Jewish group rejects campaign against Ashrawi

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Letter to NSW premier Bob Carr

The largest progressive Jewish organisation in the country, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, has distanced itself from the campaign being conducted by some Jewish community spokespeople against Dr Hanan Ashrawi, who is to receive the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize next month.

The AJDS has written to NSW Premier Bob Carr informing him of its position. While not necessarily endorsing Dr Ashrawi’s selection, the group made it clear that it strongly opposed what it regarded as an unfair and unbalanced attack against
her.

Many AJDS members regard Dr Ashrawi as a worthy candidate for the prize. She addressed a meeting in Melbourne last time she was in Australia. As AJDS executive member Steve Brook put it “I found her an inspiration for peace. I wish there were more people like her in positions of authority on both sides of the Middle East conflict. She is a convincing advocate of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Another executive member, Harold Zwier, had a somewhat different opinion. “I am yet to be convinced that Hanan Ashrawi merits the award, but the campaign of vilification against her reflects badly on our community. We would do much better by seeking to engage with her, rather than rejecting her,” he said.

Mr Brook added: “The leadership of the Jewish community is giving the impression that there are no acceptable Palestinians. It’s not necessary to agree with everything Dr Ashrawi says in order to recognise that it is precisely people like her, who actively espouse a two-state solution, that provide the best prospects for dialogue and eventual peace.”

Letter to NSW Premier Bob Carr

Dear Mr Carr,

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society supports your decision to present the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize to Dr Hanan Ashrawi.As supporters of Israel, while critical of policies of the current Israeli government, we believe that negotiations towards the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only way forward in resolving the conflict.Members of our organisation hold a range of opinions on whether Dr Ashrawi is a suitable candidate for the peace prize, but as a strong and articulate advocate for the Palestinian cause, Dr Ashrawi makes clear that she also favours negotiation towards a two-state solution to end the conflict.

We therefore strongly disagree with the current campaign by some in the Australian Jewish community, who are demonising Dr Ashrawi in an attempt to destroy her credibility.

One of Israel’s more farsighted leaders, former president Ezer Weitzman, once observed that one has to make peace with enemies, not with friends. We may not always agree with Dr Ashrawi, but we regard dialogue with her and people like her as essential for any future peace between Palestinians and Israelis. In our opinion, your role in presenting the prize can only further that process.

Yours sincerely,
Renate Kamener and Steve Brook
for the executive, Australian Jewish Democratic Society, Melbourne

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