Interview: Bassem Eid
Happy New Year, friends! We’re heading into 2023 with our special guest, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist who supports the state of Israel—you read that right! Bassem has lived in East Jerusalem and Jericho, and his experiences there have led him to defend the Jewish nation and expose the injustice of Palestinian leaders against their own people.
Bassem speaks with Chris on this week’s program and sheds light on things you won’t hear in the news. He discusses how the Abraham Accords have changed the landscape of the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian Authority’s abuse of power, and how he came to support Israel as a Palestinian. The truths he shares will encourage you in your support of Israel and open your heart to the plight of Palestinians and Jewish people alike in the Holy Land!
To watch the FOI Equip interview, visit https://youtu.be/dsl_7HWiv7E.
To learn more about Bassem and follow his work, visit http://www.bassemeid.com/.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We're so glad you chose to be with us. I'll quickly mention that everything related to today's program, every previous episode, almost eight years worth, can be found at foiradio.org. And I'll also invite you to consider supporting our ministry by clicking on the donate button and helping us continue to teach biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah. Again, that's foiradio.org and at the top of the year, I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and a Happy New Year to you, Chris.
Chris Katulka: You too, Steve. I'm so glad we could enter into 2023 together, and that's why this episode's going to be great because we're going to be launching it with Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist who is really a supporter of Israel and the Jewish people. So it's going to be a fascinating discussion.
Steve Conover: But before we get to that, in the news, Egyptians are demanding the British Museum return the Rosetta Stone to Egypt. The inscriptions on the dark gray granite slab became the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics after it was taken from Egypt by the British Empire in 1801. The British Museum refutes Egypt's claims and argues Egypt has not submitted a request for its return.
Chris Katulka: Well, Steve, here's my take. The debate over who owns ancient artifacts has been an increasing challenge to museums across Europe and America, and the spotlight has fallen on the most visited piece in the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone. How the British Museum responds to the Egyptians could set a precedent for how other museums will act as well. And in fact, Steve, before we found this piece, we were talking about the fact that the Turkish museum just recently returned the Hezekiah's inscription that was found in the discovery of Hezekiah's Tunnel. They returned it to Israel just last spring.
Chris Katulka: Last summer, I was excited to have Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid join our FOI Equip Guest Lecture series. Christians from all around the world joined our Zoom call to hear Bassem's unique perspective on Israel as a Palestinian. It's definitely not what you're going to hear in the news. Bassem grew up in East Jerusalem and currently lives in Jericho. As a Palestinian human rights activist, he supports Israel and calls out the abuses of the Palestinian leaders against their own people. Today you'll hear Bassem's take on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the success of the Abraham Accords and how he came to support the state of Israel as a Palestinian individual. So let's not waste any more time. Now, it's not normal to hear about a Palestinian who supports Israel. So my first question to Bassem had to do with his own life. How did he come to support Israel and as a Palestinian supporter of Israel living in Jericho, does he feel his life is threatened?
Bassem Eid: As you might know, as you mentioned, I am a human rights activist, that I spent around 30 years of my life defending the rights of the Palestinians. I started my human rights career with an Israeli organization called B'Tselem during the first intifada that I used to be in B'Tselem as a field worker who used to go to everywhere in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip to document violations committed in that time by the Israeli army against the Palestinians. I continue my work with B'Tselem til Oslo Accord signed between the PLO and Israel. As you might know, the PLO arrived to Gaza and Jericho first in May '94. In that time while I was still working with B'Tselem, I noticed that there are so many violations committed by the Palestinian Authority Security Forces against the Palestinians. Then I decided in that time that I should have to resign from B'Tselem to create a Palestinian organization to deal with the violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against the Palestinians.
So in December '95, I founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and we start documenting all of these violations committed by the Palestinian Authority. In January '96, I was arrested by Yasser Arafat. This is the price, this is the price. To create human rights organization under the Arab regime, it's like to commit a suicide. So I was arrested, but I was so lucky that I was arrested only. I kept in jail only for 25 hours, and the only person who interfered directly in my release in that time, the US Secretary Warren Christopher under Bill Clinton administration. Bill Clinton administration used to have a very strong relation with Yasser Arafat in that time and Warren Christopher is the one who pick up the telephone and he talk directly to Arafat, and he gave Arafat only five minutes to release me.
Chris Katulka: Is that right? That's amazing.
Bassem Eid: It's detention by Yasser Arafat already gave me a huge impunity from the Palestinian Authority. Don't forget that since 2002 until today, I am living in Jericho in the West Bank, which is completely under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. So that's probably one of the reasons why I get such kind of courage to come and to write and to publish mainly in the Times of Israel and of course to any other newspapers.
Chris Katulka: The Middle East feels much different today than it did in decades past. That's why I wanted to hear from Bassem on what do the Arab countries think of Israel today? Because it seems like we're living in a unique time when Israel has many strategic partnerships with the Arab countries around them.
Bassem Eid: I think that from my work in the human rights field, I start realizing so many things, Steve. The first important thing that I realize that the state of Israel is exist very strongly in the Middle East, and we shouldn't have to believe those Arab leaders who used to tell us that Israel will be thrown into the sea. I don't think that there is enough space in the sea for Israel in its, let's say territory, and in it's powerful. I don't think that there is any space, and I think that the Arab leaders recently start realizing how much Israel is a very strong country in two important issues. The first one is the high tech, the second one is security. Look to the Abraham Accords. What brought the Arab countries to sign normalization with Israel two years ago? That's because the security issues. I think that the Arabs these days are trying to lay much more on Israel rather than to lay on the United States. I think that Israel is the one who can take the job and who can deal with the whole threats of the Iranians in the region here.
Chris Katulka: The Abraham Accords established by the Trump administration really changed the look of the Middle East. Bassem's going to share his thoughts on the success of the Abraham Accords.
Bassem Eid: I think that the countries who signed the normalization with Israel are really very happy. So Biden is not in the context here. You can see tomorrow the Israeli Minister of Defense, Mr. Benny Gantz, is flying to Morocco, is flying to Morocco for three, sorry... The chief of staff, the chief of staff is flying to Morocco tomorrow for three days to talk with security issues and with selling in hundred of millions of dollars weapons from Israel to Morocco. I think that that will bring a huge economic prosperity to the Israelis.
I think that Abraham's Accord, you can see that deadline of the Abraham Accord is economic prosperity to the whole Middle East, not only to Israel, not only to the countries who signed the normalization, not only to the Palestinians, but the whole Middle East is going to benefit from such kind of accord. And I really hope that more and more countries are going to join the Abraham Accord. And I am a person who is very optimistic that while more and more Arabs will sign normalization with Israel, that's probably in the near future, will help the Palestinians to reach a kind of peace with Israel.
Chris Katulka: As Israel makes peace with the Arab Muslim countries, it seems as though the Palestinians have refused to get on board. I asked Bassem why this is and what are the problems that plague the Palestinian people?
Bassem Eid: When we are talking about the Palestinian leadership, we have two different categories of leadership. You have the Fatah people in the West Bank and you have the Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both of them are acting completely to a different agenda, and that's one of the major problems of the Palestinians, that they are divided and they are unable to be united anymore in the near future. I think that this is one of the major obstacles towards peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think that the world looks like that the international community is very happy while the Palestinians are really divided.
I didn't see even one country around the world who are trying to help the Palestinians to be united, to be together, to put a specific agenda towards a future peace with Israel. That's leading me to something very interesting. While the leaders around all the world, including President Biden, by the way, while those leaders are supporting the two-state solution for two people, I think that the Palestinian leadership is completely against the two-state solution for two people. Why? Because the Palestinian leadership is much more interested in a three-state solution for two people. Hamas is defending its own Islamic Emirate in the Gaza Strip. Abbas is defending his own empire in the West Bank and the state of Israel. This is how we are living in the past since 2005 and looks like that everyone is so satisfied with his own. So that's exactly the solution that the Palestinians are calling for. Three-state solution for two people. That's all.
Chris Katulka: When we come back, we are going to continue our discussion and we're going to hear more of his thoughts on what's going on in the Middle East and what was his upbringing like in the West Bank, even prior to Israel's presence in Jerusalem in 1967?
Chris Katulka: I hope that you've been enjoying this time that we've been spending with Bassem Eid as he's been sharing his insights into what's going on in Israel and the Middle East. But we want you to be prepared. We want you to have the resources to continue studying what's going on in this important part of the world. And you can do this by subscribing to our digital version of Israel My Glory. That's right, the digital version. The digital version actually not only gives you up-to-date information about what's going on in Israel and the Middle East, but it also gives you 40 years worth of content of Israel My Glory magazine, right at your fingertips, on your computer, on your tablet, or even on your smartphone. We want to make sure you're prepared to stand up, to be able to defend Israel and the Jewish people and to be aware of what's going on in the Middle East.
Steve, how can our listeners get their hands on the digital version of Israel My Glory?
Steve Conover: Yeah, it's a great resource and we'll make sure to have all the information at foiradio.org. Just visit foiradio.org to learn more about the digital version of Israel My Glory magazine.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everybody. We are continuing our conversation with Bassem Eid. I wanted to ask Bassem about Palestinian politics in the West Bank. It's always intriguing that the Palestinians don't trust their current president, Mahmoud Abbas, and he refuses to hold elections or step down from power. Well, Bassem's going to share his thoughts about his president, Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership of the Palestinian people.
Bassem Eid: Unfortunately, I didn't see right now any kind of a potential leader among the Palestinians. Don't forget also that Abbas is not allowing new leaders to come out. He's not allowing to form any new political parties, and Abbas want to be the owner of this property which called the West Bank with his two sons of course, not only him. So I didn't see that there is any potential leader right now, and I believe that while Abbas will pass away, it's not going to be an easy moment to the Palestinians. Even the Fatah themselves are so divided. The Fatah themselves, each member of them wants to be a president tomorrow morning. So I believe if Abbas will die, some fightings will take place. Probably some assassination will take place among the Fatah themselves. Leave the Hamas. Hamas is not exist in the West Bank because Israel is existing there.
So I am not talking about the Hamas here. I am talking much more about the Fatah party and probably Israel is the one who should have to interfere in terms to keep the things under control. Otherwise, that probably will harass the internal security of Israel itself. So nobody is talking right now about any potential leader.
I want to tell you something very interesting. That four months ago, 30 Palestinian personalities from the Civil Society, political activists, they met in an office in Ramallah, and they discussed very interesting topic. The topic was what is after Abbas? You couldn't believe that five minutes after that meeting started, the Palestinian Security forces arrived at the place, they enter to the building, they arrested the 30 people who was in the room. They took them to the jail. They kept them for around eight hours in jail. And afterwards they asked them to sign on a commitment that in the future they will never, ever participate in such kind of conference. So this is Abbas, and Abbas is a person who is thinking that he's going to live forever. I don't think that he's thinking about death. I don't think that he is thinking about the future of his own people and he's just continuing corrupting them economically and politically.
Chris Katulka: Israel often gets a bad rap in the United Nations, in Parliament buildings, and even in international media for their control of the West Bank. But Bassem has a different take as one who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Bassem Eid: I want to tell you that I born in the old city in Jerusalem in 1958 under the Jordanians' authorities. And I grew up in the Jewish quarter, by the way, till 1966, which means I was around eight years old. And in June 1966, which is exactly one year before the '67 War, the Jordanian government decided to evacuate 500 Palestinian families from the Jewish quarter to the north of Jerusalem in a place which is still exists called Shu'fat Refugee Camp, which is under the UNRWA responsibility until today, by the way.
So the one who made me a refugee is the Jordanians, not the Israelis. And I grown up in that refugee camp for 33 years. I still have six brothers who are still living there, and I used to go once a week or twice a week to visit them over there. So we grew up in a very poor family, very poor family. I have nine brothers and one sister. We were so poor. But after the '67 war, my father found a very good job in the Hadassah Hospital. I remember that's probably something in the 1972 or 1973.
And he used to get in a very good salary in that time. The whole family used to live in two rooms, in two rooms only. So while my father start working and getting a very good income, he start adding one room here, one room here, another floor. And then we became so big and our life completely changed. You couldn't believe that till '73, I don't remember that I know what does it mean a fridge? What does it mean a TV? What does it mean, a radio? I don't know. I don't know. Only after the Israelis came in, we start discovering, let's say, the technology in that time. So we don't have power in home, man. We don't have power in home. So after the Israelis came and my father work in Hadassah, we start developing, I can say every month, every month. And I have a very quiet father who is totally not involved in any politics.
He died while he was 82 years old. He never ever been summoned by the police. He never ever been stopped by the police. He drove his car for 25 years without one report, one report he never get from the police. So I think that we really start enjoying, let's say, life since the Israelis almost arrived to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
And on the other side, Chris, very important point to raise here. I want to tell you that the Gaza Strip used to belong to Egypt for 19 years, from 1948 till '67. West Bank and east Jerusalem used to be under the Jordanians in that time. Neither the Egyptian nor the Jordanians in that time, tried to found a Palestinian state. Neither the Jordanians nor the Egyptian tried to link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Now the Jordanians and the Egyptians demanding Israel for a Palestinian state. But you was ruling us for 19 years and you never thought to give the Palestinians a state in that time. So unfortunately, this is exactly what the Arab leaders almost did to the Palestinians.
Chris Katulka: Thanks for joining us today. I'll wish you a Happy New Year one more time. And a special thanks to Bassem Eid for being our guest.
Steve, as we launch into 2023, I think it's vital for us to really dive deep into the scriptures, to show why Friends of Israel exists. Why do we believe what we believe about Israel and the Jewish people? We don't support Israel and the Jewish people because of the politics happening over there. As evangelical Christians, we love Israel and the Jewish people because of what the scriptures teach. So over the next few weeks, we're going to be looking at the covenants, the covenants of Israel, and we're going to dive in and find the foundations for why we believe what we believe.
Steve Conover: We hope you join us in the new year. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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