of peace was primarily unilateral and when that failed then he tried to batter the Palestinians into submission by launching the most brutal and violent military attack against a captive population." (ABC TV "Lateline", February 1, 2001)

Note: Here Ashrawi claims that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak deliberately launched the current terror war in order to force Palestinians to agree to his peace terms. This is a very extreme claim which no serious international analyst of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has ever espoused.

"The so-called 'generous offer" of Barak has been exposed for the sham that it is: an occupier’s version of what’s good for the natives" (World Conference Against Racism, Durban, South Africa - August 28 2001)

"The peace process was not launched to safeguard the security of the Israelis." (Jordan Television Network, Sept. 9, 1997)

Israel and the Palestinians - General

"From Jerusalem, from the heart of Palestine, a land besieged, and repeatedly violated by a most brutal Israeli military occupation, I have come to join you today. I represent a narrative of exclusion, denial, racism, and national victimization" (World Conference Against Racism, Durban South Africa August 28 2001)

"I come to you today with a heavy heart leaving behind a nation in captivity held hostage to an ongoing Naqba [catastrophe], as the most intricate and pervasive expression of persistent colonialism, apartheid, racism, and victimizati…Rarely has the human mind devised such varied, diverse, and comprehensive means of wholesale brutalization and persecution." (World Conference Against Racism, Durban, South Africa - August 28 2001)

Note: Naqba is a Palestinian reference to Israel's War of Independence of 1948. Ashrawi's narrative of" eternal Naqba" and complete Palestinian victimisation makes it clear that she both opposes compromise and views the very existence of Israel as the core of the problem.

"We are different from the Jews. There is a purism and idealism in our approach which is based on principle" (The Age, June 19, 1993)

Note: This was Ashrawi's response to a question about political compromise. Her answer, as well as a slur on Jews in general, is that which has generally characterised her approach to requests for political compromise - we can't, to do so would sacrifice our principles.


"(I know) of no Palestinian officials who had made statements distorting the Holocaust" (New York Times, July 24, 1998)

Note: Long-time Palestinian official Abu Mazen has a long history of Holocaust denial. His 1983 doctoral thesis is titled "The Other Side: The Secret Relations Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement." Excerpts include:"It seems that the interest of the Zionist to inflate this figure (of 6,000,000 killed) so that their gains will be greater. This led them to emphasize this figure in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism. Many scholars have debated the figure of six million and reached stunning conclusions -- fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand." He has never publicly repudiated this thesis.

Similarly, only three weeks prior to Ashrawi's assertion, the official PA daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida called the Holocaust "a deceitful myth which the Jews have labeled the Holocaust and have exploited to get sympathy." (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 2, 1998).

And one of Ashrawi's own top aides, Suhair Taha is quoted in a book sympathetic to Ashrawi (A Voice of Reason, by Barbara Victor; published by Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994, p.223) as saying: "I've studied the Holocaust in great detail and frankly, it's a big exaggeration. Maybe Jews were killed, along with a lot of other people, during the course of the war, but never any mass extermination. That's Zionist propaganda."

"The two undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated the march were recognized by the Palestinians as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and provocations" (Jordan Times, October 29, 2000)

Note: This quote justifies the murder of two Israeli army reservists who lost their way driving in the West Bank and accidentally drove into the middle of Ramallah. The pair was set upon by a Palestinian mob and lynched at a Palestinian police station. The two were wearing at least partial army uniforms and driving in a car with an Israeli license plate, which would be absurd for undercover agents trying to infiltrate a Palestinian march, as Ashrawi claims.

"Jesus was a Palestinian" (Washington Jewish Week, February 22, 2001)

Note: In fact, the New Testament does not even use the word "Palestine"; it refers to the area in which Jesus lived by its correct historical name, "Judea."

"The occupation is still ongoing" (SBS-TV, October 28, 1996)

Note: It is difficult to understand this quote given the timeframe. By October 1996, Israel had pulled out of all but one Palestinian city in the West Bank, and nearly 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. At the time of this quote about 98 percent of Palestinians lived under Palestinian Authority control and had no daily contact with Israelis, soldiers or otherwise. Palestinians held their long-awaited election in January 1996.

"It's kidnapping. They are taking them (Palestinian children) hostage for ransom money" (The Age, June 19, 1993)

Note: This quote refers to Israel's policy during the first Intifada (1987-93) of arresting Palestinian children who threw stones at Israeli soldiers and civilians and placing them on good behaviour bonds, as is done in many legal systems. Her description of this policy is at best a gross distortion.

"If our occupiers had been Chinese, Turks, or any other group of people, I do not think the world would have remained silent over what has been done to us" (speech to the University of California-Santa Barbara Middle East Centre , May 2002)

Note: Ashrawi's argument is an ignorant inflation of the Palestinian claim to be the world's greatest victims. China's occupation of Tibet, an occupation far more brutal than anything even the Palestinians accuse Israel of, as well as its brutal suppression of domestic dissent and pursuit of the Falun Gong religious sect, get far less international attention than the Palestinian plight. Furthermore, the notion that Turkish persecution of ethnic Kurds or Armenians receives more international press than the Palestinians is absurd.

"Long before the state of Israel was even an idea in somebody's heads we had elections in Palestine, we had education in Palestine, we had organizations, institutions, civil society in Palestine" (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2002)

Note: It just is not true that, before Zionism became prominent in the 19th century, the Ottoman rulers established universities or held elections in Palestine.

"The Palestinian leadership has always rejected and condemned the targeting of civilians" (MIFTAH press release, August 20, 2003)

Note: Even were one to ignore the history of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organisation claimed credit for the civilian murders of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, a refrigerator bomb that killed 19 civilians in Jerusalem's Zion Square in 1975, the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and the murder of American citizen Leon Klinghoffer, as well as countless other hijackings, terrorist bombs, and attacks on civilians. Such attacks defined, and perhaps continue to define, the PLO's "armed struggle".

"The most blatantly racist slur is the Israeli theft of our humanity as parents. In an attempt to rob us of our most basic feelings for our children, we are accused of 'sending [our] children out to die' for the sake of 'scoring media points.' The horror is further compounded by the total and unquestioning equanimity with which such a grand national slur is repeated by Israelis of all parties, with no critical distance or even awareness of the enormity of such a racist charge." (Jordan Times, October 29, 2000)

Note: The use of children by Palestinian groups is well documented, as is the long list of Palestinian parents who are "proud" of their suicide-bomber children. For example:

"RAMALLAH (AFP) - Thirteen-year-old Omar Assad throws down his school satchel, puts on his ski mask, loads up his slingshot and sets off down the rock-strewn road towards the armed Israeli soldiers - school is out and it's time for his extracurricular activities."Those are my students over there," a maths professor from the nearby Bir Zeit University said from behind a medical mask he was using - unsuccessfully - to keep out the teargas."Normally I would be teaching them calculus, linear algebra and differential equations," said the professor At this stage it is better that they are engaging the Israelis than going to classes" (Jordan Times, November 3, 2000)

"Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday called for renewed resistance by young activists" (AP, October 31, 2000).

Celebrating Palestinians on September 11 were a "minority" of "children who didn't understand" (CNN, Sept. 12, 2001).

Note: Palestinians, including Palestinian policemen and members of all factions, around the West Bank and Gaza Strip erupted in spontaneous joy at the news of the attacks in New York and Washington according to numerous independent news reports. For instance, the Associated Press reported on September 11, 2001, that "thousands of Palestinians celebrated Tuesday's terror attacks" by singing and dancing in the streets of Nablus (Shechem), Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, and Palestinian Arab neighbourhoods in Lebanon.

14 October, 2003


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Last Updated 15 October, 2003