Lecture on Israel-Palestine Does a Disservice to Students (Opinion)
Bassam Eid is a Palestinian refugee and a human rights activist. He currently works as a TV analyst for Israel. Eid came to Skidmore’s campus on Wednesday, Oct. 18 as a part of the Perspective series, hosted by Skidmore Hillel. (Please refer to The Skidmore News’ coverage of the event here.)
Eid mostly focused on the Palestinian Authority (PA) and their key role in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This came as a surprise since the poster of the event and how it was publicized made the message that Bassem Eid would focus on his perspective as a human rights activist and a Palestinian refugee. However, Eid barely touched on any specific human rights violations.
He started off talking about the Gaza strip as one of PA’s main territories. He mentioned that PA has made Gaza an “obstacle to Palestinians.” Eid emphasized that their corruption has led to a poor management of the humanitarian aid and their recent actions have resulted in more destruction to the Gaza strip. On the other hand, he said Israel is much more interested in the construction of Gaza. However, multiple sources of evidence show the contrary.
In 2014 alone, between the July 8 to August 27, the Israeli operations in Gaza killed at least 2,104 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 were women. This raised international concern and condemnation by the United Nation. Eid mentioned that he is “angry” that there has been no accountability towards the crimes that the PA commits. If so, why was he so reluctant to speak up about Israel's role in committing countless human right violations?
Eid continued his pattern of validating Israel's role in the conflict throughout the lecture, indirectly showcasing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a strictly Palestinian issue, in which Israel plays a minor role. Eid explained that PA, Hamas, and Israel are all actors in the conflict, but they do not have the same weight.
Israel has received $3.1 billion in US aid this year, making it the nation that receives the most US foreign aid. On the other hand, PA is not unified, and thus is incapable of having any military defense forces. The power dynamic, of course, was not represented at all in the lecture. Eid proposed that Palestinians should look into themselves in order to manage their lives better. Therefore, they should take an initiative against the PA’s corruption that is keeping them as “hostages.” However, when asked by an audience member how Palestinians can actually make a change, he failed to suggest a specific solution. Contradicting himself, Eid acknowledged that it is hard for Palestinians to actually make a change in the PA because of its authoritarian nature.
However, it proved interesting that while Eid preached accountability and self-change throughout his lecture, he is against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) — a movement that supports Palestinian rights and pressures Israel to comply with international law. Eid says that the BDS movement hurts the Palestinian labor, but he does not address the relationship of cheap Palestinian labor to the Israeli economy. He also says that many Palestinians do not know or care about the BDS movement, and that they are only concerned with the economic disadvantage it brings them. On the contrary, the BDS movement is led by Palestinians and includes unions and academic associations. If the BDS movement, which is non-violent, does not qualify as a way Palestinians can take agency of their lives, then what does?
The part of the lecture that was most concerning was Eid’s constant effort to validate his opinions as a unified Palestinian perspective. Whenever he mentioned examples of his views, he started off by saying “We The Palestinians,” as if he represents all the diverse opinions of Palestinians. Using one’s views and identity to present a whole society is a deeply problematic practice, especially when it comes to Middle Eastern issues. This practice allows the audience to believe that there is only one single coherent explanation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Also, it is important to acknowledge that much of Eid’s work is published mostly in Israeli newspapers, such as The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel.
Bassam Eid failed to provide any context to his discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the Perspective series’ main aim is to educate the student population about different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important that future speakers provide a firm background, acknowledging all of the conflict’s main actors.