Speaking at the Shurat HaDin Towards a New Law of War Conference in Jerusalem, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid declared that the reason why the international community is less concerned about the plight of the Palestinian refugees living in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria than it is about Israel is because “if there are no Jews, there is no news.” Eid clarified that despite the international perception to the contrary, the Palestinians suffer mainly because of their leadership: “The civilians must wake up to the fact that rights were never given by the leaders or a government. They must be taken. I want to see a Gazan spring against Hamas that is ruining daily lives in the coastal strip. The people of Gaza are dying several times a day. They are living in hell.”
Eid noted that when Hamas started to build the tunnels, they would pay Gazans $50 to have a tunnel go underneath their house. He stressed that Gazans have two choices: accept the money and risk Israel potentially destroying their home or to be killed: “This is how Hamas is destroying daily lives in Gaza. Only 50 Palestinians per day went to Erez Hospital" during Operation Protective Edge because Hamas would not permit more to go.
“The Israelis sent a message to the residents of Northern Gaza, stressing no home was to be destroyed unless they found tunnels,” Eid told the audience. In Beit Lehiya, Eid noted that Israel found tunnels underneath the homes and therefore asked for an evacuation in order to clear out the tunnels, but Hamas would not permit the people to leave the area: “Hamas sent gangsters to Beit Lehiya in Gaza that forced people to go back.” As a result, Eid asserted that many Gazans were killed during Operation Protective Edge that would not have died otherwise.
“No one speaks about the human shields, not Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch,” Eid declared. In fact, Eid believes that Europe disdains Israel more than the Arabs themselves: “The international community does not seem interested in ending the violence in the Middle East. Why not link what happens in Al Yarmouk to the human shield issue? What about the Arabs and Muslims? Saudi Arabia killed more civilians than militants among the Houthis. The UN has not responded. The UN has no credibility around the world.”
Eid believes that the UN must be reformed. Eid visited an UNRWA school in Jordan, where he found 8-year-old children speaking about jihad and suicide bombings. He asked the children where they learned this kind of stuff and the children told Eid that they studied it in school from their teachers. Eid added that the teachers confirmed to him that they are teaching the young Palestinian children to liberate their homeland: “There is no bright future for the children. If the international community does not take action, the Middle East will fall into deeper darkness.”
Eid noted that the people of Gaza cannot rely on the Arab and Muslim world to come to their aid in the face of the problematic stance of the international community: “Qatar and Turkey don’t support the people of Gaza but terror. They want to keep the region boiling. Israel is the only country in the world feeding Gaza. There are 22 Arab leaders looking to Israel to supply food. The majority of Gazans consider Muslims and Arabs the real enemies rather than Israel.”
As a result of this situation, Eid declared in an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline that the majority of the Palestinian people seek “dignity rather than identity. There is a lack of trust in the leadership. If you ask the average Palestinian what are their priorities, they will say education, healthcare, and jobs. Emotionally, what happened last summer was very painful. On the other side, how many Palestinians justify rocket attacks? Much less than expected,” as Israel is no longer controlling Gaza and the Hamas regime that has taken over there has destroyed the coastal strip by launching the rockets at Israel rather than building anything for their people. “Hamas invests in tunnels and their military capability.”
Within the Palestinian Authority, whether in Hamas-controlled Gaza or the West Bank, “the glorification of terrorism is from the leadership,” he noted. Eid asserted that 180% of PA TV, whose owners are the Palestinian Authority, is false history and incitement. Furthermore, he asserted that they never stopped one day to go against this false narrative and report the truth. As a result, only 10% of Palestinians watch PA TV for “it is a false source of information.” Eid claimed that Palestinians prefer Egyptian and Lebanese TV or to watch satellite stations such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.
Contrary to the international perception, to date, Eid noted that there is no Palestinian movement to change the situation with Israel as the “PA has no interest in it. The PA wants to maintain the present situation. They are dealing with other conflicts. They are focused on Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.” Furthermore, people who challenge the Palestinian leadership face repression: “People who posted on facebook were arrested by the Palestinian Authority. People who were elected to serve at Bir Zeit University were invited in by the Palestinian Intelligence. There is a lot of freedom of expression to talk under the Palestinian Authority but no freedom afterwards.” Eid noted that he himself was arrested in 1996 by Yasser Arafat, but since then, no one dares to arrest him because he is now a media man that got “immunity.”