Bassem Eid currently lives in East Jerusalem. He has an extensive career as a Palestinian human rights activist. His initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years has broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people. He founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996, although it ceased operations in 2011. He now works as a political analyst for Israeli TV and radio.
I am a supporter of two states, right now. But if the situation will continue for the coming ten years it will be stupid to think about the two-state solution. I understand the need for land swaps and I support that for the three main settlement blocs.
I am a person who believes that the settlements are one of the biggest obstacles towards the so-called two-state solution. If Israel will continue the building of settlements and the annexation of land to the settlements in the coming ten years, Israel will be killed as the Jewish state. The only solution then will be one-state, which in 15 years, the majority will be Arabs. I am not taking any differences between legal and illegal. I have no problem with the exchange of land. I know that Israel couldn’t realistically evacuate 100,000 people from Ariel or Gush Etzion, for example. So we will find solutions on how to continue keeping these big settlements under Israeli rule. I do not think that the existence of the Jewish people in the Palestinian state will be accepted by the Palestinians. On the other hand, I am also quite sure that no Jews will want to live under a Palestinian state. Palestinian President Abbas said it very clearly: no Jew is allowed to remain in a Palestinian state. That statement is stupid because such a statement makes it a Palestinian apartheid to not allow Jews to live in the Palestinian state.
Security is a big concern. Not only for Israeli security, but for my own as a Palestinian. In my opinion, we the Palestinians almost failed, or let’s say the Palestinian leadership failed to rule the Palestinians. That’s a problem leading to the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians destroyed in Gaza what remained from the Israeli occupation (the neighborhoods) from the three wars. Now you want to tell me that the situation in Gaza is better than it used to be before 2005? Of course not. When Ariel Sharon declared his plan for disengagement in 2002, several Palestinian leaders started running from TV channel to TV channel saying, “If Israel will disengage from Gaza, we will make Gaza like Singapore, this will be the Palestinian Singapore.”
Hamas leaders said, “If Israel will disengage from Gaza, Hamas is going to remove its resistance from the West Bank.” Now Israel is disengaged and Hamas is unable to remove the resistance in the West Bank and succeeded in destroying Gaza. You can’t blame the blockade. I don’t see right now any blockade from Israel towards Gaza. Israel supplies food, medicines, oil, and water. Where is the blockade? It is all on Hamas.
With regards to violence in the West Bank, in my opinion, the majority of Palestinians there are much more upset with their own leaders than with the Israelis. The Israelis are giving us jobs with salaries of dignity…of dignity! A Palestinian worker today has a monthly salary average between 7,000-8,000 NIS (approximately $1,900-2,300 USD). While under the PA, it is 1,400 NIS (approximately $400 USD). I think that if Israel, tomorrow, will open its borders to all of the Palestinian workers, you will not find one worker under the PA. Even security forces members will take off their uniforms and go to work in Tel Aviv. I am in touch with people every day, visiting neighborhoods, meeting people and talking with them. I listen to what people are really telling me. I am living in the situation; I am not observing the situation. Originally I was a human rights activist. My main job was to find truth without any political colors. Pure truth, that’s what I sought during my work. Unfortunately, these days, that is not done. Human rights workers are trying much harder to express political opinions than find truth.
I used to say in my lectures in the US that if you look at Middle East map, you will find that under the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is one of the safer areas in the Middle East. And I used to say at the time, thank God that I am living under this conflict and not in Libya, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.
In the West Bank, I don’t think that people really care about land. Maybe the only ones who care about the land are the main owners of the land. Don’t forget that sixty percent of Palestinians in the West Bank are refugees with no land. And these sixty percent don’t care because the land is not theirs. If Israelis would not take it, the owners wouldn’t give it to them, so why should they care. The other forty percent I believe almost sold the land to the Israelis. And those who sold the land are the first ones who are standing on the frontline shouting, “Israel confiscated the land.”
I would love to see Jerusalem as an open city to everybody around the world. I am against dividing Jerusalem. On the otherhand, many surveys have been conducted in East Jerusalem and it seems that the majority of Palestinians who are “Jerusalemized” are much more interested in continuing to live under the Israelis. A week ago, Moahammed Dararme wrote an article in which he said that more and more Palestinians in East Jerusalem are applying for Israeli citizenship (including myself). Palestinians in East Jerusalem, right now, are not considered to be citizens of any country…not of Palestine, not of Jordan, and not of Israel of course. I currently hold a Jordanian passport, but it is not a real passport. There is a difference between my passport and the passport of someone living in Jordan. On my passport, there is a “T” before the number, meaning that it is temporary. My passport is a travel document rather than a passport. So looking at ourselves today, to be recognized by Jordan as citizens is impossible. To be recognized as citizens under the PA is impossible (because according to the Oslo agreement). Any Palestinian holding the Israeli ID card is not allowed to be issued a Palestinian passport (stipulated under Arafat and Abu Mazen). So what is possible? Israel.
We don’t want our children to lose their future as we lost ours, which is likely the reason pushing the “Jerusalemized” Palestinians to apply for Israeli citizenship.
As a Muslim who is not very religious, I have no problem with Jews praying at the Temple Mount. If Muslims will allow/agree for Jews to pray there, future religious conflict between Muslims and Jews could be avoided. It is much better for Muslims today to recognize the Jews as cousins, according to the Quran, in order to avoid future religious conflict.
The Palestinian leadership today is using the right of return as a political card to put pressure on Israel. They are quite trying to implement it. I visited most of the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan (which has the majority of Palestinian refugees in diaspora). Of the refugees that I met, I didn’t find one who believes that the right of return will one day be applicable. In 2009, a very remarkable Palestinian research center in Ramallah directed by Khalil Shikaki, published a survey. Palestinian refugees (only in diaspora) were surveyed, and 75% of participants asked for compensation to settle the right of return. What happened when he published the survey? The thugs and gangsters of Fatah burned his offices in Ramallah.
I consider the Palestinians today as a people who are trying to deny the truth. This is the main problem of the Palestinians. The truth is that the Palestinians who are living in Jerusalem don’t want to live under PA. The truth is that the right of return will never be applicable. The truth is that the West Bank will continue to be divided from the Gaza Strip. The truth is that the Palestinian leadership is lying to its people. The truth is that the Palestinian leadership is keeping the Palestinians hostages under the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians will continue pushing towards a right of return because I think it is one of the major items of the international community. The international community pays 1.6 billion dollars a year to UNRWA to keep Palestinians in the refugee camps. Financing UNRWA will never solve the issue of Palestinian refugees.
The international community can solve the issue of Palestinian refugees in 2 ways. 1) Those countries who have been hosting the Palestinian refugees for 70 years should recognize these refugees as their own citizens. 2) Countries should stop financing UNRWA and use that money to build new neighborhoods in those countries who are hosting the refugees and resettle the refugees inside these neighborhoods. I would say they could be resettled in the West Bank/future Palestinian state, but I don’t think that is what they want. I asked a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, are you ready to return to the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders? He said no. I asked why, and he said, because I am originally from Haifa, and if I will go and live in Nablus, the Palestinians in Nablus will consider me to be a refugee.
First of all, with regards to the Nakba, I must blame the Arab countries and not Israel. During the war of 1948, there was no Palestinian state and there was no Palestinian leadership. So personally I am blaming the Arabs rather than Israel. What does Zionism mean? Some people consider themselves as Palestinian Zionists, so Zionism is not a religion and it is not a nationality. It is a principle. Some people say “I am an original Zionist and this is why I am fighting for the Palestinian state.” Some other Jewish people say I am a Zionist so this is why I am fighting for the existence of the State of Israel. So for me, Zionism makes no sense. I don’t consider Zionism to be a form of discrimination, which unfortunately some people believe it to be today.
I tell Palestinians everyday that your homeland is not the place where you are born. Homeland is the place where you can find dignity, justice, and freedom. Any country that can guarantee these three to me, I have no problem to be considered as their own citizen. This is what everyone seeks. Those lacking any of those three from Israel lack so because of their own violence.
I think that the majority of people hold my views, but this majority needs an education in the concept of peace. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening in schools nor at universities. We don’t have a culture which calls for peace. I am not only blaming the Palestinian Authority. The international community is not investing enough in peace education for Palestinians. If you look at the Israelis, more and more the Israelis are inviting Palestinians to hear them, but not vice versa. Israelis are not being invited by the Palestinians. In this way, the Israeli society is an open society and the Palestinian society is still a closed society.
In my opinion it is useless to think about peace without building the bridges of confidence and reconciliation. How can you create peace while you have such a big and deep gap of hatred? How can you build peace under the circumstances of incitement? I think that bridges of confidence and reconciliation will pave the way to peace, but not the opposite.
BDS is one of the most rubbish organizations I ever encountered in my life. BDS people want the Palestinians to pay the immediate expense for their ideology towards Israel. Meaning, that by trying to destroy Israel with BDS, we the Palestinians are paying the immediate price. Take Soda Stream for example: Soda Stream’s yearly income today is three times more than what it used to be in the West Bank. So who is the loser here? The losers are the 1,500 Palestinian workers. BDS will never succeed in its policy to boycott Israel. Two weeks ago, the Swiss parliament decided to put BDS in its place for the first time. What is the place of BDS? With anti-Semitism…they link. And the Swiss parliament imposed a boycott on the BDS movement.
If you went today to an Israeli hospital, you will find more Arabs than Jewish people. As you sit here at this cafe, you will count hundreds of Palestinian ladies with Burkas going around, sitting in the coffee shops, shopping. We have heads of departments in the Israeli hospitals who are Arabs and Muslims. We have an Arab judge who is on the supreme court. So, in my opinion, the issue of apartheid with Israel is just a political slogan–no more and no less.
In every country around the world you will find discrimination. Still in the US there is discrimination against blacks. In Jordan, you will feel the discrimination between real Jordanians and Palestinian Jordanians. In Egypt you will see discrimination between Egyptians and Bedouins, so to see discrimination between Jews and Arabs is very normal.
If in any country around the world there were people using violence, people stabbing, or people who want to commit suicide, they will suffer much more than Palestinians in the West Bank.
Take, for example, the Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. When Palestinians started shooting against the regime, the regime committed a massacre against the refugees in Al Yarmouk. It used to have 80,000 Palestinian refugees inside. Today, you have a couple thousand.