PORTLAND, Ore. — The international boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) does nothing to help Palestinians living under Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a Palestinian human rights activist said here June 18.
Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, Bassem Eid said the BDS movement aims at the creation of a Palestinian state that would lack the essential elements of a functioning state.
Right now, Palestinians have neither the institutions and the economic conditions nor the credible political leadership that would enable such a state to survive and thrive, Eid said. Underscoring the Palestinian Authority’s lack of support, he said 96 percent of Palestinians believe their political leaders are corrupt — and those leaders themselves account for the remaining 4 percent.
If Israel should allow creation of an independent Palestine, “will the BDS (movement) be able to find us jobs?” Eid asked. To the contrary, he said, international supporters of BDS have turned a blind eye to Palestinians’ need for the opportunity to earn a decent daily living.
Eid, 58, who has criticized both Palestinian and Israeli authorities for human rights violations, said he believes “solutions can be approached through more and more cooperation” between Israelis and Palestinians, rather than by driving a wedge between them through BDS policies.
Countries who have signed onto the BDS agenda have become “part of the conflict rather than part of the solution,” he said.
Eid, who lives in Jericho in the Palestinian West Bank, works as a political analyst for Israeli television and radio, and he travels widely to lecture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Attendees at the breakfast, held at the Hilton & Executive Tower, also heard an Israeli diplomat who is also an Arab Orthodox Christian describe Israel as a beacon of diversity in a region threatened by violent uniformity.
George Deek, a former deputy ambassador to Norway, said his family fled the ancient city of Jaffa before Arab countries invaded Israel in 1948, but after Israel won its war of independence, his grandfather chose to return. Reassimilation wasn’t easy, but his family forged a life of neighborly harmony with Jews, Muslims and fellow Christians, Deek said.
“Some people think it’s crazy,” he said. “We call it normal.”
Today, throughout the Middle East outside Israel, similar islands of tolerance are collapsing as Christians and Jews are driven out of Iraq, Sudan, Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries, he said.
That region-wide rejection of difference increases Israel’s importance “not only for Jews, but also to the Arab world itself,” because Israel tolerates difference, he said.
Deek, 32, said the hope for two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, living in peace side by side depends on the acceptance of difference for which Israel provides a model.
“We must all work together for mutual recognition in which both sides accept the legitimacy of the other side,” he said.
“A Middle East that has no room for Jews has no room for Christians or any other minority. In other words, it has no room for humanity.”
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace has been harshly critical of a policy report called “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” which the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) issued in February. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace claims that report paints Israel as chiefly to blame for Israeli-Palestinian conflict and backs away from the denomination’s longstanding commitment to a two-state solution.
ACSWP, which is part of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, makes recommendations to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is asking the 2016 General Assembly to approve Item 08-06 which calls, among other things, for the church to provide support if Israelis and Palestinians opt for a two-state solution.