hanan ashrawi peace prize speech

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    Peace prize winner says will and courage needed in Mid East peace process

    Sydney peace prize winner Dr Hanan Ashrawi has delivered the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize Lecture. In a speech entitled: "Peace in the Middle East: A Global Challenge and a Human Imperative", Dr Ashrawi says the two-state solution is still possible, though becoming increasingly more difficult. She also says the need for third party intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only a factor of balance, but an indispensable force for breaking the lethal cycle of violence and revenge, while providing a context for legality, arbitration, and guarantees.

    Edited transcript of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize lecture delivered by Dr Hanan Ashrawi at the University of Sydney on November 5, 2003.

    By now it has become apparent that the assumption that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is purely bilaterial issue and can be resolved by the two sides without third party intervention is entirely false.

    It has been variously used to maintain the asymmetry of power, to justify the lack of political will or the impotence of extranl actors, and to sustain other false assumptions such as the "peace through exhaustion" fallacy or "intervention following sufficient bloodshed."

    The need for third party intervention is not only a factor of balance, but an indispensable force for breaking the lethal cycle of violence and revenge, while providing a context for legality, arbitration, and guarantees.

    A genuine form of multilateralism and collective responsibility is the sine qua non of the resolution of this conflict. Artficial, unilateral, and power separartion such as that represented by the expansionist apartheid wall is a recipe for further conflict and greater violence - not least for encapsulating many forms of coercive justice including land and water theft, fragmentation of Palestinian reality and the creation of isolated ghettos, and imposing politicial boundaries that destroy the chances of a viable Palestinian state, hence of a just peace.

    Palestinian nation-building and statehood are imperative for peace and stability throughout the region. Democracy and separation of powers, the rule of law and respect for human rights, institution-building and good governance, transparent accountability and reform - all are the ingredients of viable Palestinian statehood.

    The occupation, however intrusive, must not be used as an excuse to avoid responsibility. Similarly, negotiations and compliance agreements must not be suspended pending the establishment of a Palestinian Utopia. Devolution of occupation and evolution of statehood must proceed simultaneously with urgency and commitment as interdependent processes.

    An instrument like the Road Map of the erstwhile Quartet could have served as a lifeline for peace had it been implemented with speed and integrity, with clear timelines, monitoring and verification mechanisms, and the courage to exercise impartial accountability.

    The incorporation of the Israeli amendments in the implementation has tarnished the integrity of the text and of the external actors as well. Frontloading the process with Palestinian obligations, adopting the sequential and conditional approach, and creating further interim phases without guarantees on the ground have rendered the Road Map inoperative and subject to extremists on both sides.

    Absent political will, even-handedness, and seriousness of intent, third party intervention could backfire and aggravate the conflict further through dashed hopes and let-downs.

    However, third party interventions can also be destructive if motivated by special agendas, if they exercise bias, and if they are incapable of effecting reality on the ground. Without substance, legitimacy, and applicability such interventions create a semblance of engagement without coming to grips with the reality of the conflict itself.

    When the issue is relocated domestically to become part of internal political realities, particularly in election votes and funds or the influence of special interest groups, then the question becomes one of exploitation and self interest rather than serving the cause of peace.

    The most detrimentail external interference is that of the zealots and enthusiasts who embrace the most extreme long-distance stances with the "passionate intensity" of the "worst." Blind loyalty for, and identification with, one side lead to the adoption of the most strident belligerency towards the other, hence intensifying the conflict and subverting dialogue and rational communication.

    Islamic fundamentalists and regressive brands of Arab nationalists have ironically joined forces with Christian evangelicals, Jewish fundamentalists, and ideological neoconservatives to fight their own proxy wars at the expense of moderate Palestinians and Israelis alike. Such radical apologists have inflicted serious damage and pain from their safe distance in Riyadh, Damascus, Washington, Knoxville, or Sydney demonstrating the type of intervention that no peace can survive.

    They also reinforce the worst misconceptions and fallacies by totally eradicating the legitimacy of one side, thereby justifying the false claims of the other that there is no peace partner, hence no peace option.

    The superimposition of blind loyalty or guilt has revived the worst of racist labeling and dehumanisation with the additional superimposition of false analogies.

    It may be convenient to label all Palestinans as "terrorists" and dismiss them from the conscience of the world in the context of the "war on terrorism". It may be equally convenient to describe the Israeli occupation's measures of aerial bombardment and shelling of Palestinian civilian areas, of assassinations and abduction, of home demolition and destruction of crops, of siege and fragmentation, of checkpoints and humilitaion, of illegal settlements and apartheid walls and annexation fences as legitimate forms of "self-defence". It may be comfortbale to dismiss decades of military occupation and dispossession as figments of the victim's imagination, hence irrelevant to the current conflict. However, such scoring of points only makes the solution all that more distant.

    So far, the solution remains simple and attainable, having been repeatedly defined and having become part of a global consensus. The two-state solution is still possible, though becoming increasingly more difficult with the expansion of settlements, by-pass roads, and the apartheid wall throughout Palestinian territory.

    The bi-national state as a de facto solution will become the only option should Israel continue its expansion and its refusal to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines and remove the settlements from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Territoriality will give way to demography, and the issue then will become one of democracy, with Zionism forced to reexamine its most basic premises.

    Within the two-state paradigm, Jerusalem, both East and West, can become an open city and the shared capital of two states, thus encapsualting the essence of peace and regaining its stature as a city much greater than itself and not subjective to exclusive possession or greed of acquistion. The Palestinian refugees must be granted historical, legal, moral, and human recognition and redress in accordance with international law and the requirements of justice.

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel, but there is a need for the will and courage to act against all adverse forces.
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