Hanan Ashrawi: the West’s preferred voice of Palestine

One of the most powerful Arabs, Ashrawi is the Middle East’s version of the Unsinkable Molly Brown



According to Arabian Business, Hanan Ashrawi is No. 353 on its list of the world’s 500 most powerful Arabs. This is a drop from last year when she was No. 100 but don’t count the lady out. Ashrawi is imperishable, the Middle East’s version of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. She is a professional Palestinian, the Western’s media’s go-to person for the weekly update on Israeli-American perfidy. Actually, I’m not being fair. She has spoken warmly about an American diplomat once, ambassador Christopher Stevens, but he had to be assassinated first. De mortuis nil nisi bonum etc.

Rockets over Beersheba sounds cinematic and in that film Ashrawi would play the part of the cunning female spy beguiling Israeli intelligence. She doesn’t beguile anyone with actual knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but she’s catnip for American TV. This week CNN’s Piers Morgan found himself rear-ended by Ashrawi’s collision with truth. “What’s an Israeli supposed to do when showered with rockets?” he asked a few times. Hanan’s eternal answer: “The real issue is the brutal occupation.” One might have thought Israel occupied Gaza, not Hamas.

Hanan Ashrawi burst into view on ABC-TV in 1988 when Ted Koppel went to Jerusalem to cover the first intifada. Ashrawi was a minor player on his show but stole it with her perfectly nuanced English and her sorrowful, powerful, just plain wonderful sense of outrage at the al-Nakbah (Arabic for “the disaster,” now referencing the day Israel was created as a Jewish state) plus her smart suits and inspiring reasonability. She modestly describes herself as “essentially a human being with a multi-dimensional mission,” which, I suppose, is reassuring because I have often wondered if she was actually a figment of my nightmares.

As daughter of the one of the PLO’s founding members, Daoud Mikhail, Ashrawi has an impressive pedigree only slightly flawed because she is Christian (lapsed), a negative which subsequently has gone positive as proof of the inclusivity of the Palestinian National Council to which she was elected. She is a handsome woman and telegenically a welcome replacement for the stubble of Yasser Arafat. I spent time with her in 1993 in the city of Ramallah where she lives with her daughters and husband Emile, who appeared to be a perfect house-husband. Their home was her father’s house and has, as she pointed out, a good view of occupied Palestine—which appeared to be all of Israel, but I may be mistaken. It might only be three-quarters of Israel. She understands the need of some Jews to interview her: “The American ones often have a sort of guilt they need to tell me about.”

I had no feelings of guilt, but while she was unable to seduce me the way she did ABC’s Peter Jennings back in her adventurous university days in Beirut (in fairness, I don’t think I was her type ever), I still wanted to get along with her. In that sense, I am a bit of a pushover because the notion of everyone getting along in the Middle East just strikes me as so sensible and Ashrawi is clever with a sense of humour, the sort of woman you’d like to hang out with after having schlepped around the Bay and Holts looking for the perfect shade of lipstick that always turns out to be wrong when you get it home. I read her 1978 essay “The Contemporary Palestinian Poetry of Occupation” and there’s no doubt she can do the academic tea dance—as in, “Rather, through a study of the objective conditions one can come to a better understanding of—and not an apology for—the literary works of the people . . . ”—blah blah blah, but she also has a genuinely sensitive ear for poetry. Shared though this love of poetry is, I don’t think we will be sitting reading verses to each other in this world. She really really doesn’t like Jews. Well, possibly Daniel Barenboim, brilliant conductor, splendid with integrated Palestinian and Israeli musicians, but clueless about the consequences of his dream bicultural state of Israel—namely an Israel with Jews as second-class citizens were they allowed to remain. Or perhaps he does know and doesn’t give a bizir bateekh.

One often wondered why Israel couldn’t come up with an attractive spokesperson to counter Ashrawi, a sexy but informed Israeli Defense Forces female in form-fitting uniform with a Ph.D in archeology, perhaps. Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich, head spokesperson for the IDF international press unit, fits the role—blond, slim, gun-slinging and the Jewess of every pre-med’s dreams—but you don’t see her much on television. I suppose it adds up. When the world saw Israel as the plucky little nation democratically created at the UN in 1948, media outlets wanted to reinforce that view. Hence lots of airtime for the late Cambridge-educated Abba Eban, who wasn’t often accused of murdering and oppressing Palestinians. These days even Eban would not be allowed to appear in a heroic light. The media attitude determines the credibility of the spokesperson, not the spokesperson’s “spoking.” Ever since the early ’70s, it’s been pointless to groom anyone to present a positive image of Israel because today’s received wisdom simply won’t allow it.

Right now Ashrawi is on a jag against Canada, and CBC’s As It Happens gave her a platform to expound earlier this year. “We couldn’t understand why Canada would do such a thing and would lose so much standing and respect throughout the world,” she told the interviewer, in reference to Canada’s disinclination to vote for every UN resolution condemning Israel. It’s not AIH’s style to confront guests, but they might have replied that Canada really didn’t mind exclusion from the company of such seekers of truth as Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Still, what’s a guy to do when faced with Hanan Ashrawi? Close your eyes, lie down and enjoy the intellectual plunder. The rest of the world does.


Hanan Ashrawi: the West’s preferred voice of Palestine

  1. Muammar Gaddafi was pushing other Arab countries to adopt a gold standard currency which would have eclipsed the dollar and the euro.

    So the whole country of Libya was sacked in order to kill him.

    When the ‘rebels’ ousted Gaddafi, what was the first thing they did ? Form a new GOVERNMENT ?

    Nope. They formed a LIBYAN NATIONAL BANK.

    Now, why would they do that?

    And even though they ‘ousted’ Gaddafi, he remained sole proprietor of the Libyan National Bank (the original one) until he (and his heirs) died.

    So… guess what?

    The EUSSR needed Libya’s oil and since they have been on US military welfare since WW2, they had their dupe Sodom Hussein Obama arrange the assassination of their newly uncooperative stooge Muammar Queerdaffy, who they previously had on the UN Human Rights Commission.

    In Syria, nobody wants to get openly involved because it would force them to admit that George Bush was right and the WMDs Saddam Hussein did have and did use on Kurds and Iranians went over to his friend (and formerly theirs) Bashar al-Assad in the Ba’ath Socialist party.

    The EUSSR socialists can never face the facts of what socialism really is.

    Smuggling guns to narcoterrorists in Mexico is the same modus operandi as smuggling guns to the Salafist terror groups in Syria…

    The deliberate indifference to the planned assassination of US ambassador Stevens just eliminated one loose end.

    Leon Puñettas was just too busy having gay pride celebrations at the Pentagon and couldn’t spare the troops to protect an ambassador…

    (Serbia was bombed by NATO so the IMF could make loans to rebuild and get control of the iridium assets.)

    It is never, ever about human rights at all with these people, it is all about who controls….

    – –

    These people all believe the same thing…

    They all believe their weenies come from heaven and that this gives them some sanctified right to pass their collection plate at gunpoint for the gods of communism (themselves).

    Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.

    I’m not on anyone’s side.

    If the Iranians nuke Israel, the Palestinians also die in the fallout.

    If the Israelis nuke Tehran that doesn’t bother me either.

    It is a win/win situation for me, because I don’t like any of them.

    Antagonists on both sides profit from further conflict and these fake progressive “human rights” organizers would be unemployed if the conflicts ended.

    They feed off of the misery for their paychecks.

    I’d happily bury them all in the same hole so there is truly peace at last.

  2. This piece is just plain weird. Why is a an op-ed written in the first person attributed to macleans.ca? Your integrity is slipping.

    • yeah it’s a little bizarre. And since it’s attributed to the magazine itself, I can only assume “Jewess” is part of the acceptable terminology for the magazine now, for which they should be ashamed.

  3. I find this article meaningless. Wonder who MACLEANS is trying to please !!??

  4. Dreadful article…who wrote this?

  5. Very biased reporting, won’t be reading Macleans again for a very long time.
    Just as I felt the last time I glanced at a drs office copy. Not worth a dollar.

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