- SYDNEY (Khaleej Times, DPA)
-- The row over the awarding of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian
activist Hanan Ashrawi has brought to Australia a conflict that some migrants
left the Middle East to get away from.
- Previous recipients of an annual prize awarded by the
Sydney Peace Foundation and paid for by the taxpayers of Sydney have been
South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, the former United
Nations high commissioner for human rights.
- It's the first time the award has been controversial.
Australia demands immigrants ditch old ethnic and religious grudges on
their arrival. The trading of barbs over Ashrawi and her fitness for the
prize is seen as a new and worrying departure.
- Dr Ashrawi will receive the prize from New South Wales
premier Bob Carr, but Mayor of Sydney Lucy Turnbull is boycotting the ceremony
and has ordered City of Sydney employees to do likewise.
- Turnbull's beef is that Ashrawi is not a peacemaker but
a hardliner who criticised the Oslo peace process in 1993 and who has condemned
Washington's "road map to peace" initiative.
- Prime Minister John Howard, Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer and other members of the cabinet have also said Ashrawi's record
makes her underserving of a peace prize.
- But Carr is standing firm. "I've never been more
resolved to attend a function in my life," the leader of Australiaís
biggest state said.
- Sydney Peace Foundation director Stuart Reed is also
adamant that Ashrawi should be honoured, alleging that the city's powerful
Jewish community had "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".
- Reed has his supporters. The Sydney-based Jewish Democratic
Society describes Ashrawi as a "convincing advocate of a two-state
solution to the conflict". Jews Against the Occupation spokeswoman
Angela Budai characterised Ashrawi as a "Palestinian moderate who
has fought for democracy and human rights".
- The row has even generated ripples in Israel. Professor
Baruch Kimmerling, a sociologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
chided Sydney's Jewish community for lobbying against Ashrawi.
- "There are few international figures in the present
who deserve a peace prize more than the outstanding Palestinian leader,
intellectual and peace activist Dr Hanan Ashrawi," Kimmerling said.
- The forces ranged against Ashrawi are potent.
- Former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld said Ashrawi,
on her last visit to Australia, had "let forth an unreconstructed
form of Israel-bashing" and since then had "increased her anti-Israel
rhetoric, coloured it with an anti-Jewish flavour and so dealt herself
out of serious dialogue".
- The most surprising thumbs-down for Ashrawi came from
Colonel Mike Kelly, a senior army officer serving in Baghdad, in a letter
imploring Carr to think again about Thursday's prizegiving.
- Kelly, a military lawyer who has served in Bosnia and
Somalia, wrote that awarding Ashrawi was tantamount to betraying soldiers
in the field.
- "It is precisely these kinds of legitimising actions
that have encouraged the terrorism that I and my colleagues in the coalition
forces are engaged in fighting," he said.
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