Colorado church groups rap colleges for hosting Palestinian leader

Associated Press, Sep. 11, 2002

DENVER — Protests over a Palestinian leader’s two scheduled appearances in Colorado mounted yesterday as some religious groups planned demonstrations and Gov. Bill Owens criticized the use of student funds to pay one of Hanan Ashwari’s fees.

Groups including Colorado Clergy and Churches, Americans Against Terrorism and individual churches representing Christians and Jews said several hundred people were expected to demonstrate at Ashwari’s speech tomorrow in Colorado Springs.

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They offered bus trips to the event at $25 per person, including meals and lectures.

Protests also were being organized for Ashwari’s Sept. 14 speech at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“She has refused to publicly condemn all forms of terrorism and has defended the abhorrent use of homicide bombers as a weapon of terror in the Israeli-administered territories of the West Bank and Gaza,” said Rabbi Bruce Dollin, president of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council.

Ashwari told the Associated Press that she will speak at both events and dismissed the protests as part of an orchestrated campaign against her homeland.

“I’ve been one of the strongest supporters of peace all my life,” she said in a telephone interview. “I have condemned all acts of violence, all acts of terrorism.

“I’m on record since the 1970s, even long before the Hamas existed, advocating dialogue. They just don’t want to hear a Palestinian speak.”

Ashwari is scheduled to give the keynote address tomorrow at a Colorado College symposium in Colorado Springs, about 60 miles south of Denver. Gideon Doron, president of the Israeli Association of Political Science, will speak Sept. 13 at the same event.

The symposium is to examine global challenges one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ashwari said her speech would focus on global realities and peace prospects.

Doron, a one-time adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, did not return telephone messages left on his answering machine seeking comment.

Dollin and other group leaders also called on Colorado College President Richard Celeste to resign for organizing the event. College spokeswoman Lisa Ellis said Celeste has no plans to resign.

In a separate development, Owens criticized CU for using student fees to pay Ashwari’s $8,000 honorarium for her speech in Boulder. He called it a misuse of taxpayer money.

Owens said the private Colorado College has the right to spend money as it wants to invite people to speak. He criticized CU for using student fees to pay Ashwari, saying he considers that taxpayer money students are required to pay to attend college.

CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said the student fees are self-assessed by the students and the student union invited Ashwari.

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