Palestinian woman speaks


Palestinian woman speaks

By Penny Gillard

MELBOURNE — On July 7, Hanan Ashrawi, formerly a Palestinian national authority minister for higher education, spoke at the World Trade Centre on a number of issues facing the Palestinian national liberation struggle.

Ashrawi discussed the accountability of the Palestinian National Authority executive. The executive, she said, was a clique, the members of which had developed their philosophies and tactics during the "wilderness years" of the liberation struggle before the intifada.

She questioned the meaning of democracy when leaders aren't accountable to the Palestinian people and even change the Legislative Council membership to suit their aspirations.

Ashrawi also discussed the relevance of the legal system, which is made up of Ottoman, British Empire, Israeli and Palestinian law. People can be detained for years without trial and a law can be found to suit any action, she said.

Palestinian civil society had set up networks to address welfare and grassroots concerns in the absence of a formal Palestinian state, Ashrawi said, but Israel has been forcing Palestinians to address security concerns at the expense of the social needs.

The new Israeli Labour prime minister, Ehud Barak, who is making overtures of peace, is a "wolf in sheep's clothing", Ashrawi warned. She said she hoped the instability of the Labour-Meretz governmental alliance would lead to progress, but argued that Barak is, potentially, as dangerous as former prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who left behind numerous "mines" (new Jewish settlements).

Ashrawi considers the destruction or confiscation of Palestinian houses and land by Israel to be war crimes. Official recognition of this by the United Nations, she said, is stymied by the resistance of the pro-Israel governments.