Palestinian Wins Sydney Peace Prize
- Furor over Palestinian choice for Sydney Peace Prize
4 November 2003
SYDNEY, Australia-- The Sydney Peace Prize has been anything but
peaceful this year.
A war of words has been raging in Australia's largest city ever
since it was announced that the prestigious award would go to
prominent Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi at a ceremony Thursday night.
Ashrawi joins an illustrious list of past winners that includes East
Timorese President Jose "Xanana" Gusmao, South Africa's Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, and former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Mary
Winners have to have "made significant contributions to global
peace," the Sydney Peace Foundation that awards the prize says.
Ashrawi has been one of the Palestinian Authority's greatest
critics, attacking its human rights record and promoting peace. She
routinely turns up at nonviolent protests and encourages dialogue
with prominent left-wing Israelis.
But immediately following the announcement earlier this year she
would be awarded the prize, "influential sections of the Jewish
community campaigned to vilify her, to ridicule the status of the
prize, to pressure the companies that are partners of the foundation
to cease their public and financial support and to petition the
Premier not to give the award," wrote Stuart Rees, the foundation's
president, in a recent editorial published in The Sydney Morning
Jewish community leaders vigorously rebuffed the allegations.
"Hysterical references to 'the power of the Jewish lobby' are merely
crude attempts to deflect attention away from the cold hard facts of
Ashrawi's public record," wrote Peter Wertheirm, a former president
of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, in an editorial,
also printed by the Herald.
Members of the Jewish community claimed Ashrawi has rejected the
1993 Oslo accords, and has tacitly endorsed terror attacks blamed on
the militant group Hamas by describing it as a political movement.
On the Union of Progressive Judaism Web site, Rabbi Fred Morgan said
the prize appeared to legitimize "the Palestinian cause, and ... the
means by which that cause is pursued. That cause is pursued by
terrorist homicide bombings, intended to kill innocent people."
The protests spurred members of Arab communities to form their own
lobby groups to support Ashrawi. Newspapers' letters pages have been
full of rival views and editorials addressed the controversy at
Ashrawi will have her chance to contribute to the debate when she
gives a speech at a sellout function in Sydney on Wednesday evening.
Sydney Mayor Lucy Turnbull said she would not attend Thursday's
ceremony, prompting some to suggest her decision was linked to the
fact her husband is a prospective candidate for a federal parliament
electorate in a Sydney suburb where many Jewish people live. She
called the suggestion "deeply offensive."
Even Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer weighed in by suggesting that former Palestinian prime
minister Mahmoud Abbas, rather than Ashrawi, be recognized for his
efforts to broker peace - if a Palestinian is to get the award.
The non-profit Sydney Peace Foundation has vowed to go ahead and
present Ashrawi with the award.
"The jury does not look for people who have led impeccable lives,
nor does it perceive achievements for peace only in terms of a
significant outcome such as a signed treaty," Rees wrote.
"It examines the records of those who have engaged in the struggle
for human rights, have made contributions to democratic governance
and have been advocates of the philosophy and practice of
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