Where We Went Wrong - by Hanan Ashwari

(taken without permission from the progressive, madison, wi. feb. 2002)

Where we went wrong:  A Palestinian's soul search
The Progressive
Feb 2002


Ashrawi considers why and when the drive for revenge overtook Palestinians'
pursuit of human rights and the struggle for human dignity and liberty,
thereby making them fall in the trap of the reactive mode as deliberately
set up by the Israeli occupation. The current dynamic generated by the
occupation and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's lethal agenda must
not be allowed to run its course.
Copyright Progressive Incorporated Feb 2002


Full Text:

The dynamics of violence, revenge, and all other forms of dehumanization
seem to have taken hold as both Palestinians and Israelis are locked in
a fatal embrace that promises to plunge both peoples into the abyss. 

Objectively, the term "stranglehold" is a more appropriate description
of the type of proximity between occupier and occupied, an abnormal grip
that is both insanely obsessive and mutually destructive. 

While immobilizing his "adversary," Ariel Sharon is repeatedly calling
on Yasser Arafat to do more to "end the violence and rein in the terrorists."
With mindless monotony, Israeli and American officials continue to chant
this refrain like a blind chorus in a Greek tragedy, though lacking any
critical distance or insight. 

This bizarre and painful condition is no act of fate, no accident of history.
Rather, it is the natural outcome of the deliberate distortion of history
in the form of a festering colonial malady that has been allowed to infect
both body and mind with no remedy in sight. 

How else can one interpret the victimization of a whole captive and defenseless
nation, with a no-holds-- barred assault on their lives, lands, rights,
freedoms, and aspirations? 

How else can one interpret this incessant shelling, pounding, beating of
a people who have nowhere to go beyond their homes and whose very homes
are being demolished, burned, and besieged? 

How else can one interpret this deliberate unraveling of the modest achievements
of the peace process and the even more deliberate bulldozing of any prospects
of a future peace? 

How else can one interpret Sharon's blind extremism if not in the settling
of historical scores (particularly with his favorite scapegoat/punching
bag, President Arafat) and the stubborn compulsion of arrogance that can
declare an "open season" on everything Palestinian and then order the Palestinians
to do Israel's bidding in abject submission? 

How else can one interpret the blinders that have suddenly and collectively
warped the vision of most Israeli media, simultaneously distorting their
perspective, scope, depth, and field of vision? The banal litany of official
jargon, processed language, and uniform allocation of blame seems to have
had a fatal impact on their own critical perceptions as well as on the
conscience of their readers/viewers/audience. 

How else can one interpret the self-- destructive political sado-masochism
that has rendered most of the Israeli "peace camp" both voiceless and powerless,
with the exception of Shimon Peres, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and their ilk,
whose cooptation by the extremist camp has rendered them hypocritically
vociferous and militarily brutal? 

Nowhere is this malady as apparent and potent as it is in the Sharon-on-the--
rampage syndrome, an anachronism of history woefully bent on repeating
the crimes of a dishonorable past while destroying the future of both peoples.

As Palestinians, albeit the victims, we too have to admit our share of
the blame and ask ourselves those questions that have remained silent or
whispered in the privacy of closed-door discussions. 

Why and when did the drive for revenge overtake our pursuit of human rights
and the struggle for human dignity and liberty, thereby making us fall
in the trap of the reactive mode as deliberately set up by the occupation?

How did we allow Sharon to formulate our agenda and dictate our timing
by responding to his calculated provocations specifically designed to draw
us within his cycle of retribution? Pain, grief, and the impulse for revenge
are negative motivations that give rise to mutually destructive acts of
desperation. No relief and no remedy can be found in that course. 

Why and when did we allow a few from our midst to interpret Israeli military
attacks on innocent Palestinian lives as license to do the same to their
civilians? Where are those voices and forces that should have stood up
for the sanctity of innocent lives (ours and theirs), instead of allowing
the horror of our own sufferin to silence us? 

How did some from amongst us take up the tools and weapons (however ineffectual)
that are chosen by others and on their own terms instead of fending off
and exposing Israeli military violence with our own empowerment as advocates
of freedom, justice, and peace? Turning our reality into a battlefield
plays directly into the Israeli government's hand, not only by allowing
it to use its superior military strength, but also by eradicating the fact
of the occupation from public discourse and by creating false impressions
depicting the Palestinians as aggressors and the Israelis as engaging in

When and why did we allow the concept of resistance (and the right to resist)
to become the exclusive domain of armed struggle rather than the expression
of our human will and spirit in defiance of subjugation, intimidation,
and coercion? 

How did we allow ourselves those modes of behavior that we abhor or condemn
in others? When and why did our nation-building process become subject
to the narrow agenda of the few who consider themselves above the law and
beyond accountability, and who have persisted in their politics of proprietorship
despite their dismal record and inability to deliver? 

How did our principles of democracy and the rule of law become subsumed
by practices of intimidation, exclusion, and lawlessness? When and why
did our elected legislative council become a political instrument for the
few or a self-negating, powerless body for the many? 

How did the right to hold free and fair elections become a one-time indulgence
in some instances and a suspended exercise in others? 

When and why did our Basic Law and other unsigned bills disappear, our
judiciary become impotent, and our law enforcement agencies sever their
ties with the law? 

How did we leave a whole people vulnerable, at the mercy of rhetorical
bombast on the one hand and relentless military assaults on the other,
with no political strategy and no reprieve or protection? 

When and why did international public opinion become desensitized to the
plight of Palestinians under occupation, with the silence of the Arabs
and the duplicity of the rest? 

How did the public presentation of the people and the cause become hostage
to the excesses of the few, and fall victim to the distortions and fabrications
of official Israeli malice? 

Whether targeted by an immoral and brutal occupation or suffering silently
from internal inequities, the people of Palestine do not deserve their
perpetual victimization. 

Whether deafened and terrorized by exploding shells and missiles or stunned
by the silence of their officials and allies, the Palestinian people deserve

Whether grieving for their murdered children and their destroyed homes
and crops or smarting at the indignity and deliberate humiliation of the
siege and checkpoints, the Palestinian people will not be dehumanized.

Who has the courage now to restore hope to a people whose spirit has ever
been broken and whose will remains undefeated despite intolerable adversity?

Who has the courage once again to intervene in the course of history and
to change its direction from death and destruction to the promise and release
of a just peace? 

The current dynamic generated by the occupation and the Sharon government's
lethal agenda must not be allowed to run its course. Freedom, democracy,
statehood, and human dignity are rights that can no longer be put on hold.


Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, is the
Arab League's Arab Media General Commissioner. This article is reprinted
without permission of Media Monitors Network (MMN) and Hanan Ashrawi, copyright
2001, www.MediaMonitors.net.