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September 1998
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MER - Washington - 9/24/98:

Yesterday at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA -- a weak and somewhat pathetic semi-organization for many years now) hosted a breakfast meeting with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian woman spokesperson from Ramallah well-known for her good English diction, if not sound thinking or political integrity. It was just one of several appearances Ashrawi made in Washington to keep the troops, few and hagard as they are, on board and in line.

It was a small crowd at the Willard, about thirty persons, mostly the same old faces who have nowhere else to go -- retired State Department folk like Gene Bird and his wife who masquerade as friends of the Palestinians under cover of such deceptive organizations as "Council on the National Interest" and "Partners for Peace". Their advice to the Palestinians is always terribly self-serving and wrong-headed; but their perpetual simple-minded optimism always goes a long way with this group. Arab journalists and a few p.r. types filled out the "crowd".

It was all so predictable, all so incestuous, all so politically misguided, all so typically Palestinian in Washington. Most of all though, it's all so sad and tragic for the people of tortured Palestine, and the refugee camps that still dot the region, who with each "agreement" suffer even more than with the one before.

Overall Ashrawi lamented what she called the "crisis" in the "peace process" and urged US intervention to "save" it before it's too late. Ho hum. In 1947 the Palestinians begged the British and the Arab regimes to save them, unable to help themselves having made so many awful and ill-informed decisions in the previous decades. Now, in this "50th anniversary year", the Palestinians are in worse shape then ever, pleading and begging now with the U.S., with an American government that is more in bed with the Israelis than ever before in history.

Ashrawi opened her remarks by saying that a "candid assessment" of the "peace process" was very much needed. But then she proceeded to do just the opposite, providing nothing candid and nothing real; just alot more self-serving platitudes and weak-minded ideas. Forgetting even the recent past, not to mention what should have been learned throughout these 50 years, Ashrawi went on to conveniently blame Bibi Netanyahuís government for the derailment in the peace negotiations, with abit left over for the Americans for failing to do what they never intended to do, no matter what they occasionally say to the Ashrawis of this world at polite Embassy receptions.

Poor Ashrawi, she seems to have forgotten all that went on at Camp David, the Intifada, Madrid, Washington -- the later of which (not the Intifada) she was herself so involved with, thus implicating her personally in the disasters that have ensued.

Predictably of course, Ashrawi then went on to express what everyone already knew, the growing frustration Palestinians now have with the "closures" of the occupied territories and the continuing deterioriation of every-day life for the great majority of Palestinians -- forgetting once again that it was her now favored Israeli Labor party that instigated the closure policies, not to mention the settlement and demolition policies!

These formalities out of the way, Ashrawi then went on to her main work, promoting the Palestinian Authority and its "plan" to declare a Palestinian state in May 1999. Having participated as spokesperson for the last major round of Palestinian blunders, Ashrawi seems oblivious that she and her little clique of upper-crust Palestinian "Leaders" are about to fall into another big trap set for them by the far more astute and crafty Israelis. Indeed, Ashrawi and her friends are in reality, rather than image, living proof that the Palestinians are worse led, more divided, and more manipulated today then they were 50 years ago.

It was about a month ago that Dr. Ashrawi pulled her latest personal p.r. ploy -- resigning from Arafatís "cabinet" to protest, so she said, his autocratic style of "rule" and the corruption of his key ministers. But she didn't even mention any of this at the Willard yesterday morning. And in fact one was hard-pressed to think of anything she would have said differently if she were still an official member of the Arafat "Authority".

When asked in fact about the more recent "resignation" of another of her colleagues, Saeb Erekat , the chief "negotiator", Ashrawi refused to comment other than rushing to say that that was an "internal" Palestinian matter and shouldn't be of any concern. What a guillible lot these Palestinians "friends" and hangers on.

So much for Hanan Ashrawi "on the record". An eloquent representative of the Palestinians in many international arena since the post-Gulf War, post-Intifada "peace process" began, Ashrawi is certainly good with words -- no doubt about that. But the role that she has played, and how badly she has allowed herself to be used and manipulated, these matters are much more hidden and purposefully obscured.

In short when it comes to deeds Ashrawi is very much one of those responsible for the disasters that have befallen her people, even more so during her years as spokeswoman than before. Indeed, Ashrawi -- along with Shaath, Erakat, and Abed-Rabbo to name just a few of the others -- has helped lead the Palestinians to the apartheid fate they now are being stuffed into on their "autonomous" Bantustans. Ashrawi continually makes one excuse after another for the role she has played in all this, unlike the much more dignified Haider Abdul Shafi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Madrid and Washington, who has completely resigned from anything involving Arafat and Oslo. Ashrawi simply refuses to take responsibility for her past mistakes, and worse yet compounds them with every misleading and disingenuous talk she gives.

Ashrawi, an academic by training, is adored by many in the westernized Palestinian elite who themselves so self-servingly, and mistakenly, consider her an excellent representative of the Palestinian educated classes. Her abilities with manipulating words has helped her escape the crucial questions about her real political role in the "peace process", as well as her real political positions.

Ashrawi resigned from the negotiating team when Arafat signed the Oslo Accords -- after all the damage had already been done. But unlike Abdul Shafi, she participated in the White House ceremony. And today she repeats the mantra -- like a trained parrot -- that the backtalk channels which led to Oslo were necessary for the legitimization of the PLO and to get a "peace process" going. What a laugh! The Israelis got the Palestinians to recognize the Israeli State and accept "autonomy"; while in return the Israelis recognized Yasser Arafat and got rid of direct control of Palestinian "population centers", now being turned into the equivalent of Indian reservations, complete with gambling casinos for foreigners only!

After the Oslo accords, always seeking a self-serving and politically correct way that her European and American friends could help fund, Ashrawi started her very own human rights group. But it wasn't too long before she felt the need to get back in the bigger limelight; so she went back to work for the main human rights "violator" himself, Yasser Arafat, as "minister" of higher education. Scandalously, she accepted this new post even while Arafat's Gaza thugs were torturing Dr. Iyad Sarraj -- a true human rights champion -- and threatening him with death for courageously speaking out against the regime Ashrawi was once again officially speaking for.

While the former head of the Palestinian delegation, Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi, continued to plead with Ashrawi to stop her involvements with Arafat, she instead prefered to have it both ways. On the one hand she is able to say she opposes some things that are going on, after all she "resigned". While on the other hand she continues to say and do much as she did before; now as a kind of less than official "autonomous" representative of the Arafat regime. Pressed about the hypocritical role she is playing, Ashrawi insists that she now plans to "network" with Arab and European governments, as well as organizations such as the NAAA, to "build up momentum" for the coming "declaration" of Statehood.

Apparently no one has told Ashrawi (not that she would listen anyway) what a tremendously demoralizing failure all the Arab groups combined turned out to be this year, the "50th Anniversary" year, with their major effort of "the quilt." They will be no more effective in the year ahead; but they will of course claim just the opposite, trotting out the old long-ago totally co-opted windbag Clovis Maksoud to proclaim their successes far and wide.

More importantly -- for all the Arab groups combined amount to practically nothing in the political world of Washington -- apparently no one has explained to Ashrawi that she is about to help lead her people into one more trap, into another disaster, this one maybe fatal. Bibi can't wait for Arafat's "Declaration" will be just the excuse he needs to crush the Palestinians further, fulfilling Yitzhak Rabin's real pledge which was to "break their bones" and their will.

Ashrawi really does love to have things both ways, trying to pay lip service to as many constituencies that might further invite her to this or that speaking event where she can continue to advocade her cheap and easy slogans of "peace and reconciliation". Indeed this role and approach is precisely why she is wined and dined by so many so often in the West where she much prefers to spend her time rather than with the destititute Palestinian masses.

Ashrawi talks all the time about the need to get the peace process "back on track", yet inserts here and there that the peace process is basically flawed (i.e., it never was really on track to start with). 

She always refrains from seriously criticizing Arafat's duplicitous and corrupt regime, from naming names, or from dealing consistently with the PA's miserable human rights record. But then she mentions in a passing sentence or two a few specific human rights violations by the "security forces"; as if these were aberrations on the way to being corrected.

Actually the crowd that constantly invites Ashrawi to Washington's fancy hotels and restaurants -- the "client organizations" and the "client regimes" they interact with (this time only the Egyptian Ambassador bothered to attend) -- is itself enough to explain what Ashrawi really is all about: a snobbish Palestinian Arab aristocratic personality who covets the limelight and will do anything and everything to stay in it. In short, she is a client and captive personality used in her familiar role precisely because she combines rhetorical gifts with political cowardice.

Arafatís much-despised "Ambassador" in Washington, Hasan Abdul Rahman, was also at the breakfast, of course. Rahman's only real job is to be the eyes and ears of Arafat, his personal patron and without whom Rahman would long ago have gone into oblivion (which would still be a small plus for the Palestinian cause if it could somehow be arranged). 

Rahman is a petty, corrupt, thuggish, semi-literate character, and thus, in a sense, a fitting representative of the Arafat regime. He acts as a kind of combined escort and enforcer, in cases like this making sure Ashrawi and everyone else invited to such affairs stays on assigned topic, saying nothing whatsoever "candidly", and most important of all says nothing seriously critical of Arafat or his regime. With Rahman always present and always reporting back to the "Authority" through the good offices of the Arab League, none of the cliquish Palestinians who are invited to speak in Washington these days, Ashrawi foremost among them, will ever give a trully "candid assessment" of anything. Instead they are simply paraded from one incestuous and deceitful gathering to another, misleading and demoralizing the best and the brightest who increasingly want nothing to do with any of them or the organizations that host them. And all the while they work overtime to deflect blame from themselves while pretending to champion what in reality they are actually undermining.

For additional insights into the role Hanan Ashrawi and her circles have played since the forced end to the Intifada and its replacement with the American/Israeli "peace process", a number of articles written in earlier years will soon be republished by MER - "The Selling of Hanan Ashrawi," and "Boring Diplomacy". Please let your friends know by sending them this initial article -- there is still time to get onto the MER Distribution List.

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