MELBOURNE — The largest progressive Jewish organisation in the country, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), has distanced itself from the campaign being conducted by pro-Israel spokespeople against Palestinian legislator and human rights campaigner Dr Hanan Ashrawi, who is to receive the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize in November.
The AJDS has written to NSW Premier Bob Carr informing him of its position. While not necessarily endorsing Ashrawi's selection, the group made it clear that it strongly opposed what it regards as an unfair and unbalanced attack against her. Many AJDS members regard Ashrawi as a worthy candidate for the prize, the organisation said.
Ashrawi addressed an AJDS meeting in Melbourne last time she was in Australia. AJDS executive member Steve Brook said: "I found her an inspiration for peace. I wish there were more people like her in positions of authority on both sides of the Middle East conflict. She is a convincing advocate of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians."
Another executive member, Harold Zwier, had a somewhat different opinion. "I am yet to be convinced that Hanan Ashrawi merits the award, but the campaign of vilification against her reflects badly on our community. We would do much better by seeking to engage with her, rather than rejecting her", he said.
Brook added: "The leadership of the Jewish community is giving the impression that there are no acceptable Palestinians. It's not necessary to agree with everything Dr Ashrawi says in order to recognise that it is precisely people like her, who actively espouse a two-state solution, that provide the best prospects for dialogue and eventual peace."
Ashrawi will receive the Sydney Peace Prize at NSW Parliament House on November 6. She will also speak at a meeting in Sydney, organised by the Palestinian Human Rights Campaign, on November 8, 1.30pm, at the Petersham Town Hall.
From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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