April 12, 2001

Independent Palestinian State Is Focus of Lecture

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As conflict between Palestinians and Israelis continues in the Middle East, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian spokeswoman, discussed the peace process and the need for a Palestinian state yesterday evening in Bailey Hall.

Ashrawi is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and was the official spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiating team at the Madrid Conference in 1991. She also served as the Cornell Bartels Fellow in 1995.

Ashrawi has been credited with opening dialogue between the United States and Palestine.

Ashrawi’s visit to Cornell adds to the University’s recent associations with the Middle East.

These include former Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich’s visit to campus yesterday, along with Cornell’s plans to establish the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

“[Ashrawi’s visit] is significant because it is seldom that you get to learn from the people who make history. She is the most effective voice for the Palestinian people,” said Rebecca Abou-Chedid ’00.

In her address, Ashrawi emphasized the need for Israel and Palestine to exist as separate, self-governing states.

“We should live next to each other as neighbors, not on top of each other as oppresser and oppressed,” she said.

Ashrawi rejected the idea that the Middle East conflict is religiously motivated.

“The idea that this is a religious conflict is a fallacy,” she said. “God cannot be made to take sides. This conflict has to be resolved through legality and political negotiations, not religion.”

Israel’s attempts to oppress Palestinians will not discourage their desire for autonomy, according to Ashrawi.

“We will not abandon hope. We will not be pounded into submission. We will not die in silence,” she said.

According to Ashrawi, the Middle East conflict is an international problem in which every nation should be involved.

“In the face of oppression, no one can be neutral. When you see a chance for peace, you must abandon neutrality and take sides in favor of justice,” she said.

Ashrawi disagreed with the Bush administration’s attempt to distance itself from the peace process.

“The United States has a responsibility to intervene,” she said.

She believes that instead of involving itself in the peace process, the Bush administration has only used the Middle East for oil and business opportunities.

Ashrawi also addressed the danger of people from other countries stereotyping all Palestinians as terrorists.

“Maybe one, two or three [Palestinian] organizations commit such unacceptable acts,” she said, “You should not brand a whole people as terrorists while a whole army shells neighborhoods, beats people daily and destroys any semblance of normal life. I call that state terrorism.”

Ashrawi did not justify Palestinian suicide bombings. However, she suggested that such horrible acts will occur when people are led into desparation.

Some members of the Cornell Isreal Public Affairs Committee distributed pamphlets against Ashrawi outside the lecture. They warned audience members from accepting Ashrawi’s beliefs as the truth.

Organizers contended that people should put aside preconcieved notions about Ashrawi.

“If people are willing to listen to what she says, there’s a lot they can learn from her,” Abou-Chedid said.

Despite recent stalls in the peace process, Ashrawi said that Palestinians will not cease their plight to have their own state in the future.

“We are not ready to disappear. We’re not going to suffer from collective amnesia. We’re not going to commit collective suicide. We’re staying,” she said.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin