2016-06-22 / Home

Palestinian activist Bassem Eid speaks at local JCRC event


Palestinian rights advocate Bassem Eid (center) spoke in Cherry Hill on June 15. Welcoming him were (from left), Amy Clayman, president of the JCRC, and David Snyder, JCRC executive director. Palestinian rights advocate Bassem Eid (center) spoke in Cherry Hill on June 15. Welcoming him were (from left), Amy Clayman, president of the JCRC, and David Snyder, JCRC executive director. Peace between Palestinians and Israelis will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two parties and only when improving the Palestinian economy becomes the priority, said Bassem Eid, a world-renowned Palestinian human rights activist.

“I’m a person who believes that economic prosperity can pave the way to peace,” said Eid, who noted his pessimism that current Palestinian leadership will be willing to take such a leap.

Controversial for espousing opinions counter to conventional messages of Palestinian rights advocates; he spoke at the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey as part of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Advocacy Initiative on June 15.

Eid burst onto the human rights scene as a researcher for B’Tselem, a group that bills itself as “The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.” Although initially focused on human rights violations committed by the Israel Defense Force, he broadened his research to include violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian armed forces on their own people. For that, he was thrown in jail by Yasser Arafat in 1996 and has been reviled as a traitor by Israel haters and radical Islamists.

In recent years, Eid has taken a strong stand opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as well.

To the local crowd, he spoke to this point.

“I used to call these people thugs and gangsters,” he said referring to the BDS leadership. “I used to call these people as the jobless who found jobs because this is the unsolved conflict. By not solving it, that’s created a lot of jobs for them.”

He added: “I think these people know very well how much they are hurting the Palestinian economy and I don’t think these people are hurting Israel’s economy.”

He referenced the closure of a SodaStream factory in the West Bank. The company that makes home carbonation systems and has an office in Mount Laurel moved its plant to Northern Israel in 2015 as a result of pressure from the BDS movement. Eid said that the loss of jobs was tragic for Palestinians but a boon to Israelis. As for SodaStream, he said, it actually expanded with the move.

“So Israel is losing not one penny by transferring one factory from here to there, and by moving it gave more jobs to Israeli people and more jobs to Israeli Arabs,” he said.

Working with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Eid has made eight trips to the United States this year alone, mostly speaking at college campuses about the Arab-Israeli conflict and BDS.

Unsurprisingly, the Jericho resident’s message is controversial. In recent months, he was forced to end remarks early at the University of Chicago because an anti-Israel protestor hijacked the event and threatened him with physical violence.

Still, the Southern New Jersey crowd was very appreciative of his message.

Among some 50 people, including Muslims and Christians, who came to the event, Henry Maurer, a past president of the JCRC, called his speech refreshing.

“He was very strong in his condemnation of the BDS movement,” said Maurer, a JCRC board member. “I only wish that some of the supporters of that movement could hear what he had to say, because I believe many of them, specifically on college campuses, are only hearing one narrow point of view.” s

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