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08 2012

Palestinians and Human Rights

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

You could say that Bassem Eid likes to live dangerously. How so? Because the founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group is prepared to stand up for the protection of rights regardless of which government is violating them. Bassem Eid, head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.   When he discovers inmates have been tortured in Palestinian jails, he reports it. When accused are being held without trial or charges by the Palestinian Authority, he reports it. When Israelis violate the rights of Palestinians, he reports it. In the Middle East, that can be dangerous. Most Jews here believe that Arab Israelis, who make up 20% of the population, are treated far more respectfully by the Israeli government than other Arabs are by their Arabic governments. In fact, the Jerusalem Post's Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh goes even further. He says he doesn't know of a single Arab Israeli who would leave Israel, and move to a new Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza. The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian journalist who works for an Israeli media outlet.   Having said that, while Arab Israelis may fare better than their counterparts in other Arab countries, it's widely perceived that they are not treated with the same rights and respect as Jewish Israelis. Basic services such as garbage collection in Arab neighbourhoods are seen to be inferior. And Arab Israelis certainly have not penetrated the Israeli labour market as much as Jewish Israelis have. But back to Bassam Eid, who looks at the last decade in the region and is appalled by what he sees. He calls the September 2000 Intifadah “one of the biggest tragedies for the Palestinians. It achieved nothing.”  A year later, he says it turned into terrorism against Israel “and gave Israel the green light to protect itself any way it wanted to.” In September 2005, Israel under Ariel Sharon disengaged from Gaza with no coordination with the Palestinian Authority.  “I think Sharon gave Gaza to Hamas to create chaos,” Eid says. By January 2006, Hamas had won elections, and wanted revenge on Fatah. In June 2007, over a six-day period, Hamas had killed 160 Fatah supporters in Gaza. “A two state solution?” Eid asks rhetorically.  “No.  More like three states for two peoples. The Jews get Israel, Fatah gets the West Bank, and Hamas gets Gaza, funded by Iran. Hamastan.” Eid now sees a Middle East where human rights violations are far too frequent and he doesn’t intend to be silent about it. We met at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where Eid spelled out his objections. The beautiful gardens outside the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.   “There have been huge violations in the West Bank by the Palestianian Authority against Palestinians between 2007 and now,” he says, claiming the Israelis have urged the PA to arrest dozens of Hamas supporters on a nightly basis. “There is torture,” Eid says. “There are deaths in custody. And Hamas does the same to the PA guys in Gaza. It’s revenge on each other. And the international community keeps a blind eye to the human rights violations. “When your own government violates your own rights, that’s the worst,” Eid continues. “It’s much more painful.  When Israel released our political prisoners, everyone wanted to speak about it. When our own governments release us, no one will speak about it because of our shame.” And which Arab government has been the most helpful to the Palestinian cause? “No one,” he says. Some controversial positions taken by the PA over the yars have complicated things, in the land where memories are long.  The Palestinian endorsement of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait hasn’t been forgotten in the broader Arab world. Qatar supports Hamas and doesn’t like Abbas. Saudi Arabia offers little assistance. Yemen is too poor to help. And Jordan, Eid insists, wants to control the holy places in East Jerusalem, where it pays the salaries of those Arabs employed in those places. Eid introduces a new idea.  “Everyone earns money from this conflict,” he says.  “There’s no incentive to end it.” I ask him what he means. “In 1996, the United Nations gave a grant of $10 million to reform the Palestinian judicial system,” he begins.  “They sent three experts from the U.S. to be in Gaza for three months. They leased apartments. They bought new cars. They rented offices. They bought furniture from Italy. They hired some workers. That was $7 million right there.” But there’s more. “They invited representatives from the U.S., Australia, and the U.K.,” Eid continues.  “They had first class flights, rental cars, they did three workshops, then put out a report. This is very good business. It’s legal, but it’s corrupt.” Eid lives in Jericho, has four kids ages 17 to 14, and hopes they don’t go into his business.  “I hope they paint houses,” he jokes. He holds conferences, gives lectures, and writes reports.  He met former U.S. President George W. Bush for 15 minutes at a 2007 conference in the Czech Republic and offered him a solution to the quagmire that was Iraq. “Create six different states and call it the ‘United States of Iraq,’” Eid recalls.  Bush, of course, didn’t bite. Eid asked Bush to get more engaged in finding Middle East peace, but the president turned him down, saying “Bassam, how many times did Yasir Arafat meet with Bill Clinton?  Twenty-two times? Did you get a state?  No.” Having said that, Bush told Eid, “I am the deliverer.” “When?” Eid asked. “Inshallah,” Eid says Bush replied. “With God’s help.” In July 2000, Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak got close to a peace agreement in the dying days of Bill Clinton’s second term.  Israel was prepared to give 97% of the territory it occupied to the Palestinians. But Eid says Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak told Arafat to refuse that deal. “Keep going, you’ll get 110% of what you want,” Eid says Mubarak told Arafat. “We were at the door of a state in July 2000,” Eid says.  “After 11 years, we have no hope right now.”

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