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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Peace prizes for Palestinians « Previous | |Next »
November 6, 2003

I have stayed away from commenting on the political campaign mounted by so-called "the Jewish Community" against the awarding of the annual peace prize by the Sydney Peace Foundation to the Palestinian activist and politician Dr Hanan Ashrawi. I have to admit that I've been taken back by it.

That political campaign, organized through the Australian Jewish News and the Australian and Jewish Affairs Council, has represented Hanan Ashrawi as an apologist for terrorism. The frenzied campaign against her indicates that advocating Palestinian self-determination, critiquing Israeli Government policy and questioning Zionist history is not on: it occurs the anger and vitriol of Jewish groups in Australia.

No support should be given to the Palestine people according to this militarized "Israeli" line. It is one that denies the diversity of Israeli voices and ignores those Jewish voices against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. It is one whose practice is talking peace whilst expanding settlements and clamping down on the Occupied Territories. Let us call this line a Zionist military one to distinquish it from those Jewish voices who oppose the occupation. "The Jewish Community" is a diversity of voices with different perspectives, opinions, policies and judgements.

So why this well-organized campaign of anger in Australia? It was conducted like a military campaign to get politicians to crumble before the pressure. Resistance to its aims had to be overcome. Victory was the sole objective.

The best suggestion I've come across is one offered by Andy Lowenstein at Znet. Andy says that

" the current battle for international legitimacy, there is no question that Israel is losing friends at an ever-increasing rate....The Jewish lobby doesn't want people like her in the public sphere talking about Palestinian aspirations, hopes, fears, angers or dreams. It's much easier to portray the Palestinians as violent, anarchic and hateful towards Jews, as the Zionist lobby frequently claims. "

So the object of the campaign was to destroy Ashrawi's credibility and her argument that the Palestinians have the right to resist an illegal and brutal occupation of their land by the Israeli's.

That language had to be replaced by the language of the war on terror. And the ABC went along with it. On the 7.30 Report Kerry O'Brien started proceedings by saying to Ashrawi that in her speech she did not condemn specifically the violence of Hamas by name and makes no reference to suicide bombers. Ashrawi was placed in the box and grilled.

Fair enough. She ought to be questioned and the ABC needs to show that it ican still cut the mustard, chew gum, walk the walk, and not be biased. But the grilling of Ashrawi was all that happened. No mention of the Israeli occupation, the wall, illegal settlements, the military targeting BBC journalists or American peace activists etc.

The Palestinians were placed on the defensive. O'Brien was not going to budge from deploying the language of the terrorism. Nor did he show any indication of questioning the language of a war on terror. That language mirrored reality.

It was utterly onesided. Just like it was on this occassion. When you try to speak differently, as SBS is doing, then you are targeted by the Zionists.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:58 PM | | Comments (4)


Yes I have to admit the Ashrawi beatup has left me beat. I was almost going to blog about the piece I've referenced in the URL. If it is to be believed, it's not the 'Jewish community' behind this campaign but some 'inspired by Zionist organisations'. I'm not sure what's worse.

one suggestion here is to follow Ashrawi here, and see the beat up as also being about language.

See her remarks on the ABC's 7.30 Report Wednesday night--last story in programme

We do need to find a different moral and political language to talk about political and military violence.Otherwise we end up working within the 'war on terrorism' language, and seeing every who challenges political authority of the US and Israel through the lens of a terrorism.

What was interesting about the O'Brien interview was just how much he refused to accept Ashrawi's language of Palestinian nation building, Palestinian self-determination, a democratic Palestine and the rule of law.

It was not considered legitiimate permissable for her to talk about building a liberal democratic Palestine as one way way forward.

Her language did not fit in with war on terror language hence it was dismissed. Nor would O'Brien accept Ashrawi's distinctions between the military and the political with Hamas.

She had every right to get angry with him.

Thanks Gary. I missed the last half of your post when I first read it.

After reading the transcript of the O'Brien interview I agree with you - O'Brien had an agenda. (Gee he was game - as if Ashrawi was going to fall for his shananigans)

A different language may be one way forward but do you think it is enough? It seems so many minds are closed. "If you're not for us, you're against us"
(Them's my Lord's words, and I find it equally galling that they are twisted and misused in the manner of the "war on terrorism" language. Ack, ack, ack, ack.)

Saint I agree about closed minds.
I'll try and do another post on that in the future about what sits behind the "if you are not with us then you are against us."
Its what sits behind the language of the war on terror. What is this way of describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict defending? What sits buried it the background:eg. what is the Sharon Government's conception of Israel?