Hanan Ashrawi’s speech June 8, 2002

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Tuesday, June 25, 2002 at 2:06PM :

For those of us who didn't have C-span to see her speak at the ADC convention:
Thank you very much and thank you for sparing them the introduction, Ziad. It is wonderful to be with you again and I thank you humbly for this very warm welcome and the very warm individual welcomes that I've received since I got here. I must tell you that it wasn't very easy to get here, it was probably one of the most difficult tasks I've done. I am impressed with the technology that I see here today and I’ve been coming to ADC for years. It is very impressive. And this is something we have to deal with and I'm not saying that to be negative. Technology, advancement, money, power can be used for good and for evil. And let us hope that this gathering lets us transform the use of the technology from destruction and victimization to one of reconstruction and vindication. (applause) And I can tell you honestly that not since the Nakba of 1948, have we witnessed or have we undergone such a decisive, critical and painful moment in history. I haven't seen such a concentration of raw pain in Palestine and an unleashing of violence, unbridled violence on the innocents. And I see ourselves in a spiral or even a regression into fundamentalism, and I talk about fundamentalism as a mindset, particularly in Israel where we are witnessing a reversal into fundamentalist Zionism with people like Sharon saying they want to complete Israel's war of Independence and take us back to the either/or equation. We are also witnessing a revival of the discourse of fear, of survival, of exclusion, and a systemic and brutal and cruel daily assault on the essence, on the core of Palestinian reality, identity and cause.

And yet on the other hand, I had never before seen such a convergence on other issues, a consensus on a vision of a Palestinian Statehood. All of a sudden even Washington is beginning to see visions; we thought this was limited to the holy land. There is a vision of a Palestinian State; there is recognition also of the urgency, the urgency and pressing need for a resolution and recognition of the inherent danger both not just to Palestine and Israel but also to the region and actually at the global level. And also, on the other hand we see a situation of dissonance, incongruence and a time warp. On the one hand we see Israel, a government that is definitely regressive with a combination of the most extremist, right wing ideological political policies, and we see a combination of the most fundamentalist religious policies and, of course, combined with the most militaristic mentality and mindset and with the same veneer of a labor party participation to be the apologist before world for the brutality and cruelty of this government and, of course, to do the dirty work. It's not by chance that the minister of foreign affairs Peres, is from Labor and the minister of defense who is responsible for the army and for the incursions, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, is also from Labor. So, with this lethal combination we are witnessing the resurgence of the agenda of destruction and negation of the most basic fundamental Palestinian rights, including the right to identity, to statehood, to independence, to self-determination.

The agenda is no secret, you all know it. Sharon said from the beginning that he is going to unravel, destroy the peace process, the signed agreements, the declaration of principles, even the Oslo process with all of its flaws, if it's the last thing he does, and he has succeeded. He wants to enter into a period of longtime transitional arrangements and agreements without achieving any kind of peace agreement or peace treaty. He wants to reach a state of non-belligerency, as though there can be a state of non-belligerency or peace between occupier and occupied. And as though occupation can be normalized, that the Palestinians will be tamed, will adapt to the conditions of oppression and brutality and will accept the occupation and be nonbelligerent. Nice peaceful, docile natives. And in the meantime, he wants to create facts, which he's doing very rapidly, this government has built more than 50 settlements in less than two years, in less than a year and a half actually. And has been busy annexing Jerusalem, fragmenting Jerusalem, isolating Jerusalem and turning it into an isolated city, extracted from the heart of Palestine. Instead of the revolution of occupation, we are seeing the unraveling of the peace process. And we are seeing the deliberate and willful blocking of all political alternatives and peaceful avenues and peaceful options. Instead of dismantling settlements, and civil administration under the military government, we are seeing the systematic destruction and dismantlement of the Palestinian infrastructure, institutions and the very fabric of Palestinian life and all the principles of cohesiveness and organization that govern our life. And even past the post de-colonization era, we are being held back into a re-colonization and if you will, in the post neo-colonial period. With the deliberate enslavement and victimization of the Palestinians, the most brutal siege within a military occupation, with multiple incursions pounding and bashing the Palestinians into what Sharon hopes to be submission. And the essential fallacy, is one which has escaped the Israeli occupation mentality and government, is that no people in a situation of occupation or colonialism will ever accept the loss of freedom, will ever adapt to enslavement and will continue to struggle and to yearn for freedom, for independence, for dignity, for liberty on their own land (applause) and no amount of military force or military brutality can crush the spirit of these people or stop the struggle or yearning for freedom.

And of course there is again a deliberate devaluation of our lives and rights as a result of the distortions of three and half decades of occupation of impunity and without accountability. There is a military mindset, I know that David Satterfield said that there is no military solution, of course, we all say there is not military solution, and that this conflict cannot be won by military might. If that's the case then why is Israel still being allowed to use the full force of its military might? (applause) The full force of the strongest army in the region, who is now the fourth strongest army in the world, it used to be the sixth now it's the fourth, against a captive, and defenseless, and largely civilian population. And yet everybody keeps repeating the refrain, there is no military solution. I'm afraid by the time the idea sinks in to Israel, the military options would have destroyed the Palestinian reality and superceded any type of talks or American policy once it materializes.

The mentality of occupation has produced an inherent built-in system of racism, of domination and of control. While here people are talking about profiling, which is very important, I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that a whole nation has been profiled. We, as Palestinians have been profiled as a nation outside the protection of the law, outside the course of history, a nation that is not given sufficient consideration when it comes to legal rights, human rights, and any other type of rights that are guaranteed by international law. The profiling is not just individual and it's not just racial within the states, but is also being translated into a global policy when it comes to nations and hopefully not religions.

One of the examples of this racist mentality is that Israel seems to think that it can dictate its own concept of reform for example, in order to create either a quisling system or an SLA, South Lebanese Army, or a collaborator regime in Palestine, because it seems to think it has the God given right to choose not only our leaders for us, but our own policy and to hold us responsible for the security of our occupier. Reform for Israel is one way of reformulating Palestinians realities in order to have a tailor made leadership according to Israeli specifications, Leadership can be easily corrupted or tamed, something that historically Israel has failed to do, as you can remember and I think has continued to fail to do. The concept again of security as though there is only one region or one people in the world who have a monopoly on security. It seems that Israel wants to have a secure and free and pleasant occupation, while denying the Palestinians of all rights of every aspect, every type of security, whether it is personal, or territorial, or legal, or political, historical, or existential even. Security for both sides comes only from a just peace. Sharon's concept or his theory of security has failed repeatedly because the more the Israeli government escalates, the more the violence will boomerang back into Israel. By firing at the Palestinians, he is going to fire into Israel. This concept of security through force and brutality has not only failed, but is drawing the whole region into a new cycle of violence, and towards that, destruction on all sides. The concept of unilateralism, for example, Israel seems to think it has a monopoly on deciding and implementing single-handedly the reality of both Palestine and Israel, it wants to dictate the process and the outcome and wants to create facts on the ground, particularly when it comes to territorial annexation, with an underlying assumption of superiority.

The whole concept of separation, and I am sure you have heard of it, the idea of separation and security zones and so on, is adding another dimension to occupation and siege and incursions and killings, and assassinations, and home demolitions. Now we have within the occupied territories, we are going to have more Bantustans, isolated population centers, totally under control by Israel and with the due insistence. Where the settlers, who are illegal, have all the rights, and the Palestinians, who have the right to the land and to freedom and their lives, are the one who are being isolated and treated like second-class human beings. There is nothing more lethal, and more racist and more regressive than this whole policy of punitive separation and security zones. It is actually worse than apartheid because its taking place within occupied territory, a land on which Israeli settlers have no right to be there.

There is also a painful irony, in the fact that the US and the international community now have this vision of peace as a two state solution, and at the same time there is total lack of connection with reality, an absence actually of steps to make that vision a reality, an absence of political will, an absence of decisive action and a need of course for positive intervention. There is no intervention and are no real concrete steps of implementation. What we are going to see is a lethal dynamic underground that is going to supercede any type of political discussion. That is why we need a clear plan of action, a clear road map, and we need a different type of separation, separation by third parties right now; troops, monitors, international forces, whatever, but there has to be (applause) a different type of separation in which international community will take its responsibility seriously to curb the ongoing Israeli escalation and assault and to provide the Palestinians with the necessary protection and to put an end to this cycle of violence and revenge, that we are witnessing. Especially if we are committed to the global rule of law that we are talking about and the fact that all nations, before international law, are equal and have equal rights.

And of course with the post September 11 realities, we all know that, I don't need to repeat that, we are witnessing the emergence of false analogies and guilt by association that we have talked about. Whereby a whole nation is labeled and maligned, a whole religion is labeled and maligned, and of course the generation of fear is deliberate by Israel and the false analogy is deliberate in order not just to exclude the Palestinians, Arabs, and the Muslims but also to justify and rationalize the most extreme brutal policies of the occupation. The irony also is that now, in the Arab world, while we are in the midst of a moment of weakness and I hope it doesn't last very long within Arab history, that the Arab world has adopted peace as a strategic option and quite often we say that peace is strategic option; what is your strategy for peace? The strategy for peace must be based on genuine democratization, on a genuine program of human empowerment, on a genuine program of human based developments. At the time, in which the Arabs adopted a peace strategy, even while the Palestinians were being shelled and bashed and killed and assassinated and terrorized, never mind there has to be a vision of peace, we find that they have no partner. There is no partner is Israel and at the same time in the US. The Arab voice is not being heard as carefully as one would wish, particularly because many Arab and Muslim states have been placed on the defensive from the beginning. So, we have to get beyond not just the walls of fear and insecurity, but also this defensiveness. We are not guilty and we do not have to explain our innocence. (applause)

At this moment in history, there is a combination; there is a sort of irony, as we said, in the Arab initiative, the quadrilateral committee, the quadrilateral group, whom I think Powell called the quartet. I have a hard time explaining to that quartet to sing. The quadrilateral committees do other things, but the quadrilateral committee of the EU, the US, Russia, and of the U.N., as well as the Arab initiative, the Saudi, have come up with a new type of harmony, and is part of a universal consensus actually. The universal consensus is that this country must end the occupation, must end the 'must be a two-state solution,' I can't keep repeating this forever. They decided that, to that end, they are going to convene an international conference. Now one has to guard against having that idea of the conference regenerate or get reduced into just a squabble over the level of the conference, presidential, administerial, the guest list, who's coming who's not, whether Israel can exercise a veto over Syria and Lebanon or not, the agenda of the conference, who is going to speak first or not; the nature, 'is this a conference, is this a meeting, is this a consulted meeting, is this a decisive'? Anyway, the conference should not become the subject matter; it should not become the substance and the objective. We must maintain a common perspective that this conference is a means and a mechanism. What it should do ultimately is just define the objective very clearly and end the occupation, 67 boundaries on all fronts, relinquishing the occupied Arab territories and of course removing the settlements, dismantling the settlements and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, a democratic Palestinian State, but we are capable of doing it, we don't need other people to do it for us. And a just and fair and legitimate and legal resolution to the refugee question.

All these are simple objectives, they have been there, they have been in the making for a long time. We don't need to reinvent the wheel we don't even need other terms of reference because we know what the foundations are. The same terms of reference of the Madrid peace process, which of course did not materialize, and a commitment to international law and legality. Of course ending the occupation is absolutely important, because people can talk about a state anywhere. Sharon is talking about a state on 42% of the West Bank and people talk about a state east of the river for example, so it's very important that we designate ending the occupation and the state at least on the June 4, 67 boundaries and including East Jerusalem. (applause) And we need to adopt quickly for this conference or for the future a two-prong approach. We will not negotiate international law and the resolutions; we will negotiate the implementation of international law and resolutions. There are outstanding issues that have never been implemented and that need to be implemented immediately under international supervision, with an active oversight mechanism, particularly for the necessary de-escalation, the withdrawal of the Israeli forces, not just to the pre September 2000 lines, but a withdrawal to the agreed lines before even the intifada, to return from the edge of abyss. We need troop withdrawal and we need the cessation of all settlement activities and of course the cessation of the assassination policy and the lifting of the siege. (applause)

The conference for the international community should be a clear declaration of intent, a clear declaration of seriousness of intent and commitment in order for the international community and the partners involved to define and allocate tasks and responsibilities. We need a qualitative shift in mentality. The time is long past in which we discuss only crisis management and damage control and dealing with side issues and technical issues and symptoms rather than the disease. At this time we need to set up mechanisms for genuine even-handed mediation, which should have within it dispute resolution, oversight and monitoring. We do need accountability first for the occupation of course a binding from of arbitration. There can be no partial, no more interim, no more transitional steps of peaceful agreements. We need to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach, where we discuss the issues within a scope of vision that would encompass the interrelationship, the linkage, the independence, Jerusalem, boundaries, settlements.

These are all interdependent, we are not going to discuss them as discreet isolated entities, and we need to have a comprehensive solution, without postponement of any issues. We must tackle the core issues, as contrary to previous experience, don't start with the simple and easy side issues and then postpone the difficult issues or the core issues until they become impossible to solve. What we must do is start the with the core issues, the substantive issues for example, instead of discussing the isolated settlement with the two mobile units or caravans, lets discuss why Male 'Adumin shouldn't be there (applause). And something that US administration so far has resisted vehemently, we need a binding timetable, timeframe, and deadline. I remember years ago I listed to Clovis actually at the ADC, in this hotel saying that if you embark on a peace process, you are not embarking on a fishing expedition. You are embarking on a process with objectives and of course time limits and we don't have time limits yet. From our experience, of course, Israel exploits the time to create facts repeatedly and therefore to negate or render irrelevant any type of political exercise, that's why we need a time limit.

What's happening right now is that the two state solution is rapidly becoming impossible because the more land confiscations, the more fragmentations, the more of these so-called buffer zones or security zones, the more difficult it would be not just to have a territorially viable state or a territorially contiguous state but a state which would have continuity, which would have economic viability, viability of resources and of course demography. Within Palestine, I must warn that we can witness, the more that Israel is allowed to buy time and create facts, you will see a very serious breakdown and you will see an escalation of violence. Israel has succeeded so far in hijacking the agenda and of course the public political discourse. And nothing and nowhere is this more evident than it is in the public discourse of the US media. This has become intolerable and this is where we need your intervention and your discourse, and your ability to set the records straight and to challenge and question the forged, the totally false version of reality that is being presented in the American media. We need serious intervention and we need serious challenging and questioning of the version that is being relayed here. Even on the hill, you keep hearing the Israeli talking points, the Israeli version, the choice of fiction representation as though to dare to come with a Palestinian or an Arab point of view is somehow challenging the gospel truth, and presenting them with the apocryphal. What we're trying to do is challenge the forces and try to present the truth itself.

In Palestine (applause) we are in need of reform, yes, and we are in need of democratization, yes, and we are in need of establishing a system of governance that is inclusive, that is human-based, and that is based of course, on the rule of law, the separation of powers, we know all these things. I would like to remind many people who've discovered ….I know I was a bit impolite when I described as a Johnny come-lately, to the question of reform, (applause) but I would like to remind the Israelis who thought that they invented the term 'reform' that way before the state of Israel was even an idea in somebody's heads we had elections in Palestine, we had (applause) we had education in Palestine, we had organizations, institutions, civil society in Palestine. Reform is not something, it's not a panacea, it's not a tool of course for Israel or, or for the US. It's an inherent and authentic Palestinian need and we will do it. But it is not, as I said a panacea, it's not an excuse to avoid tackling the real issue which is the occupation. In the same way which I tell the Palestinians that the occupation is not an excuse for avoiding human rights, democracy and reform (applause).

I remember also almost ten years ago, I spoke at the ADC and talked about the nation building process and the peace process and how interdependent they were and how they must proceed simultaneously and how distortion in one would lead to distortion in another. Unfortunately all the distortion, all the flaws in the DOP have a very detrimental and negative impact on the nation building process, and of course with the mentality of occupation on the one hand, we have the mentality of revolution on the other, both superimpose on a captive civilian population whose real need is to have a day in the sunshine and freedom to be able to live, in peace and security on their own land. We don't have land designs, we don't have unrealistic visions, all we need is to be like other people, free, independent living on our own land, taking care of our families, of our children, and we need the luxury of these little dreams and aspirations. We do not want constantly to be like tragic heroes, facing the fact of our mortality everyday, fighting the forces of evil and good, we leave that to President Bush, (applause) . He may have been able to reinvent the monarchy, and the universe of good and evil of angels and devils, and so on, we know better, we know the complexities of reality, and we know that we cannot be placed within a compartment, and tagged with a label, and told you are absolute evil or absolute good. We are like the rest of the world with our foibles and frailties, with our strong points and weak points, with our laughter and tears, that's how we need to be treated and that's why we're asking for nothing more than the protection of the law like other human beings who are not cast outside the course of history or cast outside the most basic human and political considerations, and I can say that there is still the most pervasive sense of pain, of victimization of grievance, and of vulnerability, in Palestine, more than I've ever seen before, and no words can encompass the horror itself.

Palestinians feel that they've been victimized, in many ways some internally, and I describe them as self-inflicted wounds, and of course most externally, wounds inflicted by others. But what we need to do is to be able to pull ourselves up, to build our own institutions, of state. Something we are doing, to have a constitution that is fair that can safeguard the rights of the Palestinians, that can lead to a genuine separation of powers, and that can do justice of course to the people. The question is not now whether the Palestinians can stop the violence we hear that so often it's as though the Palestinians were born with a violent gene and we have to deal with it. The violence emerges from a situation which is inherently violent and lethal and that is the occupation.(applause) and no amount of scapegoating… it's very fashionable these days, to blame Arafat for everything, isn't it? I'm sure many of you have your disagreements with him or your agreements with him some of you love him, some of you detest him, that's not the issue is it? The issue is, if, if Arafat somehow disappears today would all our problems disappear? That's the question, that's the real issue, so finding, Arafat, Arafat bashing, scapegoating Arafat saying he disappointed his own people, well we deal with that with our leaders if they disappoint us, we'll elect others. And if Sharon finds him irrelevant then why does he spend so much time and energy and effort constantly striking at Arafat's headquarters, at the PA's quarters, at the security services and why does he send all his emissaries constantly to tell the Americans how irrelevant Arafat is, somehow it defeats the purpose there is an irony there, it's ridiculous. But anyway, they don't understand that the Palestinians are the ones who can create their own systems of accountability, that we are the ones who want to have elections and reforms, and we need to be able to have free and fair elections and therefore we need to get rid of all the impediments that prevent us from exercising our democratic rights and primarily the Israeli occupation.
Get the army out and we will elect very freely; the thing is (applause) the thing is we do need to exercise this right and we cannot keep postponing any type of internal and genuine reform by saying the Israelis are preventing them; we can very easily carry out those reforms that are under our control. Issues like a cabinet change for example, not a cosmetic, superficial change but a real change (applause) in individuals. And of course there has to be accountability for those who abuse their trust, their position and misuse public funds too. We need a serious reform in the security systems, yes so that they can protect the Palestinians not the Israelis. (applause) And we do need of course to complete the judiciary, to have a separate budget, to implement the independence of the judiciary, the law that we passed and was signed and we need to take the constitution or the law very seriously. But in the meantime, we have an abnormal reality where the siege, and the isolation and fragmentation and total lack of freedom of movement make it impossible for anybody to elect, let alone to campaign. So that's what we have to work on now, get rid of this stranglehold, get rid of the Israeli siege, and give us room to breathe in order to carry out our own democratic reform.

But also, given all these facts I must say very, very frankly, that surprisingly or perhaps not so surprisingly, there is still among the Palestinians an overwhelming commitment to peace as well as to democracy. People have not abandoned the objective, it is a noble objective after all, despite the fact that the means and the mechanisms may be flawed. But peace is a right it is not something that we are ashamed of, it's not something a sin that we've committed, no, it is our right to live in peace and we need to pursue that. And to get peace we need to get rid of occupation and yet the Palestinians have demonstrated so much resilience, so much tenacity, so much ability to withstand pressure and not to be broken. This to me is the greatest source of hope and of confidence (applause) the Palestinian will all this brutality has not succeeded in breaking the will of the Palestinians or in crushing their spirits. As a people who are in pain, who are in captivity, sixty per cent or more live under poverty, more than fifty per cent unemployment, more than one per cent either dead or injured, everybody, every single person humiliated, targeted totally vulnerable and yet there is a sense of dignity, there is a sense of pride of belonging and a determination that this is where we are and this is where we stand (applause) and I will conclude very rapidly that it seems to me there is a test of wills now, while the whole world has decided though abstractly that the occupation would come to an end that the Palestinian state must be a reality. That we, have to ensure a global rule of law, and we have to move ahead into the third millennium with a new universal instrument of human rights, and of recognition and of the rights of individuals and groups. It seems to me that there is only one factor here that's missing and that is the will in Israel, the government, the Israeli government, that seems to be swimming against the tide and trying to draw us all backwards, back to the early twentieth century, and in this test of wills, I wonder, who will win. I think your being here, your being empowered will also be a source of empowerment for Palestine. Thank You

-- Lilly
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