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Palestinian human rights critic at Skidmore: Need to move from frustration to dignity, solutions

12Palestinian human rights activist BASSEM EID, right, offers his perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a community lecture series presenting differing points of view at Skidmore College. (Photo by Ruth Fein Revell)

By RUTH FEIN REVELL
SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH W
ORLD
Calling for a global community response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, Palestinian-Muslim human rights pioneer and political analyst Bassem Eid shared his personal perspective at Skidmore College on Thursday, Oct. 18, about the people, their obstacles and the road to solutions.

What does he think it will take to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Confidence.

“Without building bridges of confidence, I don’t see any possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Eid, who is an analyst for Israeli TV and radio, said. “It is only the Israelis and Palestinians who can solve this conflict, not any third parties.”

Eid, who spent the first 33 years of his life in an East Jerusalem refugee camp, is an internationally recognized, Jerusalem-based political analyst and commentator on Arab and Palestinian affairs. As an activist his initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years he has broadened his research to include violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people.

How About Some Electricity?
The fact that two rival Palestinian groups — Palestinian president Abbas’s Fatah movement and the terrorist militant Islamist group Hamas — signed a provisional unity agreement this month in Egypt is not enough to instill hope or confidence, Eid said. “We have already seen five agreements before this. This is not giving the Palestinian people any confidence that anything will change —not until they see changes on the ground — when they have more than four hours of electricity in 24 hours.”

Ordinary Palestinians just want to survive, he said. “The people of East Jerusalem are less interested in who will control them in 10 years, they care about a better way of life.

“Nobody there is talking about the wall or the state (a Palestinian state) or who will rule them in 10 years. They want education for their children. They want to secure health care for their families. They’re seeking dignity.”

Loss Of Control
The conflict is almost out of the hands of Israelis and Palestinians today, Eid believes. “The international community became a part of the conflict rather than a part of the solution,” he said. “Our frustration is that we are unable to control the conflict. It is very easy to understand and very difficult to find a solution.”

Eid’s message to the international community is: “Don’t say you’re going to recognize the Palestinian State . . . which state, what state?” he asked. “Help us build the state to recognize afterward. Help build it — then recognize it.”

In the meantime, Eid said, “We, the Palestinians, are still holding the key to a better life . . . we need to manage our lives much better than under this management . . . it’s a horrible place to grow up.”

What We Need
He listed monumental obstacles, beyond bad management by the Palestinian authority, including corruption, lack of law and justice, lack of economy and institutions, and no accountability for bad actions and attitudes.

“Homeland is not the place where you are,” Eid said, “it’s the place where you can find dignity, justice and freedom.”

Skidmore sophomore David Solovy organized the program, the first in a Perspective Lecture Series presented by Skidmore’s Hillel International and Christian Fellowship groups as part of the Jacob Perlow Series. Solovy said the series was created “to show different perspectives on Israel, whether or not you agree with the point of view.”

Bassem Eid was formerly a senior field researcher for B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. In 1996, he founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, and in 2016, he became chairman of the Center for Near East Policy Research. He is a critic of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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