Anti-Palestinians campaign to overturn peace prize



SYDNEY — Palestinian legislator and human rights activist Hanan Ashrawi is scheduled to receive the Sydney Peace Prize from NSW Premier Bob Carr on November 6 at Parliament House. Ashrawi, a long-time campaigner for the rights of the Palestinian people, was announced as winner of the prize in August.

Since the announcement, a concerted campaign has been mounted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and other pro-Israel organisations to discredit Ashrawi and to pressure Carr into not presenting the prize.

According to the statement issued by the Zionist Federation of Australia, Ashrawi is an "undeserving recipient" of the prize because she "continues to insist that the 'occupation' [of Palestine by Israel] is responsible for the homicide bombings which she unendingly equates with Israel's actions of self-defence". Similarly, the Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council describes Ashrawi as "a wholly inappropriate person to receive the peace prize" because she "characterises Israel as a 'geographical base for world imperialism'" and has "consistently rejected any and all compromises on the issues of refugees, Jerusalem and settlements, and has staunchly defended the right of the Palestinians to 'resist' Israeli 'occupation' which include the use of violence".

The October 17 Australian Jewish News depicted Ashrawi as a holocaust denier. However, this assertion was retracted when it became clear that the Palestinian campaigner had never called the holocaust "a deceitful myth". The AJN also carried an article by Gerald Steinberg, an associate professor of political studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel, in which he accused members of the Sydney Peace Foundation, which awarded Ashrawi the prize, and Premier Carr of "honouring war, murder and hatred, while debasing the concept of peace and reconciliation". Steinberg has also mounted an internet petition and campaign calling on the University of Sydney (where the Peace Foundation is located) and Carr to "disassociate themselves from this decision immediately".

Sydney Peace Foundation director Professor Stuart Rees has accused those mounting the campaign against Ashrawi of "deceit, bullying and intimidation" and of trying to put pressure on the Peace Foundation's financial backers. Rees said Ashrawi had won the prize for "her commitment to human rights, to the peace process in the Middle East and elsewhere".

Sydney Palestinian activist and Socialist Alliance member Rihab Charida condemned the campaign against Ashrawi. Charida told Green Left Weekly that this "is not the first time that the Zionist and pro-Israel lobby has tried to silence a Palestinian voice".

"Ashrawi is a strong voice for the Palestinian people and it is not in the interest of the Zionist lobby to allow her to speak. She is a strong opponent Israel's state terrorism and offers an alternative view to that of the Israel government and its supporters about what is happening in the Occupied Territories", said Charida.

Ashrawi will also speak at a meeting organised by the Palestinian Human Rights Campaign on November 8, 1.30pm, at the Petersham Town Hall.

From Green Left Weekly, October 22, 2003.
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