As It Happens

Veteran Palestinian negotiator calls U.S. decision to deny her visa 'petty and vindictive'

Hanan Ashrawi says she's been barred from the United States and the prominent Palestinian leader suspects it's because of her not-so flattering opinions of U.S. President Donald Trump.

When it comes to peace talks, Hanan Ashrawi says the U.S. has 'smashed the negotiating table to smithereens'

Hanan Ashrawi is on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and has served as a negotiator in peace talks. She says that the U.S. has denied her latest request for a visa. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
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Transcript

Hanan Ashrawi has met with American presidents and secretaries of state. She obtained her PhD in the United States. But now, the Palestinian leader has been told she is no longer welcome in the country. 

Ashrawi is a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and has served as a negotiator in peace talks. Ashrawi says the U.S. has, without explanation, denied her latest request for a visa.

As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay spoke to Ashrawi about why she believes her opinions of U.S. President Donald Trump are the reason her visa was denied.

Here is part of their conversation.

Ms. Ashrawi, what do you think the U.S. government's message is in rejecting your visa application?

Well, the message is very clear. I think that they're going to go to any length, and in [a] very petty and vindictive way, in order to punish the Palestinian people and leadership.

They've been targeting the leadership lately and saying that the Palestinians need new leadership.

They're telling us either we accept their own terms and play ball the way they want us to or they'll go to any length, including individual bans on people.

The State Department was asked about this, obviously. It said it wouldn't comment on why yours was rejected this time. But it did say it doesn't refuse visas based solely on political statements or views. You're not convinced of that.

Of course not. They said that the other reasons would be terrorism or criminal records or whatever. And certainly, I don't fit any of these profiles.

It's just a very mean-spirited approach because they don't like what I've been saying or writing about them.

Tell me about that. What have you been saying?

I've been saying that the U.S. has disqualified itself as a peace broker. That I'm against populism and unilateralism and racism and misogyny and Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

But these are things you have said for years and years and years.

Exactly. But somehow, because the message hits home I guess. And because, you know, a couple of times I talked about the extreme ideological dimension of American politicians.

Whether it's [Mike] Pompeo, who's waiting for the rapture or whether it's [Mike] Pence, who thinks God gave him dispensation. Also, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner and David Friedman — whom we described as the Israeli extreme right-wing ambassador to the world, not even to the U.S.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Exactly.

How would you say that the Trump administration's current position on this — how is it different from the other administrations you've dealt with, including Republican ones?

Frankly speaking, I mean we knew that the U.S. has never been even-handed, objective, about the issue and that they did have a special relationship with Israel.

But this is the first time that we see them identify with Israel completely to the point where they became complicit.

I mean look, when they decided that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, 14 members out of 15 of the Security Council rejected this.

You mentioned Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. And next month we are told that he will be revealing the administration's new Israeli Palestinian peace plan. Do you expect that there will be anything in that document that a Palestinian leader could work with at this point?

Well, we know what's going to be in that document because, already, all the issues that are supposed to be negotiated as part of the permanent status talks, like Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, boundaries, security and water have been entirely predetermined by the U.S.

They've taken steps on all these issues. I said they smashed the negotiating table to smithereens because they totally destroyed the foundations of any peace. And then what is left after you take these positions, and you prejudge the outcome of the talks, then you start saying, okay let's talk about economic issues and how to make living conditions better for the Palestinians.

So they are moving now towards the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf countries, to try to normalize with Israel and to foot the bill of an economic plan that will only carry out cosmetic changes on the Palestinians and maintain Israeli control, under the guise of security, and enable Israel to continue annexing more land and building more settlements.

Many people are interpreting this as a political act. But this is also personal for you too, isn't it? I mean, you had personal reasons for wanting to travel to the United States.

Yes, I always do. I have my daughter and her husband and my grandchildren, whom I adore, who are in the States.

And I have nephews and nieces and another sister and my husband's whole family is in the States.

I think that the personal aspect is important to me. But I don't want to make it the issue because there is a certain degree of cruelty and we've been undergoing this cruel treatment for a very long time, as you know.

The main thing is that this is a personal message. But it's also a political collective message and it means that if you are for peace, if you are for a negotiated settlement or for nonviolent resistance, that this will not be recognized that.

The message to the violent and the more ideological and extremist elements, including Hamas, has been that you make enough trouble you will be listened to. If you are rational, reasonable and in full commitment to international law and human rights, then of course you will be punished. 

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.