Most speakers need to lecture before receiving a standing ovation. Dr. Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi received hers before she approached the podium to speak.
Ashrawi, founder of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, gave the inaugural lecture for UCSB’s Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) on Sunday afternoon to a nearly full Campbell Hall audience.
History Professor Stephen Humphreys, in his introduction of Ashrawi, described the occasion as both telling and auspicious because the lecture commemorated the opening of the CMES and fell on Palm Sunday and Passover.
In her lecture, Ashrawi focused on Palestinian hardships as a result of the Arab/Israeli conflict, which has led to Israeli occupation in Palestine. In 1988 the Palestinian National Council accepted a two-state solution that would give 22 percent of historical Palestine, including the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, to the Palestinians; 78 percent of this land would go to the Israelis.
Ashrawi said that since occupation, Palestinians have experienced intrusions in their home and increased violence from shelling and assassinations. Ashrawi, who alluded to many beatings she has suffered as a result of her activism, described the frustrations felt by many Palestinians.
“I bear with me the pain of a whole nation in captivity,” she said.
Palestinians fought against what they saw as Israeli exploitations of power by continually appealing to the United Nations, Ashrawi said, but the U.N. vetoed these appeals.
Fighting has continued despite efforts at peace and nation building, such as the 1991 peace process. Recent skirmishes led to 428 deaths; 138 of them were children under the age of 18, Ashrawi said.
“[The Israelis] blame us for the shooting and killing of our own children. … There is no nation on earth that sends children out to die,” she said. “Nobody’s child should be the target of sniper fire.”
Newly drawn boundaries have disrupted Palestinian life, Ashrawi said. Families have been separated, and children are unable to go to school because not every village has its own.
“We have been treated like inhabitants,” she said. “[The peace] process was losing substance. It had no relation to reality. [Israelis] controlled every entrance and exit to every city. We felt this peace process had become extremely punitive. … Every aspect of our lives has been entirely disrupted.”
In response to Ashrawi’s lecture, a man sitting near the back of the theater shouted, “But they’re killing babies,” referring to the Palestinian violence toward Israelis. Ashrawi responded that certain individuals had taken the matter into their own hands. She said she did not support that course of action.
” ‘Stop the Violence’ – I’ve never heard this statement more than in the last few months,” she said. “Okay, stop the violence, but stop the Israeli violence. … This is not a war situation. This is not a war, this is an occupation. … Stop this pounding and battering of a people because we will not submit.”