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Friday, November 07, 2003

Ashrawi interviewed on ABC(Australia)'s "7:30 Report"

Kerry O'Brien really, really tried
KERRY O'BRIEN: Throwing forward to today, in your speech for tonight, you deplore the cycle of violence involving both sides in very eloquent terms, but not once do you condemn specifically the violence of Hamas by name. There's not a reference to suicide bombers. Now, what signal do you think that sends?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: You haven't heard my speech, but you read it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I read it.

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: I never stick to written text anyway, but still, I did that on purpose because I don't want people to dictate my language to me.

When I talk about violence, I know what I mean.

And when I talk about extremism, and ideology and fundamentalism and that type of violence, I don't have to indicate which parties in Israel use that and which parts of the army use that, or what parts of Palestinian political society or military wings do that.

We all know, and when I talk about a generic situation, I'm talking about it comprehensively.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you are talking specifically about some of your criticisms of the Israelis. You talk specifically in your criticism about Sharon, about the wall they're building, but your criticisms of the extremists on your own side are general. As I say, you don't mention Hamas by name.

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: I mention different organisations -

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you condemn Hamas for its terrorism?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: I condemn all acts of violence, particularly those targeting innocent civilians on both sides.

Now, I always make the distinction between political action and military action.

Violent action is not to be condoned by anybody, regardless whether it's Hamas, Jihad or Fatah or anybody or popular front - and we've said that repeatedly.

Now there are conversations, there are speeches and discussions, but at the same time, if the discourse is always being hijacked by placing the Palestinians on the defensive and saying the only legitimacy you have is by adopting my language, my approach, condemning the side I condemn, then I would lose my integrity and the honesty of my own speech.

So I would much rather dictate my own language rather than have it dictated by others.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But then, of course, others will make their own judgments about how peaceful you are by your words?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, people will make judgments anyway.

Those who have agendas will try to distort whatever I say and whatever I do and they certainly have tried and they've failed repeatedly.

I mean, I'm amazed at the fact that in Australia they have such a strident presence, but I've had awards from all over the world - honorary degrees, given speeches.

This is the first time I see so much hate - no, second time.

And at the same time a wilful disregard of the facts, of the comprehensive message and of a lifetime of struggle for the sake of a deliberate distortion.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Given the number of deaths, given the killings that have been perpetrated by suicide bombers organised by Hamas, shouldn't Hamas be disbanded if it can be disbanded? Would you want to see the serious attempts be made to disband Hamas?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: I would like to see first of all an active political pluralistic democracy in Palestine so that those who want to dissent can do so peacefully by political means.

Then I would like to see an active judiciary under a rule of law so that those who violate the law will be held accountable in accordance with the law.

I don't want to see a civil war because that's not the way to deal with this problem.

But I would like to see a total rule of law, building of institutions, a commitment to this nation-building institution and respect for the law.

That means that there will no longer be the multiplicity either of political - of military factions or even individuals who take the law into their own hands or who commit acts of violence.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Both the Government and the Labor Opposition here are moving in the Parliament to ban Hamas in Australia as a terrorist organisation. Do you have a problem with that?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: I mean, it's up to Australia to decide what they want to do -

KERRY O'BRIEN: But they are a terrorist organisation, aren't they?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: You have to look at both sides of Hamas.

The political wing has men and negotiations and dialogue with the Europeans, with the rest of the world, even with Americans, for a long time.

It's the military wing that has been condemned constantly.

Now there is a move -

KERRY O'BRIEN: I'm not sure how you can separate one wing from the other. They're both under the umbrella of Hamas?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI: No, you can, you can in a sense because the people who have been conducting negotiations with Europeans and others were the political wing - this happened in Ireland and different places.

You don't illegitimatise everybody, then you have no interlocutor.

But now there's a move motivated by this current Israeli Government and the American administration to consider all of Hamas as illegal.
Read it all (and comments) here.