Hanan Ashrawi has been invited to speak at Colorado College in a symposium to honor the victims and the families of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This invitation has aroused outrage among many who see the very presence of an official of the Palestinian Authority as an insult to the memory of those killed. Americans have not forgotten the Palestinians? dancing and celebrating in the streets after the attacks.

Hanan Ashrawi was invited apparently, because many in the West often single her out as a moderate with whom Israel could make peace. Indeed, she speaks worldwide, presenting herself as an opponent of terrorism. However, beyond the stain of the Palestinian celebrations of 9-11, the term ?moderate? for Ashrawi is misleading. Is she a moderate by Western standards - openly rejecting terrorism, promoting peace and reconciliation through negotiations? Or is she a ?moderate? only relative to terrorist organizations like Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority, which have been openly promoting terrorism?

Ashrawi may have presented herself in her public English language lecture as opposing terrorism. However, in evaluating Palestinian positions on terrorism it is necessary to examine not what they say in English to foreigners but what they say in Arabic to their own people.

Ashrawi made the first public statement against suicide terrorism in Arabic only recently, in an open petition she signed with other Palestinians in the Al-Quds newspaper on June 19, 2002. The petition, whose main points are quoted below, calling for Palestinians to stop suicide terrorism in Israel, has misled many to consider her a ?moderate?. However, even a simple reading of the petition shows that she explicitly does not reject terror as a tool when it is politically effective, but only when it causes political damage. The petition does not include a single word of condemnation of suicide terrorism, and does not rule out terrorism as an effective tool. It deals entirely with the present negative political results of suicide terrorism for her cause. In essence, what Ashrawi said is that if a suicide bombing, or even the 9-11 bombings, had been politically effective for a cause she believes in, she would have supported it.

It must further be noted that her statement must be understood not only by its clear content but by its timing. Ashrawi did not condemn in Arabic the suicide bombing that killed tens in a Jerusalem pizza shop, or the hundreds of civilians murdered on buses in recent years. Not even once. Yet during this time she was traveling around the world speaking out as ?moderate? in English. It was only when the world public opinion turned against the Palestinians because of a series of murderous bombings that she decided to speak out in Arabic, and then, only about political damage. As stated, her message was explicit; when suicide bombing is damaging politically - it is to be rejected.

She is not a moderate by any Western standard. She is a slick, terrorist supporter who understands the importance of public relations, proper timing and spin for terrorism.

The main points of the Petition signed by Ashrawi:

?We, the undersigned, out of our sense of national responsibility, and in light of the difficult situation of the Palestinian people, hope that those who stand behind the military actions against civilians in Israel, will reconsider their actions and will cease to encourage our boys to perform these operations, because we do not see results from these actions ? We believe that these operations do not advance the fulfillment of our endeavor, for freedom and independence? Military actions are defined positively or negatively not by their own criteria [i.e. the success of the attack itself] but rather according to the achievement of political goals??

Signed by Hanan Ashrawi and others [Al Quds, June 19, 2002].


Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch