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Another ant-Semite? Ramsey this time!!
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Here's Lucy, caving in, taking flight
By Alan Ramsey
October 25, 2003
Dr Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi is a woman, a professor of English, an
international human rights activist, and a politician. A year ago she
was chosen, unanimously, to receive the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize. The
Premier, Bob Carr, will present Ashrawi with her award at State
Parliament in 12 days. The first four recipients of the annual prize
were honoured at functions in the Great Hall of Sydney University.
They included South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1999), East
Timor's President Xanana Gusmao (2000) and Australia's Sir William
Deane (2001). However, for Ashrawi, the Great Hall is out of bounds.
This is not because Ashrawi is either a woman, an academic or a
political activist. It is because she is a Palestinian. That is
enough to ensure a virulent campaign of distortion and ridicule by
Jewish critics to brutalise her image and try to have Carr renege on
Ashrawi's presentation and the award taken from her. So far Carr has
refused to buckle. Not so Sydney University.
Earlier this year the university's chancellor, Justice Kim Santow of
the NSW Supreme Court, made it known to Professor Stuart Rees,
director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, and to Kathryn Greiner, the
foundation's chairwoman at the time, that the Great Hall would be
closed to Ashrawi. Rees and an academic colleague, Ken McNabb, took
the matter to Sydney's vice-chancellor, Gavin Brown. In what was
called a "difficult and shameful" meeting, Brown confirmed the
decision. The campaign now is about maximum political pressure for
other corporate and civic sponsors to abandon Ashrawi and intimidate
Lucy Turnbull, Sydney's Lord Mayor since Frank Sartor joined Carr's
ministry after the NSW elections in March, is the latest to fold her
tent and take flight. Sartor, as lord mayor, had earlier arranged for
the City of Sydney to be a $30,000 annual sponsor, for five years, of
the Peace Foundation lecture, which is always given, in a separate
function, by the peace prize winner the night before the award
ceremony on the first Thursday in November.
On Tuesday this week, in a brief "Dear Professor Rees" letter dated
October 20, Turnbull told Rees the Sydney City Council "will be
unable to participate in this year's Peace Prize events". That is,
the council was blackballing both the lecture and the award ceremony.
Turnbull's reasons for doing so were a travesty: the usual ignorant
mishmash of allegations forever trotted out by the usual suspects
against any Palestinian with international credibility and standing
in the peace process.
Lucy Turnbull should read the letter from a Jewish academic at Oxford
University published in the Herald yesterday. Then she should go hide
her head in shame. The letter responded to Tony Stephens's story in
the Herald two days earlier about Turnbull's craven cave-in to the
anti-Ashrawi campaign. It said: "Opposition to awarding the Sydney
Peace Prize to Dr Hanan Ashrawi has so far been based on historical
ignorance, ideological blindness, wilful malevolence or provincial
political opportunism." (Are you listening, Malcolm?)
The letter continued: "Dr Ashrawi has been a rare and precious voice
of reason in the peace process and her commitment to a just solution
has been exemplary. She has consistently encouraged Palestinians to
reject violence, despite continuing Israeli territorial expansion and
systemic political oppression." (signed) Ben Saul, Tutor in
International Law, Magdalen College, University of Oxford, England.
And what does Rees think of Lucy's white feather? He said
yesterday: "When I negotiated the sponsorship contract with the City
of Sydney, I did so with Frank Sartor, not Lucy Turnbull. She's an
interesting person. I've had face-to-face communications with all the
major corporate sponsors who support us over this issue. I even flew
down to Melbourne to talk to Rio Tinto. But Lucy Turnbull and co are
like the Medicis of the Town Hall. She never talks to me. All I got
was this summary note a couple of days ago in which, for her own
purposes, she completely misinterprets Ashrawi's public statements
and says she won't publicly support us this year.
"In other words, she won't be seen in the same company as Ashrawi.
She doesn't even want to be seen in the lecture theatre. Apparently
it's more than her husband's political life is worth."
Ah, yes, of course - Malcolm Turnbull's much publicised stalking of
the Liberals' Peter King in his pursuit of the eastern suburbs'
federal seat of Wentworth. Lucy Turnbull has gone to ground since
her "Dear John" letter to Rees this week. But a senior business
figure phoned Rees on Tuesday to tell him of a conversation he'd
overheard at a function the previous night. It apparently included
Lucy being told something like: "That wretched King is going around
saying you support the Palestinians because you're a party to this
Rees commented: "So Hanan Ashrawi gets her name sullied and ridiculed
because the Turnbulls want to be more important that they already
And Kathryn Greiner? Greiner was chairwoman of the Sydney Peace
Foundation for four years until her resignation this year over an
issue of solidarity involving her husband, Nick, against the Senate
of Sydney University and unconnected with the peace prize bitchiness.
She was one of the jury of six who selected Ashrawi unanimously in
September last year as this year's recipient (the other five: Rees;
social researcher Hugh Mackay; Dr Jane Fulton from University
management; Stella Cornelius, Sydney's 83-year-old grand dame of
conflict mediation; James McLachlan, a director of Kerry Packer's
Greiner remains a non-voting member in support of Rees. But two weeks
ago, on October 9, she phoned Rees to talk frankly about her concerns
with an accelerating campaign against Ashrawi. A file note of their
conversation reads: KG: "I have to speak logically. It is either
Hanan Ashrawi or the Peace Foundation. That's our choice, Stuart. My
distinct impression is that if you persist in having her here,
they'll destroy you. Rob Thomas of City Group is in trouble for
supporting us. I think he must have had a phone call from New York.
And you know Danny Gilbert [partner in the law firm, Gilbert and
Tobin] has already been warned off."
SR: "You must be joking. We've been over this a hundred times. We
consulted widely. We agreed the jury's decision, made over a year
ago, was not only unanimous but that we would support it, together."
KG: "But listen, I'm trying to present the logic of this. They'll
destroy what you've worked for. They are determined to show we made a
bad choice. I think it's Frank Lowy's money. You don't understand
just how much opposition there is. We cannot go ahead. If only there
was progress in the Middle East, this would not be such a bad time."
SR: "I won't be subject to bullying and intimidation. We are being
threatened by members of a powerful group who think they have an
entitlement to tell others what to do. This opposition is
orchestrated. The arguments are all the same - that Hanan Ashrawi has
not condemned violence sufficiently, that she was highly critical of
Israel in her address to the UN's Johannesburg Conference on racism,
and wilder accusations that do not bear repetition."
KG: "But you're not listening to the logic. The Commonwealth Bank - I
was at a reception last night - is highly critical. We could not
approach them for financial help for the Schools Peace Prize. We'll
get no support from them. The business world will close ranks.
They're saying we are being one-sided, that we've only supported
SR: "Kathryn, we need to avoid the trap of even using the language
of 'one side'. That's not the issue. We are being bullied and
intimidated and you are asking that we give way to it. The letter
writers and the phone callers who this group encourage have spent
weeks bullying a 25-year-old colleague of mine who handles the
foundation's administration. You are asking me to collude with
KG: "I'll tell you how serious this is. Bob Carr won't come to the
dinner. He'll flick the responsibility to [his deputy, Andrew]
Refshauge at the last minute. And you won't get the Town Hall. It is
more than Lucy's life is worth. They will desert us as well."
SR: "I've never given way to bullying. Public life is too much
characterised by cowardice. If we give way I'd be so ashamed I
couldn't face myself. The image of the Peace Foundation would be
shameful. Our reputation would count for nothing."
KG: "My friend, I am telling you what the reality is. The foundation
will be destroyed. I'd hate to see its work come to nothing over
this. Our critics are saying it's an awful choice."
SR: "These critics are 'they' and 'them', invisible but powerful
people. They stay powerful because they are invisible. They bully and
intimidate in the same breath they behave as unblemished pillars of
the community. Do you mean to say that in cautious, often gutless
Australia we are not going to follow through on this? No. I remain
completely committed to our decision."
Watch this space.
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