I met Bassem in a hotel located in East Jerusalem, in the most volatile days in the capital. The atrocious slaughter of Har Nof worshippers is still hovering over the city, the mayor of Ashkelon is starring in the papers headlines due to his refusal to hire Arab workers, and the tensions between Arabs and Israelis are at all time high. Eid, a Palestinian Human Rights activist, journalist and a former researcher for the "Betselem" organization, lights up a cigarette and starts scalding his own people. He shoots out words without fear or prejudice.
"People are losing their humanity ", says Eid about the worshippers' slaughter. I met young people in my neighborhood of Beit Hanina, and asked them to show me where it is written in Islam that this is allowed? it isn't! it is the interpreters who say: kill in the name of ALLA or Islam. Which Islam is that?"
The horrendous massacre caused Eid to examine both the Israeli and Palestinian society in regards to killings of worshippers in their house of prayer. Eid judges and hands in a strong indictment against his brothers, neighbors and friends in East Jerusalem. "Do you remember the slaughter that Baruch Goldstein committed? I investigated this event from all sides. There was a huge Israeli condemnation at the time. The Israeli public was ready to give a green light for Rabin, to expel all settlers from Hebron over this. Also, after Muhammed Abu Khdeir's murder, there were convoys of buses full of Israelis, who came to share their condolences with the family. But, where are we? I really ask this. Why wasn't there a bus from Jabel Mukaber to the families of Har Nof victims?"
He is extremely worried about the education in the schools of the Palestinian Authority and in the refugee camps. If he were to have a kid at that age, he would've sent him to school. "I was in refugee camp schools and saw 6 year olds wearing "Al Qassam" uniforms, taking plastic guns, running after each other, violently hitting each other, and it is appalling. I am sorry, but this has nothing to do with the occupation or settlements, it has to do solely with education. And it pains me to see those kids, as this, as a Palestinian, shows me that the future is going to be bleak."
Bassem Eid is a Palestinian, and resident of East Jerusalem, and maybe the most judgmental and outspoken voice today against the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. During operation "Protective Edge" he got extensive exposure, after a strong article he wrote against Hamas, accusing the terror organization of operating to kill his own citizens. The article won tens of thousands of shares in social networks.
Aren't you afraid to publish such strong condemnation against Hamas? you claimed that they are responsible of killing the people of Gaza.
Yes. But this is the painful truth, as much as it hurts me to say it. I even think that Hams would have wanted at least 5,000 fatalities. This is what they wanted, to drag Israel and Gaza into a death trap. I have a friend from Khan Yunis, who told me that one night, around midnight, 4 armed men from Hamas knocked on his door, and said that all of the family has to leave the house immediately. He told them that there are ten sleeping children at the house, but they demanded he takes them away , since they wanted to use the house to launch rockets from the roof. He refused vigorously. The next day, armed men came to his house and bit him nearly to death, and threw all the family from the house. After half an hour, the house was gone. So, they say I wrote a strong article, but I was merely the voice of those innocents, who are not terrorists.
Do Gaza residents support Hamas these days?
Look, if the question is"do Gaza residents want to revenge against Israel?" the answer would be yes .Are they Hamas supporters? I don't think so. One thing is for sure, people in Gaza are afraid to talk, since whoever does so, is accused of being a collaborator and is executed in the biggest town square in Gaza.
So are you afraid? of them hurting you? or your family?
No, quite the contrary. After every public appearance or article I write, I get numerous responses like: "Bravo", "You are right" ,"It's good that you speak about this". But this criticism stems from our belief and conception that we, the Palestinian, can establish a democratic state, but for that to happen, it can't be run like the Islamic Arab regimes around us. It would be better to live under the Israeli regime if this is to happen.
Basem Eid is considered to be one of the leading Journalists to harshly criticize the Palestinian Authority (PA) systems in their early days. his journalism career started in the Jerusalem newspaper "Kol Ha'ir", where he covered and documented all Human Rights violations of Israel against Palestinians. Afterwards he was one of the first staff members appointed by left- wing organization "B'tselem". One of his first investigations was about the Palestinian Authority's torture system against Arab detainees. "It was my first report. The PA was torturing prisoners, and alleged collaborators, thieves, drug dealers, all share a bitter faith." Following that report, he wrote about the killings of those accused of collaborations, and later on, a report about the theft of Palestinians funds, by the corrupted system of the Authority.
"Those reports made noise at that time, but what people don't know, is that during the first Intifada (uprising), more Palestinians were killed by Palestinians than by Israeli Defense Force."
After the publishing of the torture report, Eid left "B'tselem" organization, and established a Palestinian Human rights organization, which investigated mainly the Palestinian Authority. "I was already concerned in 1993, and my concerns came true, to see that the Palestinian Authority follows suit to other Arab regimes. Arafat was a dictator before I arrived, and the corruption issue was run well in the system".
So, is the Palestinian Authority corrupted?
Yes, but let's say this: there is a financial corruption, in the terms of embezzlement of public funds, and there is also the political corruption. The latter is portrayed in the fact that the Palestinians have no idea what happens around them. If I want to know anything about the negotiations, I have to read about it in the Israeli of International media. The Arab media, other that Shahids and house demolitions, writes nothing, and by this align with Abbas. When they call to ask for an interview in Arabic, I say that I am abroad.
Israel, too, has media that is more identified with the government
Yes, but in the Palestinian Authority it is more like an orchestra, In Israel, you have more freedom of the press. During operation "Protective Edge", the media came out against Netaniahu, and the government, while the Palestinian press talked solely about victories. Thousands of people were killed, but all the press was talking about were celebrations.
The media is Israel is competitive, while in the PA system, each newspaper receives monthly scholarships. Hence, no competition. The only competition is which picture of Abbas will be published on the front pages. An article like mine, against Hamas, stood no chance to be published.
A few weeks ago, Eid participated in a conference of the Zionist- nationalist organization "Adam and Adama center" in Bar Ilan University. He surprised all attended, when he ridiculed the Boycott movement of Palestinian against Israel. "The Palestinians are the last who can boycott Israel. Let's paint a reality where they boycott Israel, the settlements, the factories, everything. than what happens?"
So, what happens then?
They will starve, since Abbas wont' feed them, or find them work. After operation "Protective Edge" it was agreed to allow 5,000 Palestinians to work in Israel. So, where's the boycott? I'm begging you to allow me to hire more workers, so what boycott are they talking about? And even if they forbid selling Palestinian goods in Israel, your economy won't be damaged. The ones who will suffer from this are the Palestinians, who earn 4-5 times more in Israel than in the PA.
And the declared boycott of the PA on the settlements?
This comes to show you the disconnection between the public and their leadership, because there isn't one. There is one hero, Mustafa Barghouti, who is a very corrupted man. He stole funds, that came from Saudi Arabia, which were intended for purchase of ambulances.. He claims that he invented the boycott on Israel, and talks about it all over Europe. Every Monday and Thursday he's in Sweden and they listen to him, but let's see him do the same in Ramallah and in the refugee camps.
So the whole thing is a big bluff?
It is so from the Palestinians side. Why, don't the Arabs from the West Bank work and shop in Rami Levi in Gush Etzion settlement? the boycott isn't and can't be enforced. I bought Strauss ice-cream (Israeli brand) in Beir Zayit. In the grocery store, the owner hung a sign saying: " this place is clear from all Israeli products". So, I asked him if this is a Palestinian Strauss ice-cream, and he replied:'" we love stickers just like the Israelis do". Like the stickers Israelis have on their cars " the people are with gush Katif" (settlement that was evacuated during the detachment plan from Gaza).
You were an investigator for "B'tselem" organization, and won the association for civil rights award. How do you see the critic against "B'tselem" today?
During the time that I worked there, it was highly valued organization in the state of Israel. I don't think that the amount of rage that exists today against them was existed in the past. Things there have changed, the policy changed as well. The Israelis don't consider them to be a human rights organization. In my opinion, an organization like this should fight for human rights violations no matter what. At one point, I conducted an extensive research about suicides in the Palestinian society, and contacted "B'tselem" to see whether they want to publish the document in a joint report. They didn't like the idea, and it made me angry. Today, all the Israeli organizations are like the Palestinians. It's all about Israel. No one opens their mouth about the PA, the tortures, and the administrative detentions.
Eventually, you left your own organization which criticized the PA.
Indeed, due to funding issues. I think that our organization's policy doesn't align with Europe's foreign policy. Sweden, for instance, never gave me a penny, because I am critical against the PA, and they love the PA, and are against Israel.
So, why don't you do this? focus your work against Israel as well?
If I wanted to start an organization against Israel, I promise to you that already tomorrow I will get 500,000$ from Sweden. But, I don't care about money. I just don't get the Europeans. What is the difference between human rights organization that protects Ahmad from Israel, to the one that protects Ahmad from the PA?
Would you prefer to live as an Israeli, under Israeli government?
What I want is a democratic Palestinian state. If this will not be the case, than I will have no problem living quietly under the Israeli occupation. I visited most of the Arab nations. I have seen their prisons, what is real torture. There is no way I want to be part of this, and let me tell you a secret: at least 80% of the Palestinians, certainly the ones who live in East Jerusalem, share this sentiment as well.