Ceasefire isn't the answer: Palestinian peace activist weighs in on the Israel-Hamas war

Bassem Eid criticizes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and explains why ‘while Hamas is ruling the Gaza Strip, there is no chance of any peace’

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Bassem Eid is a Palestinian peace activist.

Born in East Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, Eid now lives in Jericho, located in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank.

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He is currently on a speaking tour of the United States and Canada, talking about peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, criticizing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and explaining why Hamas cannot be allowed to keep its stranglehold on the Gaza Strip.

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Eid spoke to National Post by phone from his hotel room in Toronto. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

What is the goal of your speaking tour?

I am trying to explain the massacre, which has been committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, and to tell people that the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7 almost proves to the world that they are a genocidal movement, and they are a brutal, barbaric terrorist organization. I am trying to explain to outsiders how Hamas is really using its own people as a human shield for the past 17 years.

I used to say that Israel is using its own rockets to protect its people, but Hamas is using its people to protect its rockets.

And, unfortunately, when I am going around, and especially on the campuses in the United States, there is a huge resistance over there against the Jews — supporting Hamas and celebrating the Jewish massacre which was committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, by considering it as a Palestinian victory. I think that for the Jewish massacres to be considered as a Palestinian victory in the 21st century, that’s the end of the humanity.

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How have your views changed over the years regarding the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians?

First of all, I am not really seeing any kind of solution in the near future for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I think that the whole of the international community knows very well that while Hamas is ruling the Gaza Strip, there is no chance of any peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

And I think that since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and since Hamas occupied the Gaza Strip in 2007, it looks like the solution between both sides is the three-state solution for two people. Hamas is defending their own Islamic Emirate in Gaza. (President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud) Abbas is defending his own empire in the West Bank. And the State of Israel. This is how we are living since 2005. And it looks like everyone is so satisfied with his own.

So have your views changed on the two-state solution? It sounds like they have.

I think that it is something impossible. The majority of the Palestinians believe that the Palestinian state to be founded in the future, it’s going to be in Gaza, but not in the West Bank. I don’t think that there is a space for a state in the West Bank right now.

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Imagine that this conflict probably will continue for another 20 or 30 years. Then, that will be definitely that the West Bank will be completely annexed to Israel. Palestinians in the West Bank can continue living, probably as an Israeli resident in the West Bank, but not as an Israeli citizen.

What do you make of the international support for Palestinians?

I don’t know how much the Palestinians are really benefiting from those who call themselves pro-Palestinians or supporting Palestinians. And that question is, how many Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are really aware about the activities of these people in the West, like, in the United States or in Europe?

Unfortunately, those pro-Palestinians, in my opinion, almost caused a huge damage to the reputation and to the image of the Palestinians. Imagine, after the massacre on Oct. 7, the so-called pro-Palestinians start dancing and celebrating the massacre.

I didn’t see any such celebration, any support in the Palestinian cause. It’s the opposite.

What sort of actions do benefit Palestinians?

I think to be pro-peace, to stop being pro-Israeli, to stop being pro-Palestinian, to be pro-peace, to call for reconciliation, to call for co-existence, to start building bridges between the two sides, that they can come and gather together to talk and to negotiate. Unfortunately, we are living in a very deep gap right now from each other.

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And I think that the so-called organizations in the United States or in Europe, like the BDS or like the SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), I don’t think that these people are really trying to push any kind of a peace initiative between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is the opposite: All of these pro-Palestinian organizations around the world are calling to destroy Israel, are saying that Israel has no right to exist, and are asking how to erase Israel from the map. That will never, ever solve the problem. That will never, ever help the Palestinians. That will never, ever create peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombing campaigns. Do you have any concerns about how Israel is prosecuting the war?

There is a huge exaggeration here in the number of the killed people and in the number of the injured people. On the other side, I hope that Israel will not be blinded by its anger. I think that it is still the responsibility of Israel to take care of the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. But sometimes it looks like it’s impossible. While the tunnels are under the house, while the factory of the rockets is under the hospital, how can Israel take care?

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There’s been the argument made by progressives that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. What do you think of that accusation?

This is a war. Everybody should have to remember that this is a war, which has been imposed on the Gazan people by Hamas, not by Israel. So to start right now, to give it such a political slogan, I don’t think that that’s even benefiting the Palestinians. I think that everybody should try to contribute the words, how we can stop the war. But, in the meantime, how we can free Gaza from Hamas.

Do you think calls for a ceasefire from politicians are helpful?

A ceasefire for what? A ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to enter to Gaza, everybody knows in Gaza, that humanitarian aid which is entering Gaza, probably one-third is going to the people and two-thirds of it is going to Hamas.

So the ceasefire … is not really the solution here. The solution is, how we can get rid of a terrorist organization called Hamas, and how we can bring a much better life to our people in the Gaza Strip?

Are you optimistic about reconciliation or a two-state solution?

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Right now, I am really not. I am really not. Because, you know, everything right now depends on how this current war is going to be ended. Who is going to defeat whom? Will Israel be able to trash Hamas from the map? If Hamas will be kicked out from the Gaza Strip, that probably will give some hope that things are going to improve in the near future. And it probably will bring a new Middle East with the two-state solution.

But everything, it depends on how this war is going to be ended.

You’ve been threatened over the years for your views. Do you fear for your safety?

Really not threatened, let me say. I was arrested by Yasser Arafat in 1996 after I founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group to monitor and to control the Palestinian Authority human rights violations against Palestinians. As you know, to create the human rights organization under the Arab regime, it looks like committing suicide.

Since I was released from the Palestinian prison, I don’t remember ever, that any security force or any police tried to approach my house or to knock my door.

I used to say that I am feeling more safe in Jericho rather than in Columbia University and rather than in the California streets.

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