The Guardian November 12, 2003

Dr Hanan Ashrawi's testament

I lived under military occupation most of my adult life. I 
have been repeatedly beaten up, shot at, interrogated, [and] even 
imprisoned. I have seen some of my best friends killed. My next 
door neighbour's kid shot in the back. I've seen my daughter's 
childhood totally destroyed, living in fear, being tear-gassed, 
and living under curfew.

I've seen houses demolished, crops destroyed, our infrastructure 
destroyed. And recently I've lived for weeks under curfew, a 
prisoner in my own home, without water, without electricity and 
often without a phone. I've lived under constant shelling  I've 
seen the windows and doors of my home (my ancestral home) being 
blown away.

But I'm not saying this to tell you that I'm a victim  no  
I'm saying this to tell you that despite all these things, 
despite my living under captivity and seeing the worst horrors of 
violence, being on the receiving end of the last remaining 
colonial situation in the world, an occupation, I have never 
succumbed to hate. I have never allowed hate to take over, and I 
have never accepted any kind of revenge as a motivation.

Peace is not a question of legitimacy, but of humanity (Dr 
Ashwari speaks)

On November 5, Dr Hanan Ashrawi addressed a public meeting in 
Sydney as part of her being awarded the Sydney Peace Prize by the 
Sydney Peace Foundation. This is her speech to that meeting, 
slightly abridged.

I am truly honoured to be included in this endeavour among such 
distinguished recipients of the Sydney Peace Prize. May I also 
view this prize as a recognition of all those who have maintained 
an unwavering commitment to a just resolution of the Palestinian-
Israeli conflict, who have defied the prevailing dynamic of 
violence and the mutual infliction of pain and de-legitimisation, 
and who continue to provide hope in the midst of despair on both 
sides of the "divide".

Palestinians and Israelis, as well as people of good conscience 
throughout the world, will share the empowerment of this 
recognition as a significant force for reconciliation and 

You too have chosen courageously to take sides in the struggle 
against injustice as opposed to the refuge of so-called 
neutrality or the self-interest of power. You have refused to be 
deflected, intimidated, or silenced, exercising a tenacity and 
determination that are the rare attributes of moral leadership 
and genuine service.

Voices of sanity

It is precisely during such times of adversity and pain, of 
violence and victimisation, of unilateralism and militarism, of 
ideological fundamentalism and absolutist exclusivity, that the 
world is most in need of voices and forces of sanity, reason and 
moral responsibility  the genuine building blocks of peace.

As we witness attempts at imposing a simplistic view of a 
Manichean universe, of polarisation and stereotypes of good and 
evil, we are most in need of those who will engage in a 
redemptive validation of pluralism, tolerance, diversity, 
authenticity of identity, and the comprehensive engagement in 
collective responsibility.

Such is the nature of intervention that the world requires, not 
only to resolve conflicts but also to prevent them from erupting 
or generating their own destructive forces that could spiral out 
of control.

No conflict should take us by surprise, for all the symptoms are 
recognisable and the components definable. Longstanding 
grievances and inequities have become all too familiar and have 
been left to fester on their own or to be manipulated by the 
strong as a means of victimising the weak.

Since an aspect of globalisation is the redefinition of enemies 
and allies, friends and foes, crossing national, territorial, and 
cultural boundaries, the process of rectification must also 
utilise the means made available by the knowledge and IT 
revolution as tools of contemporary global realities.

Thus hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the spread of disease, the 
degradation of the environment, the disenfranchisement of the 
weak, the suspension of human rights, among others, are all 
universal enemies that require the collective effort of universal 
allies. Human-based development programs and inclusive systems of 
governance remain the most appropriate means of empowerment.

Most significantly, the indispensable universal instruments 
remain those that ascertain a global rule of law, encompassing 
both state and non-state actors, capable of assessing 
culpability, providing accountability, and ensuring redress with 

Along with their multilateral institutions, they remain 
safeguards against unilateral power on the rampage or destructive 
military pre-emption on the basis of subjective criteria.

With that in mind, peace in the Middle East, or the just solution 
of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, can be addressed in its 
proper context as the longest standing case of military 
occupation and as the most persistent unresolved case of denial, 
dispossession and exile in contemporary history.

As such, it is also an anachronism in that it has all the 
components of a colonial condition in a post neo-colonial world.

Regionally, the conflict has provided a convenient excuse for the 
suspension of human rights, the evasion of democratic systems of 
governance, the waste of nat-ural and human resources, and the 
perpetuation of centralised regimes that held back the challenges 
of development  all under the guise of "national security" and 
the external military threat.

For decades, war, or the threat of military hostilities, has 
served to maintain the status quo and has framed the region 
within misplaced notions of self-defence that contributed to the 
rising power of extremism and fundamentalism rather than human 
empowerment and global engagement.

Peace, or the prospect thereof, is possibly the most effective 
force for dislodging such notions and trends, becoming, de facto, 
the most destabilising factor in a region suffering from an 
imposed state of suspended animation.


The legacy of colonialism clearly has served the interests of 
those in power, predominantly client regimes, who sought to 
maintain control, thereby leading to the collusion of internal 
and external forces in the exclusion of the people as a whole.

A just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli (and 
hence Arab-Israeli) conflict would unleash all those forces so 
far held in abeyance, but forming the indispensable energy for 
sustainable progress, development, democratisation, and regional 

Globally, the Palestinian question remains central to any human 
vision of globalisation as a test of the collective will to 
intervene and to maintain a global rule of law based on operative 
principles of justice and historical redemption.

Granted, the current dynamic is antithetical to the aspirations 
of peacemakers who had based their endeavours on the universality 
of human rights, parity before the law, positive intervention, 
and the non-violent resolution of conflicts through redress and 
the elimination of grievances. [A] serious paradigm shift is 
necessary for the restoration of these human values that have 
been subverted in the aftermath of September 11 and the triumph 
of the neo-conservatives and fundamentalist ideologues in key 
power centres.

Logic of peace

The logic of peace that had been formulated painstakingly (and 
painfully) as the substance of Palestinian-Israeli encounters and 
dialogue is currently being drowned by the din of war drums and 
the frenzied mutual infliction of pain over the last three years.

Such tragic and unprecedented pervasive violence is not only 
eradicating previous achievements and agreements, but is also 
destroying the prospects of any future reconciliation.

Its most alarming impact is on the perceptions and attitudes of 
both peoples, particularly in the regression towards the 
fallacies of the past and the stance of mutual negation emanating 
from the revival of deep-seated existential fears of survival.

Such fallacies and false assumptions must be boldly confronted 
and systematically deconstructed if there is any hope of 
extricating both sides from this lethal and self-perpetuating 
trap of mutual destruction.

The notion that a whole nation can be brought to its knees by the 
use of unbridled violence, or that the will of a people can be 
defeated by military means must be discarded once and for all.

Armies may be able to defeat other armies, but the limits of 
power are most apparent when used against civilians and non-
combatants. Along with that, the fallacy that there is or can be 
a military solution to the conflict must be completely and 
irrevocably discarded.

"Balance of terror"

Conversely, the emergence of the bizarre concept of a "balance of 
terror" has reinforced the irrational and immoral killing of 
civilians and the victimisation of the innocent.

The drive for revenge like the escalation of military brutality, 
has generated the most tragic and futile momentum for escalation 
and self-destruction.

Self-determination to the Palestinian people is not an 
abstraction, but the actual realisation and enactment, of their 
identity on their own land, and a motivating force for 
independence and statehood.

It is the final negation of the myth of a "land without a people 
for a people without a land" that has long framed the 
rationalisation for the most extreme forms of Zionism that sought 
to deny the very existence and humanity of the Palestinians.

For the conflict to be resolved, its causes must be identified 
and solved, while grievances and fears on both sides must be 
addressed and laid to rest. Neither side can lay claim to a 
monopoly of pain and suffering.

Clearly, peace cannot be made incumbent upon converting all 
Palestinians to Zionism or transforming all Israelis to espouse 
Palestinian nationalism.

Historical records must be reconciled, whether in the recognition 
of the horror of the holocaust and all its horrendous 
implications, or in the historical victimisation of the 
Palestinian people and their dual tragedy of dispossession and 
exile, on the one hand, and oppression and occupation on the 

Historical Palestine

Since the essential requirement for peace lies in sharing the 
land of historical Palestine, it follows that there has to be a 
shared legitimacy based on parity and mutuality.

Neither side can  or should be allowed to  destroy the other 
physically, morally, or legally. A full admission of equal value 
to human lives and rights must be internalised, with no claims to 
superiority on those most essential human values and attributes.

In the same way, there can be no exclusivity of claims  whether 
to the land or to security or to the discourse and public 
presentation of the issues. Shared boundaries exist both as 
territorial and as moral/human concepts of proximity and 

Security, therefore, is a factor of mutuality and 
interdependence, emanating from the core considerations of the 
totality of human imperatives. Historical, territorial, cultural, 
economic, social, personal, existential, legal, and political 
dimensions of security must shape the issues and drive the 
process beyond the narrow confines of mil-itary security.

A human and humanistic strategic approach to peace is by 
definition one of integrated empowerment rather than the 
stratagems of power politics or coercion or military control.

I believe a two-state solution is still possible, although it is 
becoming increasingly difficult with the expansion of Israeli 
settlements, bypass roads and the apartheid wall. Jerusalem could 
be an open city, the shared capital of both states.

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