Jordanian born founder & executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group: “As a Palestinian, I don’t want to live in Syria, or Iraq or Libya or Yemen. It’s much better for me and for my children to live under the Israelis. It’s the safest place in the Middle East.”
By Ilana Shneider
Bassem Eid, born in the Jordanian-occupied Old City in Jerusalem who currently resides in Jericho, is the founder and executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group established in 1996 during the Oslo process to monitor human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against its Palestinian citizens.
Bassem is a harsh critic of the Palestinian Authority and a leading voice against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement who is not afraid to speak the truth about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East. For his refusal to blame Israel as the sole source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has been called a “traitor”, his talks have been disrupted, and his most recent lecture at the University of Chicago was shut down by a mob of anti-Israel activists, forcing him to be escorted out by police for his own safety.
Bassem spoke in Toronto on March 11, 2016.
Bassem started the talk by saying that contrary to popular opinion, the biggest conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but between two Palestinian factions – Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Since the Palestinians became divided in 2007 when Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip, they have been unable to reach any kind of unity, in spite of several previous attempts. Unlike Israel, which is interested in reconstructing Gaza after the 2014 war, he explained that neither the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah nor Egypt are willing to do so.
When you look at the Middle East today, you will find that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the least significant conflict in the Middle East. As a Palestinian, I don’t want to live in Syria, or Iraq or Libya or Yemen. It’s much better for me and for my children to live under the Israelis. It’s the safest place in the Middle East
The Egyptian government and the Palestinian Authority are not interested in reconstructing Gaza because of Hamas. For the last several years Hamas – which was designated by the Egyptian government as a terrorist organization in 2015 – has been waging a terror campaign in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas also offers terrorists from other groups who are fighting in the Sinai a kind of shelter inside the Gaza Strip. As a result, Egypt has been applying pressure on the Gazans to get rid of Hamas, which included flooding terror tunnels, bulldozing neighbourhoods in order to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, building an underground barrier to prevent tunnelling by Gazan smugglers and by keeping the Rafah border crossing shut most of the time, keeping Gazans trapped in the enclave. Palestinian Authority is not interested in reconstructing Gaza because Mahmoud Abbas believes that putting pressure on Gaza will pave the way for Abbas’ Fatah faction to take back control over the Gaza Strip which it lost after the Hamas takeover in 2007.
Israel, according to Bassem, wants to help with the Gaza reconstruction efforts, but is very concerned that the money and building materials will be used for terror infrastructure instead of civil infrastructure, which was damaged during Israel’s defensive war against Hamas in the summer of 2014.
According to Bassem, Hamas-controlled Gaza is one of the major obstacles to peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
His harshest criticism is reserved for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. “I believe that Abbas only represents his two sons and his wife. Nobody believes that Abbas is going to build any future Palestinian state. If you ask Palestinians what is the most important thing for them today, most of them will say jobs. To secure the education system and future for my children. Nobody is talking about settlements or war or foundation of the Palestinians, which means that the majority of people these days want economic prosperity, not a state”, he said.
Bassem is certain that only economic prosperity can lead to the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the Oslo Accord was signed, Palestinians received billions of dollars in aid. “Did these billions succeed in creating even one job for the Palestinians? Palestinian Authority doesn’t care about the economy. The only ones who care about the Palestinian economy are the Israelis.” In addition to 92,000 existing work permits which enable Palestinians to work in Israel, in February the Israeli security cabinet has approved a new plan which would see 30,000 additional Palestinian workers employed in construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and other areas.
Egypt and Jordan occupied us for 19 years and never offered us a state. Why should Israel offer us a state?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer a priority for the international community which is trying to manage the growing Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and its spillover into Europe. As a result, the Palestinian Authority’s anger is growing, and to raise the international community’s awareness, it resorts to terrorism. Bassem believes the catalyst for the most recent wave of Palestinian terrorism was Abbas’ speech at the UN last September. Shortly after the speech, Palestinians unleashed the still ongoing so-called Knife Intifada during which dozens of Israelis were murdered and hundreds injured. “Violence attracts the eyes of the international community which will, in turn, pushes for resuming negotiations. The only ones who benefit from the storm of violence is only the Palestinian Authority”.
Abbas keeps the cycle of terror going by honouring the terrorists as “martyrs” and by meeting with the terrorists’ families and paying them $2,000-$3,000.
“When you have a President who is trying to sacrifice his people, I don’t think the people should have to have any expectation that this person is going to solve our problems. Ordinary Palestinians are fed up not only with the international community or the UN, they are primarily fed up with the Palestinian leaders. While people lose their trust in the leadership, I don’t think we should have any kind of expectation in the near future of a resolution to the conflict.”
“When will the Palestinians wake up? When will the international community wake up? When will they start recognizing the Palestinians are not victims of the occupation but the victims of their own leadership?”
The international community wants to impose more and more pressure on Israel and ignore the internal conflict among the Palestinians. My message today is to point out the sickness of the Palestinian society. We must start to realize that we are a part of the conflict that we are responsible on our daily lives and not only blame Israel.
The current violence taking place right now might seem like the majority of Palestinians are supporting it because they are silent. They do not. They are scared of speaking out and stand up and criticize and protest the so-called establishment. The stabbings will never bring any independence and will not solve our problems.
Bassem also slammed the international community for threatening to recognize the Palestinian state. “Which state are you going to recognize? How can you recognize a state when there is no infrastructure, no economy, when over 52% of the people are living in refugee camps? Show me one Arab country whose politicians are going to recognize the Palestinian state. I doubt there is even one Arab country right now that is interested in it.”
Between 1948 to 1967 Gaza was ruled by Egypt and the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, neither of which want to take the territories back. He finds it hypocritical that the Egyptians and Jordanians call on Israel to recognize the Palestinian state. “Egypt and Jordan occupied us for 19 years and never offered us a state. Why should Israel offer us a state?”
Bassem offers a creative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by dividing the West Bank and Gaza among Palestinian tribes. “We have famous tribes in Nablus, Hebron and Gaza. They can rule different cities and their own areas and their own people. This is what’s going to happen in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which will be divided between tribes. Palestinians, who are Arabs from Arab nations, can also be based on tribes. Let us have this solution – to divide the territories among tribes. It’s probably the only solution to the conflict.”
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About the Author:
Ilana Shneider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel and Stuff Postscript:
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at Bar-Ilan University, Israel suggested a similar solution: