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Ashrawi: 'We're Europe's neighbours'

16 May 2008 - We have been trying to convince the Europeans that they do have a position of power, former Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi said last night in the Rode Hoed. She wants Europe to support Palestinian independence.

Ashrawi, who was in Amsterdam at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was involved in the negotiations leading to the Oslo Accords. Subsequently, she became a minister in the Palestinian Authority, but resigned when she was fed up with the corruption.

In his book 'Het zijn net mensen', journalist Joris Luyendijk says that Ashrawi was sidetracked by Yasser Arafat. "When a sympathetic Palestinian is speaking fluent English and doing well on CNN, the Western public wants to get to know her. [...] She builds a position of power and becomes a threat to the Leader".

Ashrawi has picked up her academic career, but last night she spoke as if she was still the spokesperson of a negotiating team, stipulating the conditions for a solution in the Middle East.

According to Ashrawi, the Palestinians in Gaza only have a shadow of independence. Israel would still be a de facto occupation power, but without taking responsibility for the area.

She advocates an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Middle East expert Bertus Hendriks wondered whether this option is still realistic, since this would entail the removal of Israeli settlements.

Ashrawi acknowledged that there is increasing support (according to her, mainly among Palestinian exiles) for the creation of a single Jewish-Palestinian state. However, she rejected such a solution.

Ashrawi emphasised that foreign powers should not interfere with Palestinian politics, referring to Western reprisals after Hamas won the 2006 election. Through these measures, the West denied the Palestinians the opportunity to create their own opposition to Hamas and develop into an open, democratic society, Ashrawi argued.

She does the West to convince Israel to withdraw behind the 1967 borders. She emphasised the role of Europe: "We're not just America's backyard; we're Europe's neighbours". She said Europeans are wrong to think they have no influence in the Middle East.

When governments fail to act, civilians can still play a role, Ashrawi responded to a question. She was critical of NGOs that would legitimise the current situation through heavily subsidised dialogue programmes.

She said she has more respect for the non-violent resistance of the solidarity movement. However, she did warn that foreign activists now risk being shot at, if they are allowed to enter the country at all.

Image: Ashrawi and Hendriks


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