Dr Hanan Ashrawi Universityof Sydney Peace Prize
|About this Item||Subjects||Honours; Palestine; Jews
||Speakers||Lynch Mr Paul
||Business||Private Members Statements
||Commentary|| Jim Samios, Ross Cameron, John Brogden, Peter Debnam, Barry O'Farrell
Mr PAUL LYNCH (Liverpool) [1.20 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House a matter of very great importance to constituents of mine: the presence in Australia of a very distinguished Palestinian, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, and the awarding to her of the Sydney Peace Prize. This was a matter of considerable interest to many of my constituents whom we eurocentrically refer to as having a Middle Eastern background. It was also of significance to those in my electorate committed to peace and justice. One of the members of the executive committee of the Sydney Peace Foundation is Abraham Quadan, a constituent and friend of mine. Several weeks ago, before the media frenzy, the Hinchinbrook Branch of the Australian Labor Party adopted a resolution congratulating the Premier of New South Wales on his agreement to present the peace prize.
I was personally delighted to be able to attend the peace prize dinner and award ceremony in this building on Thursday last week. I also enjoyed the company of Dr Ashrawi at a dinner last Saturday night, organised by Ali Kazak, the head of the General Palestinian Delegation to Australia. I place on record my regard for Ali and congratulate him on the work he has done not only for the visit by Dr Ashrawi but over a number of years. I had previously met Dr Ashrawi when she visited Australia in 1999. It is interesting to note that in 1999 also attending a Parliamentary Friends of Palestine dinner with Dr Ashrawi, which was held in this building, were the Hon. Jim Samios, then a member of the Liberal-National Coalition front bench, and Mr Ross Cameron, a senior Liberal member of Parliament. Their attendance at the time makes something of a mockery of the recent antics of the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable members for Vaucluse and Ku-ring-gai.
Dr Ashrawi was an outstanding choice to be awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. What has always struck me about her—and I had read much of her work before I met her—is her enormous moderation. On behalf of many of my constituents I congratulate Professor Stuart Rees on the skill and courage he displayed throughout the process. I also place on record my high regard for the position adopted by the Premier in correctly rejecting the lobbying directed against him. He has been absolutely correct on this issue and demonstrated significant political leadership. Those who ran a campaign against Dr Ashrawi have done no credit to themselves or to their cause. The politics of Palestine are complex enough without it being used in a partisan political manner in Australia. Some quite extravagant claims were made against Dr Ashrawi, some of which had to be withdrawn. A letter entitled "Did Not Say It" from the Australian Jewish News on Friday 17 October states:
In my column on Hanan Ashrawi (AJN 3/10/03), I stated that she described the Holocaust as "a deceitful myth" which the Jews had exploited to get sympathy. I was advised subsequently that Ashrawi did not make the statement, and despite strenuous efforts by myself and the AJN to correct the reference (which were successful in the Melbourne edition), the Sydney edition had gone to press.
I based the reference on a widely circulated article by American writer Steven Plaut that had been republished in a number of usually reliable sources. I regret the error.
The letter was signed by Sam Lipski. Likewise, Jewish Community Council of Victoria President Michael Lipshutz has now conceded that comments he made attacking Bob Carr should not have been said and that he regretted them. The style of some of the lobbying against the prize has been revealed by Kathryn Greiner and Stuart Rees and has been written about by, among others, Alan Ramsey. Of course, it is wrong and racist to treat the Jewish community as a monolithic block whose individual members all think alike. There is a range of opinions on these issues. The President of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, Stephen Rothman, has been publicly critical of the methods of approach of some of those lobbying against the prize. Barry Cohen, in the 31 October Sydney edition of the Australian Jewish News, referred to the stupidity of those who tried to stop the Hanan Ashrawi visit.
On stage during Dr Ashrawi's speech at the Seymour Centre was a bouquet of flowers from Jews Against the Occupation. On the other hand, Vic Alhadeff, editor of the Australian Jewish News admitted to the Sydney Morning Herald that he had called radio programs hosted by Mike Carlton, James Valentine and Phillip Clark, identifying himself only as Vic. According to the Sydney Morning Herald he has repented his attitude and conceded it would have been fairer to have fully identified himself. It seems that much of the most extreme rhetoric came from Melbourne. One of the Melbourne figures is the national chairman of the Australia-Israel and Israel Jewish Affairs Council [AIJAC], Mark Leibler. A headline in today's Australian Jewish News has Mr Leibler claiming that the campaign against Hanan Ashrawi was a success. I would like to see his definition of a failure.
Another Melbourne figure apparently significant in the campaign against Dr Ashrawi is Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of AIJAC. As late as the weekend after the award of the peace prize, he was still writing articles in the Australian continuing the campaign. I should point out that AIJAC is a private body and can lay no legitimate claim to being representative of any community. It has been referred to as having an undemocratic nature. Robert Goot noted in the Australian Jewish News that it has no representative capacity. Mr Rubenstein is also involved with the Liberal Party. I understand he sought preselection at one stage against one of the Kemp brothers. An article by Elizabeth Wynhausen in the Australian on 4 November points out Mr Rubenstein's connections to Tony Abbott. It is no surprise at all that Mr Rubenstein's was the first name on the protest Sydney Peace Prize petition to Bob Carr.
Perhaps Mr Rubenstein should have given better advice to the Liberal Party. Rather stupidly John Howard and Alexander Downer said Abu Mazen would have been a better choice to receive the Sydney Peace Prize. The AIJAC website, however, describes Abu Mazen as a Holocaust denier. Equally ill-advised was the Leader of the Opposition when he declared that as Premier he would not have presented the prize. I am always sceptical about what are sometimes described as Jewish conspiracies. The one conspiracy that is very clear here is by the Liberal Party.