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Ashrawi Interview Transcript Page

Hello and welcome to The Odyssey. We're here in Jerusalem on Thursday, January 6, 2000, and with us we have a very special guest, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. Dr. Ashrawi has been recognized by the world community as one of the most respected representatives of the Palestinian movement.

Kevin:
Dr. Ashrawi, thank you very much for joining us here today.

Dr. Ashrawi:
My pleasure.

Kevin:
Could you tell us please, when you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well, I've always wanted to be in academics. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be with younger people. And even when I was young I always saw myself in a teaching role. Even though as a Palestinian I never had the luxury of sort of deciding what you want to be and pursuing it single handedly because reality always intrudes.

Kevin:
Ok. What idea or person has been your greatest influence?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well, in many ways my father has been the greatest, among the greatest influences in my life. In a direct and immediate way; in terms of my own perceptions of my own self value of my role as a human being, as a woman, and as, let's say a launching pad, a power base to give me the confidence and the support to pursue what I felt was important to me. As well as providing me with a system of values that came from both my parents, but if you're talking about public figures. There have been many and I think that one person I admire most and I feel very close to and I still do is a very, very dear friend of mine it's Nelson Mandela.

Kevin:
What is the most important thing you've learned by traveling and living abroad?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well basically it's essential humanity of people everywhere. That there is an authenticity to culture and identity, but it should be used as a means of creating an inclusive harmony that recognizes, no, that has the integrity of different cultures and different identities. But at the same time the recognition that what we have in common as human beings is so much more essential and important and the focal point of all cultures of all pursuits political or otherwise has to be the human being herself, himself.

Kevin:
What are you proudest of in your life?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well, as a mother it's always my daughters. That's my immediate instinctive, you know, sort of visceral response. I am very proud of my babies, but I am also proud of something I haven't personally achieved but, I'm proud of being a Palestinian, of the Palestinian people as a whole, and I'm proud of the fact that we haven't been distorted. We haven't become victims to our own suffering, in a way, and have therefor maintained a commitment to peace and a legitimacy for peace even though conditions have been extremely painful. We haven't succumbed to a sort of vindictive attitude and entered the cycle of revenge. And so in a sense I'm proud of the fact as Palestinians we have succeeded in legitimizing a discourse of peace, of maintaining our humanity and will, and at the same time standing up for our rights

Kevin:
Dr. Ashrawi, what has been the hardest thing about your work?

Dr. Ashrawi:
I don't think any part of my work has been easy so it's not an easy choice to tell you what's been hardest. In many was I think being a woman who is challenging what is traditionally considered the main domain of men, which is the political arena. That has been extremely difficult. Also, to maintain a commitment and trying to gain a constituency for peace has been extremely difficult. To forge a new discourse, a new vision, and to not just gain an audience for it, but a substance and a credibility among people. This has been tremendously difficult. And it started with, a very, very dangerous let's say, we've taken many risks, a dialogue with the Israelis to try to achieve a common perception and a common agenda for peace. And at the same time even in the midst of the Intifada and the struggle, to face the army, the occupational army, the Israeli army. To face guns, and weapons, and so on, and maintain your humanity and not to be intimidated. This was extremely difficult as well.

Kevin:
Dr. Ashrawi, what special contributions do you feel that women in particular bring to the Palestinian movement?

Dr. Ashrawi:
I think women are a very courageous and vocal human voice and substance of the Palestinian movement. Women have been at the forefront of the struggle for liberation, at the forefront of the struggle for democracy and human rights, at the substantive issues pertaining to decision making, good governance, as well as peace. So I think women bring not just gender sensitivity and social justice. They bring a woman's perspective to politics, to economics, to social justice, to all aspects. And our contribution has been to challenge to prevailing wisdom of male ego, male domination, militarization, and to deal with human realities, and to deal with the issues, not just with self-interest. This is the main contribution of women. They have been very brave, very daring, very articulate, very creative in approaches to different aspects of politics and human life as a whole.

Kevin:
Dr. Ashrawi, what do you think of our project, the Odyssey?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well I think it's a very valuable project. I don't want to use the obvious comparison with an epic, but it is after all an adventure in awareness, in knowledge, and it is a networking system. And it is reaching out to people who are, to me, the most crucial, the most decisive aspect, or sector of humanity as a whole. So I really applaud this project. I think it's tremendous. I think the Odyssey, in a way, is trying to create links and direct contacts for better understanding because knowledge is a right also. I believe getting firsthand knowledge, and getting involved, and not just receiving passively, but in shaping this knowledge is very important, and I appreciate the networking that is being done. And going with a sense of authenticity to the different places and then feeling that this kind of effective communication is crucial. After all it's the young who are not just the inheritors of the future, but they are the shapers of the future.

Kevin:
Dr. Ashrawi, what advice do you have for students living abroad who would like to help Palestinians achieve their national aspirations?

Dr. Ashrawi:
Well, it's very presumptuous to give advice, but I would say, openly, the first thing is to get to know the facts. Knowledge is not just power, knowledge is a responsibility. The facts and information are important in order to undo the damage done to the Palestinians through a long history of distortion, of prejudice, of stereotyping, and of exclusion and denial. Knowing the facts, knowing, gaining this knowledge and information means that one has the responsibility to stand up and to speak out, and it does take courage to do that, to get involved, to make the commitment to a cause the has long been maligned and distorted. So I believe first of all knowledge, then speaking out on that knowledge, and networking, reaching out to others. And daring to defy the sort of platitudes and stereotypes and the ignorance of others, and to take action, in terms of joining support systems and groups, in terms of coming here as well and learning the facts firsthand. Participating effectively in a very, very exciting period of not just attempting to make peace because the peace process is one thing and has its own problems and difficulties, but to be engaged at the human level in the nation building process. This is a historical opportunity to create a network of support systems. So I would say know your facts, stand up and speak out, get engaged, get involved, don't be intimidated, and participate.

Kevin:
Thank you very much again Dr. Ashrawi for joining us.

Dr. Ashrawi:
You are most welcome. It's my pleasure.



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