October 30, 2002

Hijab Speaks About Crisis in Middle East

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Human rights consultant and Middle East scholar Nadia Hijab spoke yesterday about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as part of the ongoing lecture series, “Critical Perspectives on the War on Terrorism.” The lecture was sponsored by the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace.

Hijab’s remarks were followed by commentary from Prof. David Wippman, law. After Wippman spoke, both speakers took questions from the audience.

While Hijab placed most of the blame for the current crisis on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, she condemned the use of violence by either side in the conflict.

The bulk of Hijab’s speech was devoted to exploring the ways people could effect change in the Middle East crisis through peaceful means.

“All attacks on civilians are against the law… If we [the Palestinians] use the weapons of the occupier, I believe we have already lost,” she said.

“We need a long term education and mobilization campaign,” Hijab added.

Discussing ways in which Palestinians could effectively protest what she saw as the unjust actions of the Israelis, Hijab pointed to the actions of women’s movements, both Palestinian and Israeli.

According to Hijab, the only nonviolent demonstrations against the Israeli occupation that were not funeral marches were organized by Palestinian women and attracted men and children as well.

“Women’s movements in particular have strengths we can adopt,” said Hijab, characterizing the exclusion of women as a critical flaw of the current Intifada.

“During this intifada … the role of women in civil society has been marginalized,” due to the authoritarian nature of the Palestinian Authority.

Hijab continued that the principles of international law should serve as the basis of any settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying, “There is no better framework than the framework of human rights. She said she thought that any peace must be based on U.N. General Assembly Resolutions 181, 194 and Security Council Resolution 242.

Resolution 181 was the initial U.N. plan for the partition of what was then Palestine into independent Jewish and Arab states. Resolution 194 deals with the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes in Israel. Security Council Resolution 242 directs Israel to withdraw from the territories it gained in the Six Day War of 1967.

In his commentary following Hijab’s speech, Wippman strongly disagreed with Hijab over the role of international law in a Middle East peace plan.

“I find myself in fundamental disagreement … with [Hijab’s] central premise,” Wippman said. He pointed out that General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194 were non binding and that 181 was actually defunct because it envisioned divisions of territory that are not desired by either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

Wippman urged audience members to consider the opinions of the Israeli side and not to see the situation from only one point of view.

“From the Israeli perspective, the problem is not the occupation, it is security… There has evolved a culture of martyrdom” among Palestinians.

Wippman was at times interrupted during his remarks by audience members and was subjected to heated questioning after he finished speaking. The majority of audience comment was sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

“I thought [the forum] was exciting… [Wippman and Hijab] partially understood each other but partially didn’t,” said Prof. Stuart Davis, English, a member of the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace.

Archived article by Daniel Palmadesso