February 26, 2020
FAIRBANKS RANCH, California – Bassam Eid is a Palestinian author and commentator, who may be seen frequently on Israeli television. While he is critical of various Israeli policies, he also speaks out frequently against corruption in both the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. On Tuesday evening, at the Fairbanks Country Club, in this affluent community wedged between northern San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe, Eid condemned the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as being harmful to ordinary Palestinians.
He cited the case of Soda Stream, a company which had located a plant in the disputed territories and which had employed 1,500 Palestinians. After BDS launched an international boycott against the company—supposedly to help the Palestinians—the company relocated from the territories to southern Israel. That put 1,500 Palestinians out of work. As for Soda Stream, Eid said, it is making three times as much money in its new location as it did in the territories. So, he asked a gathering sponsored by StandWithUs, who did BDS help? Certainly not the Palestinians.
“BDS is using the Palestinians for their own agenda; they are just victimizing us,” Eid declared to local contributors of StandWithUs, which combats BDS and other ant-Israel initiatives on campuses across North America.
Ordinary Palestinians, according to Eid, don’t care about settlements, nor the political struggle to create a new state. “Palestinians are seeking dignity, not identity,” he said. “What they want is a job, and education for their children.” For them, he added, “a homeland is a place where you find dignity, justice, and freedom.”
He heaped scorn on Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. “Who does he represent?” he asked. “His two sons and his wife,” he answered. “The majority of Palestinians have lost trust in him. We know that the leadership is corrupt, but we (although not Eid himself) are not allowed to speak about it.”
He noted that once it was proposed that the minute Israel made peace with the Palestinians, 54 Arab and Muslim countries would normalize relations with Israel. However, even without that peace, he said “it is already happening.”
“The Saudis say if the Palestinians want to keep fighting Israel, they can, but we (Saudis) want to make peace,” Eid commented.
He added that the Palestinian Authority prefers the status quo to resolution of the conflict. With continued unrest, he said, the PA. receives “more and more aid,” offering more opportunities for corruption. “The P.A. is not interested in any kind of state,” he declared. “Don’t believe Mahmoud Abbas when he says we must have our own state.”
The commentator lives in Jericho, commutes to East Jerusalem, and describes himself as a former refugee. As a child he lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, in what even then was known as the Jewish Quarter, though it was under the control of Jordan. A year before the Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel captured that portion of Jerusalem, he said, the Arab families living in the Jewish Quarter were forced to move to the Shufuat refugee camp. “So,” he said, “it was Jordan, not Israel, that made me a refugee.”
Unlike nearby Arab countries, Israel does not impose building restrictions on the refugee camps within its territory, he said. If you go to Shufuat, he said, you will be surprised that it is called a refugee camp. Residents have been allowed to build nice homes, and tall buildings. This is opposite to what has happened in Lebanon, where nice permanent structures in refugee camps are discouraged because, supposedly, the refugees are just “guests,” not permanent residents.
Eid criticized the countries of the European Union, which “are becoming part of the conflict, not the solution.” He said the European Union cynically uses the Palestinian Authority against Israel, not to help the Palestinians, but rather as a pawn in what he described as “an anti-Semitic war between Europe and Israel.”
Concerning Gaza, he said that Egypt and the Palestinian Authority both would like to see the area remain crushed, whereas Hamas and Israel have a common interest in Gaza’s reconstruction from the impact of the 2014 Gaza War. Where the two differ, of course, is that Hamas would like to rebuild its military capability, whereas Israel would like to see homes and civil society reconstructed.
Beginning in January 2019, with the approval of Israel, the Arab nation of Qatar started contributing $30 million per month in cash to Hamas. Eid said Israel, under the leadership of Bibi Netanyahu, believes that the more money that goes to Gaza, the less violence there will be. However, Qatar stopped the flow of money to Hamas last December, resulting in negotiations between Israel and Qatar for the resumption of the funding.
Eid said in the convoluted politics of the area, Hamas often fires rockets at Israel as a way of getting the attention of Egypt, which wants to tamp down the violence. When rockets are fired, he said, Egypt asks Hamas what it wants, and it will respond that it wants more favorable treatment from Egypt, such as the reopening of a closed crossing between them.
Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is forever in the news, Eid said “as an Arab, I don’t want to be in Libya, Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon. It is much safer for me to be living under the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
If ever peace comes to the region, he said, a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) is better than a 3-state solution (Israel, West Bank, Gaza) but that can’t occur so long as “Hamas’s agenda (like Hezbollah’s in Lebanon) is the Iranian agenda.
“Forget right now about any kind of peace,” he said. ” Let us put politics aside, and talk instead about economics. Economic prosperity will pave the way to peace.”