For the Jan. 31 Common Hour, a community conversation conducted every Thursday classes are in session at Franklin & Marshall College, sophomore Daniel Peters introduced the speaker, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist immersed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“Bassem’s not afraid to criticize parties on both sides of the conflict,” Peters said. “His neutral criticism has caused him to be condemned by both Israelis and Palestinians, and has gotten him arrested. Don’t worry, Bassem. Criticize away. You’re safe here.”
Eid, who founded the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and has spoken before the U.S. Congress, the European Union, British Parliament and many human rights organizations, opened with the observation that Palestinians became a “divided society.”
“That’s probably one of the major obstacles in front of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
The activist, who grew up in Shuafat, a United Nations refugee camp near Jerusalem, shared with the audience in Mayser Gymnasium some of the highlights of the conflict’s 50-year history including the Palestinians’ desire for a homeland.
The United National Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) that was created in 1949. The UNWRA supports more than 5 million refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes after the 1947-49 war, during which time Israel became a state, and the 1967 Six-Day War.
Eid spoke about the violent conflicts between Israel and the region’s Arab states, the Israeli-Palestinian issues over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and said, “In my opinion, the majority of the Palestinian people these days are people who are seeking dignity, rather than identity.”
The history Eid relayed is long and complicated for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but further complicated by the Arab states, Europe and the U.S., all of which attempt to resolve the issues between the two parties.
“The international community shouldn’t have to do more and more … and to just be either pro-Israel or to be pro-Palestinian,” Eid said. “In my opinion, pro-Israel means to be pro-Palestinian, and pro-Palestinian means to be pro-Israel.
“Because ‘pro’ means that you are seeking really a good solution for both sides,” he concluded. “Listen to the meaning of the definition of the word ‘pro.’ It means how to help these both sides find a solution amongst themselves.”