Hanan Ashrawi: The Israel Lobby and the ‘Peace Process’ From a Palestinian Perspective

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference March 24, 2017 at the National Press Club

The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was solely sponsored by the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). This is a rush transcript.

Delinda Hanley: I’m Delinda Hanley, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs news editor and executive director of the American Educational Trust.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has broken through the glass ceiling that can prevent women around the world from reaching the top. She was the first woman to be elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian [sic] Liberation Organization in 2009. She served as the official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Process from 1991 to 1993 and participated in the 1991-1992 Madrid Peace Conference. In 1993, Dr. Ashrawi founded the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, PICCR, to investigate Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations recording her experiences in This Side of Peace: A Personal Account which she would just sign at lunch time.

In 1996, Ashrawi was elected and subsequently reelected many times to the Palestinian Legislative Council. In 1996, she also accepted the post of Minister of Higher Education and Research. In 1998, Ashrawi founded and continues to serve in MIFTAH in the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. It is not hyperbolic to say that Dr. Ashrawi has also broken through the Palestinian sound barrier, the wall of silence in America’s media which excludes Palestinian voices. She is the Palestinian Iron Dome. Whenever Israel sends war planes, troops, and weaponized drones to attack her people, we can count on Hanan Ashrawi to be out there trying to stop the bombs and the Israeli propaganda. Her only weapon, her articulate reasonable voice and demand for justice and fair play. She will address the Israel lobby and the peace process. Welcome, Hanan Ashrawi.

Hanan Ashrawi: Thank you very much. Thank you. This is indeed heartwarming and humbling. I thank you all for coming. Thank you, Delinda, for your invitation. Thank you, Grant. Thank you, John for picking me up also and all the people who made this possible. I’m delighted to be here with you. I’m delighted to be part of this occasion, this endeavor which in many ways is extremely timely. It does respond to a sense of urgency really. I need to intervene and to say policy and discourse. And it’s wonderful to hear all these not just distinguished people but very profound and persuasive people and courageous people, really, who are speaking truth to power and who are standing up for justice. I don’t want to waste too much time because I have a lot to say. So you have to let me know ahead of time.

As you know this is a very significant occasion because we’re talking about 100, 70, 50, and zero. A hundred years since the Balfour Declaration. I do hope that the Brits will not celebrate it even though Theresa May invited Netanyahu to celebrate with her. This is a colonial legacy par excellence. Seventy years since the partition plan that did partition Palestine and created the State of Israel, at that time on 55 percent of Palestine. Fifty years since the occupation of 1967. And zero time for the two-state solution.

I’m asked to talk about the Israel lobby and the peace process. I will focus on the peace process because you all know that the Israel lobby is never absent. Whenever anything happens related to Palestine, it is there. And when it comes to the peace process, they have always been a shaping force – intertwining, interweaving, intervening their presence and at the same time maintaining their – I don’t want to say control but their influence every step of the way. They play the major role in shaping and influencing U.S. policy particularly the peace process. Since its inception, there’s a sense of ownership that the peace process is owned by the Israeli lobby in many ways because they’re looking out for the interest of Israel all the time.

There are various components of the lobby. As you all know, they’re not monolithic. They all have their impact here and there. But the most significant impact is for the lobby groups, the special interest groups that are closest to the Israeli government in particular. And that tends to be the more hardline extremist groups. Even though there were different voices but the greatest impact was by the more extreme voices. The most influential, of course, is AIPAC and there’s Washington Institute for Near East Policy as you know. As I think back, that has probably had the most direct say in terms of the peace process itself and other organizations – the Heritage Foundation and so on.

So you have all these organizations that move from the extreme right to the center like J Street, what was being discussed before this talk. They all have a different set of requirements and different ways of intervening. There are different fields and players. There’s a diversity in the pro-Israel lobby. There’s the private sector. And as you know Adelson was trying to buy a president here but he’s also buying a prime minister in Israel. Moskowitz who brought settlements, who built settlements in Jerusalem. These are individuals in the private sector that have had a direct impact and direct intervention using their money. Haim Saban, as you know, and Brookings, and down to the left, Danny Abraham who has accompanied the peace process all along from a more liberal perspective.

There are institutions and think tanks individualizing to them. The most significant and you’ll hear me talk him about often not because I like him very much but because he has been the most persistent, Dennis Ross, and no doubt [sounds like], and Martin Heinrich and others. Then you have academic and cultural individuals and spin doctors who have been a primary force in shaping public perceptions including Krauthammer, Dershowitz, I’m sure you’re hearing him now. Daniel Pipes. There are lots of people who are Israeli apologists and spin doctors.

Then you have religious organizations and institutions, self-appointed Israeli apologists and defenders who take the Bible literally, many of them. And this is the extreme Zionist-Christian organizations. They are extremely dangerous in the sense that they do have a literal biblical exegesis that gives Israel license to do whatever it wants. And one of them told me once Palestinians have no right to exist because you’re standing in the way of prophecy, the fulfillment of the prophecy. So I said it doesn’t sound very Christian when you advocate genocide.

And then there are toxic organizations as you know. They have been very effective in distorting the Palestinian message in reality like MEMRI. You know, M-E-M-R-I? You should be aware of this. This is a most toxic organization. It is run by Yigal Carmon who used to be the advisor to the military governors and he became the advisor to Shamir on terrorism and so on. And he used to interrogate me once in a while. But now, he has this organization with tremendous funds. He monitors everything and then he has access to Congress particularly to many decision makers. He distorts Palestinian utterance and anything that is published. We can talk about this later. You have MEMRI, you have NGO Monitor that attempts to badmouth all Palestinian NGOs. You have the PM Watch which is also waiting for any Palestinian to open his or her mouth and they attack.

And then you have publications. I’m sure you’re hearing more and more about Breitbart, for example. Blackstone. These are extreme right-wing white supremacists. Some of them are really anti-Semitic but Zionists, very interesting this combination. Now, they influence substance, structure, procedure, and priorities and objectives in the peace process. They influence terms of reference. And they influence also the players and predominantly the US role in the peace process.

I would like to mention that many of the individuals who are associated follow what I call the revolving door. They use the revolving door as a charge against Palestinians, that when people are arrested, they are released later. But you have a revolving door in terms of their role. Many of them were in the State Department. And it seems that – like Dennis and Martin – that they do go to the State Department and then they leave and go to the Washington Institute or another pro-Israeli lobby. Then they come back through another door in the State Department.

Now we have people in the White House who are not only lobbyists and advocates but who are active supporters of settlements. So it’s not enough to have settlers in the Israeli coalition government. Now you have settlers in the White House. So they don’t need to lobby. They are decision makers. So that’s what’s happening. That frames in terms of influence the peace process with this revolving door. You’ll be surprised also that Israel’s ex-Ambassador Dan Shapiro, for example, decided to stay in Israel. He’s joined the Institute for National Security Studies which is something that also Dennis joined at one point or another – Dennis Ross.

It’s interchangeable. Either they are influencing policy or they are making policy. That’s why American policy was so distorted because they played a significant role in framing and defining the discourse and perceptions, but went beyond that to manipulating the verbal public space, anything related to the peace process. And they generated a narrative based on myths and provided alternative facts. It’s not Kellyanne who invented alternative facts. We’ve been victims of alternative facts all our lives, alternative realities. They’ve certainly willfully misled public opinion with a fabric – I don’t want to go into details about the spin, about the hasbaras they call it. But it has been very active in shaping public perceptions and hence, attitudes.

A distorted pattern emerged that was totally weighted in favor of the occupation generating a cyclical pattern, a vicious cycle that totally subverted progress and led to the current impasse which has been in the making for quite a long time – since the beginning. And they ensured that the peace process maintained its parameters within the domain of Israeli priorities and interest.

Now we are back at the beginning. I wanted to read you a quotation from a paper in 1991, a position paper by the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs. And guess who wrote this? Martin Indyk. This is March 4, 1991 just before the peace process started when President Bush and James Baker were preparing for the 1991 Madrid process. Some of the things he says, I mean, are being said right now. That’s why I call it a cyclical pattern. He says, “Israel now has a golden opportunity to deal with an indigenous Palestinian leadership in the territories before the PLO phoenix rises again. It’s true the prime minister leads an unruly coalition of right wing and religious parties unwilling to countenance territorial compromise in the West Bank. But if that is a genuine offer of peace from the Arab side – outside then – he’s acceptable to delivering a territorial compromise on the Golan Heights and an interim deal for Palestinian self-government which leaves open the final status of the territories.” This is the ongoing policy. I mean, all you need to do is go to the Washington Institute website and you will find all these policy papers.
Now there’s another one. I’m not going to read all these things but this one is the Transition 2017 Toward a New Paradigm for Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, David Makovsky and Dennis Ross, Washington Institute. This is another blueprint that was prepared to give to your new President Trump – and you have my full sympathy – on how to address. Because they want to confiscate the language once again and confiscate the process once again and decide how it’s going to proceed.

Anyway, so the peace process conceptually, the influence was on the terms of reference. They made sure it dealt only with 242 338, not other resolutions. Because 242 338 deal with ‘67. They don’t deal with ‘48 or the roots of the conflict, if you call it a conflict. They also made sure that there was no reference to sovereignty or statehood for the Palestinians. No reference to the roots of the conflict including refugees and so on in 1948, Resolution 181. No international law. It must not apply. Only what the parties agree to in this asymmetry of power where you have occupied and occupied [sounds like], you go and talk and you agree and we’ll agree with whatever you decide.

And of course, they used the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accords in order to define Palestinian objectives or rights as autonomous. We need the autonomy, functional autonomy or self-government for the people as though the Israeli control is a given, and therefore you deal with self-government for Palestinians. No reference to Palestine as a country or the Palestinians as a people or a nation. You’ve had this construct of Israel and Palestinians. It’s never Israel and Palestine. It’s never Israel and the Palestinians. It’s Israel and Palestinians that we found by the wayside.

Again, I mean, look, Nikki Haley at the UN voted against Salam Fayyad, vetoed the appointment of Salam Fayyad as deputy secretary general to Guterres. Why? Because the appointment had the word Palestine. So we are guilty for existing. We are guilty because we have an identity. We are guilty because we are members of Palestine – the Palestinian nation.
Now of course, you’ve read Uri Savir’s article on Madrid II or Moshe Ya’alon’s new article on Let’s Give the Palestinians Autonomy or Netanyahu’s speeches here and there particularly in Australia when he talked about transitional phases and functional approach. We will get to that later. But you have enough literature to see where they’re heading with that.

On substance the priority of course for the peace process was Israel’s security. That was the primary objective. Israel’s security is defined in military terms and maintaining military control. Now, there is doctrine if you want a demilitarized state minus our entity, then if you want a state minus, then it has to be demilitarized. Then Israel has to have full military control especially control over the borders, the air space, territorial waters, and with true presence. And of course, they want the Palestinian Authority to be the security subcontractor.

Congress in its overzealousness wanted to cut off all funds to the Palestinians. There was a resolution – what’s her name? I forgot her name. Anyway, she’s the one who always comes up with these interesting resolutions about the Palestinian culpability a priori. Kay Granger. Any of you from Florida? You’re really blessed with two. Kay Granger and – what’s her name – Ros-Lehtinen. Yeah, the hyphenated name. It’s obsessive with them.

Anyway, but they have decided that they should cut off all funds from the Palestinian. Then AIPAC went to them and said, no, no, no. You can’t cut off funds to the security forces. You have to keep paying the Palestinian security forces because they’re good for Israel’s security. Really. It’s AIPAC that wanted funding for the Palestinian security force. They want a subcontractor and that to them is the primary function of any Palestinian security force.

But also, finally enough with this, it doesn’t have to do with security but I always like to say this. That the Congress in its overzealousness to protect Israel -– who was it? I think, Jim was talking about it or Nick about how they are overzealous. Sometimes they want to outdo AIPAC, the Congress members. Yeah, in their overzealousness to serve Israel and protect Israel, they took resolutions that gave us enormous power. They took resolutions that any organization which accepts Palestinian membership will be defunded by the US and they will not pay their fees. They took resolutions that any convention or agreement that we accede to and so on will not be supported by the US

What’s happening? We told them, fine, we are going to join all of them. This means the US will be isolated because it will have to leave all of them. So can you imagine what happens when we join WIPO Intellectual Property? What will happen to all the patents and intellectual property of the US? Or when we decide to join the Atomic Energy Commission? But they say, if you join these things and if you accede to any agreement or convention that you will be punished. We will not fund you. Well, thank you very much. Let’s accede and see what happens to the US when it has no say in any international organization. Anyway, that’s overzealousness. Sometimes you go overboard where you punish yourself.

Not only that, but we were supposed to be held – I said this before, forgive me if I quote myself, it became a famous quote I think – that we are being held responsible for the safety of our occupiers. That the Israeli settlers and the Israeli army can do whatever they want to us, and we are responsible for their safety. No Palestinian can react not even in self-defense. Because automatically, the terrorist label comes out and like a Post-It it’s on your forehead, you’re a terrorist. Because a 14-year old dared attempt to strike at a soldier carrying scissors – she was carrying scissors. But he was on Palestinian land as an occupation soldier wearing a bullet proof vest, wearing a helmet, and carrying a machine gun at a checkpoint on her own land. But she’s the terrorist. He’s the victim. And she was the one who was shot.

Anyway, we are responsible for the safety of our occupiers. The Israeli army can go into Areas A – and I hate this designation. But Areas A in which we are not supposed to come in. And they can arrest. They can blow up homes. They can do whatever they want at will. But should the Palestinian security forces tried to stop them, they’re in serious trouble. They cannot and they’re not supposed to stand up to the Israeli army. Should any Palestinian react to this intense injustice, then he or she is a terrorist.
Now, in terms of the regional dimension, of course, it has become very clear and it has come back to haunt us. Now it is called the outside-in approach. And it’s a very sexy term now. I’m sure you’ve read this in all the new proposed approaches to peace making, outside-in. Let’s go to the Arabs. Let’s go to the region. Let’s put the API – the Arab Peace Initiative – on its head. Let’s normalize with the Arabs, and then we can deal with the Palestinians. This was from the beginning the Israeli lobby approach. Two tracks, Palestinian-Israeli track, Arab-Israeli track. Bilateral track. Multilateral track. Normalize. Bring the Arabs to normalization with Israel and then the Palestinians will fall in step. Not just that but you transform the Palestinian issue into a domestic issue within Israel. We can control – we’ll deal with them. Therefore, it becomes a question of controlling the people in Palestine. And we are a domestic issue.

I’m sure many of you have read Herzog’s 10-Point Plan. Herzog is supposed to represent the more moderate, what has become the Labor Party in Israel that has been renamed as the Zionist camp, because they have to compete with Likud on Likud’s terms. They have to show they are more right wing and hardliner than the Likud. Now, he has a plan, a 10-point plan. Again, functional approach. Again, gradual approach. Put the Palestinians on probation. I will talk about this later.

But this is Netanyahu’s constant hymn – that the Palestinians live in population centers, fragmented, and localized. Of course, the approach now is back to the Village Leagues approach. If you remember, many of you are young and have not to remember but some of you are old enough to remember the attempts to establish Village Leagues, localized communities, community centers, and so on. But it takes us back even further where you can find collaborators who will collaborate with the occupation and then our lives. It takes us back to the Balfour Declaration, right? Then he say they want to establish a national home for the Jews but at the same time keeping in mind what the interest of – the well-being without prejudicing the non-Jewish communities in Palestine. We are being now addressed as the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

Excuse me. I mean, the majority and the bases were Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, and some atheist but they couldn’t be officially atheist. That’s the majority. We’re not the exception as being non-Jewish. Now, it’s the minority that has become the defining factor. Now, we are the non-Jewish community so we are back to 100 years ago. Of course, there were attempts at bringing together some Arab countries like the Al Kaaba [phonetic] meeting in order to come up with an agreement with Israel. This time it was Netanyahu who scuttled it. The whole approach, of course, is the substance. It’s not ending the occupation but carrying out administrative functions, economic ease, the quality of life argument which is now part of the Greenblatt platform.

I remember when they offered us in the early 1980s to run our lives. They said you can have all the powers and responsibilities of the civil administration. We said, no, thank you. We don’t want to work for the occupation. We want the occupation to leave then we can run our lives. So now, this has become another focus. We are going back to the beginning and even pre-peace process.

Four, maintain the strategic alliance between US and Israel. This was a constant focus of the peace process. It was brought to bear on everything that was done in that context. It has enhanced the power asymmetry and the imbalance until now. The features of this alliance was accommodate Israeli priorities and demands, adopt their own diction and perspective. I was going to say fiction. Yes, most of it is fiction and perspectives. Always, frame the relationship in terms of the Judeo-Christian traditions – remember – and shared values.

So I keep asking my American friends, what shared values? The values of occupation, of enslavement of a people, of impunity, of oppressing a whole nation, of carrying out extrajudicial executions, of demolishing homes, of stealing other people’s lands, and so on. Are these the values you want to share with Israel? Is this the Judeo-Christian tradition? I don’t know. I mean, really. To me, it’s very strange. Because automatically, the moment you find this fusion today, you are excluding Islamic, Buddhist, any other tradition that does not belong to this club. And to me, Islam is one of the most tolerant religions because it doesn’t deny the existence of the others. It builds on Judaism and Christianity while Judaism and Christianity supposedly cancel each other out, don’t they? Anyway.

Of course, the other myth is that Israel is the only democracy in the region. You hear that all the time. This is part of this alliance. Even Theresa May talked about this when she criticized John Kerry for not vetoing the 2334 resolution on settlements. How dare you criticize the only democracy in the region and our best friend, our ally? And the Palestinians, of course, are the alien, the other, the fearful, the incomprehensible. And even the orientalist glasses to quote Edward Said – the late Edward Said have come out again. And of course, there is an automatic linkage between terrorism and Islam. And now, it’s becoming much more evident.

Never surprise Israel with any American statement, position, or document related to the peace process. This I know from experience, and they will admit it. The American team, they always coordinated with the Israelis first on any American position. They always clear that up ahead of time with the Israelis. And if you have the Greenblatt-Friedman Plan, also you should know that it was called a policy paper for Trump. He was candidate Trump then and it became Trump’s policy paper on Israel. You will see how toxic it has become. It was read by him as an AIPAC speech.

Again, never allow or express any public censure or criticism of Israel. That’s why they reacted in such a hysterical manner. They waxed ballistic just for the mere fact that the US abstained on the settlements, when a few years earlier, they had vetoed a resolution on settlements which violate international law and so on. Therefore, they’re not used to accepting any kind of criticism or censure, let alone, sanctions.

Always use the positive approach with Israel. Incentives, rewards, advanced payments, inducements, and so on. When we started the talks, they immediately got the Zionism-Israelism resolution nullified. You know that. And then they got the diplomatic recognition, trade agreements, and so on.

Another thing, of course, incentivizing Israel, including Europe. I can give you many examples how Europe used this approach too. Conversely, you use pressure, threats, and blackmail on the Palestinians. Exploit the weakness of Palestine and augmenting Israeli power and control. Of course, this was the special contribution of AIPAC, ZOA, and others, the Council of Presidents. And drafting Congressional resolutions that always adopted punitive measures against the Palestinians especially if we joined organizations like the ICC and IC3 [phonetic]. How dare you hold Israel accountable? Israel is above the law. Hence, the Palestinians are always on probation, on good behavior. We have to prove that we deserve our rights. We have to prove that we deserve human recognition. It’s a test that we have to demonstrate that we are worthy, the test of merit.

I’m sure you’ve read this which is a horrible article posted on the Gatestone Institute website in which he says, “Palestinians must earn the two-state solution.” And of course, he proceeded to give a fake version of history. I have news for him, the Palestinians don’t think that the two-state solution is a fair or just solution. It was a major painful compromise by the Palestinians. So it’s not our aspiration to give away 78 percent of our land. It is a compromise that we made in order to give our children a future and a life in freedom and dignity and to exercise our right to self-determination. Now, Israel, and probably the world, are not very keen on seeing it happen. Well, I’ll get to that later.

Now, always blame the Palestinians in the blame game. I can give you many examples from the Clinton Parameters, even when there was discussion in Camp David in 2000. I was there. We were told, you will not be blamed. Give it your best shot. And I remember Yasser Arafat told them, “We are not ready. The talks have not progressed enough to have a summit in Camp David.” Clayton Swisher is here. I don’t know if you remember, right? He said, “We are not ready.” And both Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton said give it your best shot. We won’t blame you. What happened later? The whole mess of the generous offer. We were blamed when there was no offer. I said, “Show me. Show me a concrete offer on the table.” There were all these different groups discussing different issues in a fragmented way, but there was no generous offer that the Palestinians – and this myth gained a life of its own, actually.

Now every time you hear an Israeli apologist, he or she will say, you see the Palestinians refused the generous offer. And we have to earn it anyway. Always blame the Palestinians. We said that, again, the roadmap. Do you remember the roadmap 2002-2003? Sharon placed 14 reservations on the roadmap that totally nullified and negated it. They came out and said, the Israelis accepted the roadmap. The Palestinians didn’t. The Palestinians accepted the roadmap knowing that it’s not perfect or ideal. But we knew that not that Sharon was rejecting it. So the issue was that Sharon accepted it and not even a footnote about the 14 reservations. But the Palestinians didn’t. I don’t know where they get their version of history.

Again, John Kerry’s initiative on 2014. You remember when he tried this initiative. He tried to do more of the same thinking that he will get a different result, or thinking that he might get one. Anyway, he promised. He said that any party that scuttles or undermines or reject or whatever the peace talks will be publicly blamed. So what happened?

The Palestinians dutifully went to these negotiations knowing full well that we took a decision not to go, frankly speaking, because there were no terms of reference. There were no clear objectives. There was nothing to tell Israel to stop settlement activities, to respect signed agreements, to release prisoners and so on. And John Kerry said, try your best. He was given a verbal promise, an oral promise by the Israelis that they will minimize settlements, that they will release prisoners.

What did they do? Immediately, they escalated settlements. They escalated violence. They shot a few people on checkpoints. And then they refused to release the last installment of prisoners. So where is the blame? Both sides. They’re not ready. What? The Palestinian leadership lost its constituency for going to these negotiations when they weren’t assured of the substance and outcome. And the Israelis deliberately violated their commitments and obligations and they weren’t blamed. There were some leaks even that the settlements were bad.

In that context, I have to mention this. It’s a very racist statement that makes me very angry. Abba Eban said this, “The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” It has been used to bash the Palestinians and to feed these misconceptions and distortions forever. So every time you hear this, I think you have to reverse this. It’s the Israelis that missed historic opportunities to make peace and totally destroyed the chances of peace. We’re not on the defensive. We don’t have to prove that we make use of opportunities because we never had one.

Of course, the other terms like the leitmotifs of our reality have been shaped by the Israeli lobby. Like, Hamas rockets raining down on Israeli towns and villages. Have you heard this? And it’s repeated verbatim by everybody in Congress and outside Congress. Nobody asked how many did they kill and nobody asked how many Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. And nobody asked about the siege and the assault and so on. It’s as if people in Gaza decided to wake up one day and manufactured these homemade pipes and threw them out of the blue because they’re terrorists by definition. Again, Palestinian terrorism, incitement, and violence.

Now, you cannot mention Israeli settlements without finding a force equivalent with incitement. Palestinians incite. Palestinians incite to violence. Palestinians think that their prisoners are heroes and they are terrorists. So you adopt the language of the Israelis that everybody who’s a Palestinian is a terrorist. But since 1967, Israel has imprisoned more than 800,000 Palestinians, including myself and many others of my friends. And so I don’t think there are 800,000 terrorists. People who did not acquiesce to the occupation or accept to have their spirit broken – these are not terrorists. Israel has killed more than 75,000 Palestinians since ‘67. Who are the terrorists?

Now again, there are new preconditions. The refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, that’s our fault. Either we become Zionists or we are not fit for human company. Again, any criticism of Israel is conflated with anti-Semitism. You’ve heard this before. So this is one way of censoring and silencing criticism. And the Palestinians are not a peace partner. We don’t have a peace partner among the Palestinians. I can’t tell you how many types of negotiations there were needless negotiations from direct to indirect, to proximity talks, to bilateral, to multilateral, to long distance talks, to exploratory talks. And at the end, we even had epistolary talks, exchanges of letters. We’ve been talked out frankly speaking. But it was a good peace process because Israel used it as a cover to create facts on the ground to negate the very substance and to destroy the objective of the talks. So here we are.

Now, while the process is ongoing, never allow any issue critical of Israel to be brought before the UN. This is something ongoing again, massive lobbying. I don’t want to give you too many examples but we don’t have time. I know I’ve run over my time. Should I stop? Okay.

So use the veto and at the same time protect Israel’s impunity. Enable Israel but maintain Palestinian vulnerability. We shouldn’t have access to international organizations or international law to protect our rights and our lands. But Israel has the full right to act outside the law. No sanctions or punitive measures from any party on anywhere, no accountability and so on. And this generated a culture of entitlement, exceptionalism, preferential treatment, and privilege in Israel which in itself justifies the subjugation, discrimination, violence, and total captivity of the Palestinian people, and especially the continued military assaults on Gaza.

Palestinian lives in Gaza have been reduced to abstractions. They are numbers; they’re not human beings. The murder of civilians doesn’t count. It’s the fact that there were 70 soldiers who were killed, that’s very important. But they were being attacked, bombed from the air. Ninety-two families totally obliterated from the population register. It doesn’t matter. And yet, you blame the victim because Hamas was using these people as human shields. Therefore, they have the right to kill them. Of course, the occupier is claiming self-defense. They are defending themselves against their own victims. I’ve never heard this logic before in all history.

Then, the structure and participants, the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation as you know, now it’s back again the whole issue of the Jordanian option, the alternative homeland, the confederation that it’s a Jordanian issue. When they said no Palestinians from the PLO and no Palestinians from Jerusalem, that’s precisely because they didn’t want a national address for the Palestinians, a localized address. Village Leagues, communities, and so on but not the right to self-determination and not Jerusalem.

Again, there was a division of labor. I will skip a few things. That the US is in charge of the political process but Europe and the Arabs are in charge of signing checks. So the political decisions are up to the US It’s a monopoly. The others have to work on nation building. Because you see, we have to prove that we deserve a state even though it is a right enshrined in international law – the right to self-determination. Again, proof of merit.

Even then, for the US to participate directly in the talks, it had to get Israel’s permission. They couldn’t participate unless Israel invited them to participate or asked them to participate with their approval. So Israel positioned itself as a gatekeeper to the peace process. And the Europeans followed step. They always had to give them inducements and advance payments and rewards and so on to allow them to play a role. If you are the occupying power and you are the gatekeeper, what kind of peace process is this where you exclude others.

Procedurally, the phase approach, conflict management, open ended process, you can look at all these documents I gave you. And of course, the deal, we had to deal with administrative technical peripheral issues first. Postpone the real issues and get no guarantees on that. No mechanisms for arbitration, monitoring, and verification although all negotiations should have those. Even though I still believe negotiations between occupying and occupied are illegal. They violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, by the way. And it has to be done between equal parties. But when you have a situation of occupation where one party exercises total control over the others, any agreement will be illegal because it will be reached under duress and with undue influence and force.

And then the whole issue of pocket and proceed. This is happening with things like the land swaps. There was never any agreement on the land swap. But somehow they decided that, yes, land swaps because they want to keep the settlement blocs no matter what. All settlements are illegal whether they are blocs or whether they are outposts or whether they are mobile homes or whatever. They are all illegal. So we never agreed to having settlement blocs as being legal or remaining. Now, they talk about it as a foregone conclusion or that there will be land swaps. It was very difficult to accept the ‘67 boundaries. Now, we have to give away Jerusalem, the Jerusalem environment, Ariel, Gosachion [phonetic], all this. So they pocket and proceed including the issue of refugees by the way.

The process is a process for its own sake. Now, using prolongation and stalling, it is the Dennis Ross logic, I call it, where so long as there’s a process, God is in his heaven, all is well with the world. Let the two parties speak. And then Israel can do whatever it wants on the ground which is an endless process. It became an abstraction. It became a tool for Israeli power and expansionism and so on. And they cover for the occupation. So negotiations became an objective, not a tool to get somewhere.

Now, we are back at the beginning as I said. At one point, there was one point in which there was talk of ‘67 boundaries, two states. It started with George W. Bush and Clinton talking about two states. It wasn’t, by the way, Obama who was bashed by Israel for mentioning ‘67. It was Clinton and George Bush. It was George Bush actually who talked about ‘67 and the two states. So you’ll be surprised. And then now, the cycle is completed. We’re going back to all the issues of the functional approach, non-sovereign approach, gradual approach, and so on.

With Greenblatt, I just want to mention quickly there are two things I cannot skip. The fact that we are not a demographic problem for Israel, please do not accept this. We are a nation with our rights, with our history, with our culture, and we abide by international law. I don’t believe any other country in the world is allowed to discriminate against the people because it wants to maintain the ethnic or religious purity of its own entity at all. So we cannot be a demographic problem to scare the Israelis into giving us our little statelet or state minus, as they say.

Now, they are busy superimposing Greater Israel on historical Palestine. What are the options if they destroyed and they are destroying the two-state solution? Is it the ongoing state of apartheid that exists? Of course, again, they waxed hysterical when people described them as being apartheid. Not what happened to Rima Khalaf. Because now, the UN is echoing the language of Israel at the behest of Netanyahu and Danny Danon, and all these people who formulate that language. If the situation will continue then it will run its course as an ongoing perpetual occupation, conflict, extremism. Or are we going to have a qualitative shift? Maybe we need to de-zionize as Israel rather than zionize the Palestinians.

I have to stop. Okay. I will talk later about what Greenblatt did. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to me. Thank you.

6 thoughts on “Hanan Ashrawi: The Israel Lobby and the ‘Peace Process’ From a Palestinian Perspective”

  1. First the given: Israel needs more space and they’re going to have it. And the US will never have the will to stop them.

    But it’s about time that the illusion of the US presence in the ME is on behalf of Israel. It’s not! Israel is the US’s client state that justifies US war in the ME. It has to be given the appearance that it has nothing to do with US control over the oil resources of the region.

    Americans need to stop buying into the lie that Syria and Iran are a threat to Israel. They’re not and they can never be because they would have to threaten the US military might and nuclear deterrent.

    As Trump threatens to destroy the nuclear agreement with Iran, he will do it under the pretense of protecting Israel. Nobody should continue to buy into that kind of bullsh-t any longer. That excuse simply can’t stand next to the truth.

    Russia has every right to take Iran under it’s wing as a client state. Russia will because client states are the new reality. Only the idea of Iran allowing Russia’s nuclear weapons on their soil is still up for question.

  2. How long will the US purpose need to be served in the ME? The US is determined to not stop in the ME until the conquest of Syria and Iran is completed, per the PNAC.

    If the US exercises caution on Iran then it is going to be ongoing for many years to come. Russia has interests in Iran and Russia has the threat of MAD. Trump is now indicating that won’t be his policy. Even though US interests aren’t likely to allow Trump to pursue his ideas that show his ignorance.

    If the US doesn’t exercise caution then a nuclear war could be likely because Russia and China are going to hold ground on their interests in Iran. And a nuclear war means the end of Israel. Israel and Iran would go first, followed up by complete destruction of Israel by Russia as a US sympathetic target.

    The former, where the US continues to exercise caution is far more likely. There’s your answer but stupid people like you and your fellow Americans are unable to accept the obvious because you have been propagandized into believing US support of Israel is for some other reason than legitimizing US presence in the ME.

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