Middle East dialogue gives voice to Palestinian side



Five months ago, protestors gathered outside the Singletary Center for the Arts in opposition to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to UK. Now, members of the UK community have the opportunity to hear — and perhaps protest — the Palestinian side.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator who has served as a political activist for years, will present the Palestinian side to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The speech is part of UK’s initiative for yearlong dialogue on prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Terry Anderson, a UK journalism professor and former chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, invited Ashrawi to UK when the university was looking for a Palestinian spokesperson to balance Olmert’s speech.

Anderson, who has known Ashrawi since the mid-1980s, said no one would speak better for the Palestinian side than she.

“This is a particularly crucial time in Israeli-U.S./Palestinian relations, there’s a lot going on, and Dr. Ashrawi has been a voice for peace for many years,” he said. “ … it’s only right and fair that we should hear the Palestinian side, and I can’t think of a better spokesperson for the Palestinian side than Hanan Ashrawi.”

Ashrawi is not a radical or someone who hates the United States, Anderson said, but she is a person who has been working for peace and democracy for many years and someone directly involved in the issue.

Although Olmert’s visit was met with protests, Anderson said he does not know what to expect when Ashrawi gives her speech.

“I don’t know why anybody should protest Dr. Ashrawi, but it’s OK,” he said. “It’s a country where we thankfully have free speech, isn’t it?”

It is also important that as a university, the people of the UK community hear both sides of the issue, Anderson said.

According to the Singletary Center Web site, the Peace House Living-Learning Community will sustain the dialogue in cooperation with the Office of Residence Life. Peace House is a student residential community that is dedicated to local and international peace.

Ashrawi received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature at the American University of Beirut and earned her Ph.D. in medieval and comparative literature from the University of Virginia, according to an online biography.

Ashrawi’s role as a political activist began almost at the same time as her academic career. Her roles include head and founder of the Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights in Jerusalem, founder of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the Jerusalem district, according to the biography.

Tuesday night’s speech is at 7:30 in the Singletary Center and is sold out.