Hanan Ashrawi, 1999-2000 Weissberg Chair
The worlds of politics, diplomacy, and conflict resolution know Hanan Ashrawi as the spokesperson for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, a member of the Palestine Liberation Council, and former Minister of Education in the Palestinian Authority. At the time of her selection she was, in addition to being a scholar, the secretary general of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. She was the highest-ranking woman who was spokesperson for the Palestinian cause and for Mideast peace, and now she is the first holder of Beloit College’s Weissberg Chair in International Studies.
Prof. Ashrawi discussed the future of Palestine and the peace process in her major address, "The Dual Challenge of Democracy and Peace." Ashrawi was one of five women elected to the 88-member Palestinian governing organization in 1996 and served for two years in the cabinet of President Yasser Arafat. The daughter of one of the founders of the PLO, she has been active in political causes since her teens and was secretary general of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.
Prof. Ashrawi was born in 1946 in the West Bank town of Nablus. Her father, Daud Mikhail, worked tirelessly for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Political passions ran strong in the family and he spent much time in jail. Educated at the American University in Beirut, Ashrawi pursued graduate work in the doctoral program in medieval studies at the University of Virginia. There she mixed her study of Chaucer with a new-found interest in the works of Marxist scholars.
The author of This Side of Peace: A Personal Account, she is also the subject of the 1994 biography, A Voice of Reason: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East by Barbara Victor. As an independent member of the Palestinian Parliment, she is widely respected by Christians and Moslems and has frequently confronted President Arafat in her efforts to democratize the Palestinian self-rule government.