Bassem Eid, a Palestinian political analyst and human rights pioneer who frequently voices opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, participated in the state memorial ceremony that morning and joined a group of young professionals with Young Jewish Leadership Concepts (YJLC) for an afternoon meet-and-greet.
On the 15th observance of 9/11, Bassem Eid spent his day speaking about peace.
Eid, a Palestinian political analyst and human rights pioneer who frequently voices opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, participated in the state memorial ceremony that morning and joined a group of young professionals with Young Jewish Leadership Concepts (YJLC) for an afternoon meet-and-greet.
Later, he spoke before a full sanctuary at Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown during an event from Congregation Beth-El, Friends of Israel, StandWithUs, Bucks County Christian Coalition, YJLC and other community members. The talk was called “Middle East Peace After 9/11: Possibility or Propaganda?”
After Rabbi Aaron Gaber led the crowd through recitations of poems and songs in commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, including a solemn rendition of “Oseh Shalom,” Eid spoke about how to attain peace in Israel and the true struggles Palestinians face — and it’s not the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria.
The founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Eid commanded the room with his gentle yet booming voice as he spoke about his own commitment to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and obtaining peace.
“As you know, to create a human rights organization under the Arab regime, it looks like to commit suicide,” he joked. “But I am a person who believes in the rights of the people, all kinds of the people — Muslims, Jews, whatever you want. And I think that people should have their rights to be guaranteed.”
Having grown up in a refugee camp in East Jerusalem, Eid talked the audience through looking at how the situation became the way it is today, starting with Gaza.
“Today, if we look to the political map inside Gaza, we will find that there are four different parties acting inside the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Two of them are very interested in the destruction of the Gaza Strip. And two of them are very interested in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.”
In the first two categories, he said that the Egyptian government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are working toward the destruction of Gaza, while the two committed to the reconstruction of Gaza are Israel and Hamas.
“Now if the Hamas and Israel agreed on the reconstruction of Gaza, where is the conflict?” Eid asked.
The conflict comes in exactly where that reconstruction would take place — Hamas wants to direct the reconstruction to its tunnels and military while Israel wants to direct it to the houses and vicinities that were destroyed in the Gaza war in 2014.
He also turned to the Palestinian leadership — or lack thereof.
“I am a person who believes that if Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu tomorrow will meet with President [Mahmoud] Abbas, probably the first question Netanyahu is going to ask Abbas: Whom you are representing, Mr. President?” Eid said. “The West Bank? Gaza Strip?
“In my opinion, Abbas only represents his two sons and his wife,” Eid said as the audience laughed. “The majority of the Palestinians these days almost lost their trust in their own leadership.
“Each country around the world knows that the Palestinian Authority is a corrupt leadership,” he said. “But still, the American administration would love to continue supporting them. Because still the Americans believe — the American administration believes — that Mahmoud Abbas is a partner of peace, which I don’t believe in that, by the way, as a Palestinian.”
If you ask Palestinians today what they want, he added, they will say “a job to survive, to secure education and the health system for my children.”
However, the Israel in which he lives is still a safer alternative than anywhere else.
“If we will look today to the Middle East map, you will find that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is probably the most safe place in the Middle East,” he said.
Throughout his career, he has criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as well as the U.N. itself.
“Look at the Arab League in Egypt,” he said. “The Arab League is still calling the U.N. to solve the civil war in Syria, while the Arab League knows very well that it is the interest of the U.N. to continue the civil war in Syria. Otherwise, the U.N. will never be able to survive.”
The audience responded with a round of applause.
“The international community,” Eid continued, “in my opinion — or most of the countries of the international community today — became a part of the conflict rather than a part of the solution. And I believe because there are so many outsiders playing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is getting more and more complicated right now — while everybody knows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved only by the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
A key to the solution — other than other countries not remaining involved — is new leadership, Eid said. Specifically, leadership of the next generation who will be thinking in modern terms and for the future.
Meanwhile, both Israeli and Palestinian civilians are the ones suffering, he said.
“Terror is growing. Terror is surrounding us,” he said. “And what is the solution? I am a person who believes that with the current Palestinian leadership, there is no solution.
“So we, the Palestinians, need probably a younger leadership with a good brain to think about the future of their own people, not a person who is 82 years old.”
For attendees, the event was eye-opening and provided a valuable perspective.
“We very often hear Jewish speakers speaking about what Palestinians may be feeling,” said Rabbi Gaber after Eid finished. “For us to hear a Palestinian, someone who’s involved with human rights activism and as a political analyst, to actually speak from the perspective of being a Palestinian, having grown up in Jerusalem and in Shu’efat [refugee camp], that’s really something different for us to hear.”
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