Bassem Eid is a Palestinian analyst and human-rights campaigner who chooses to live in Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, rather than in those parts of the West Bank where Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority hold sway. He’s not fond either of the PA, or of Hamas, and he’s horrified that those claiming to champion the Palestinians fail to realize how cruelly treated they are by their own corrupt leaders. Bassem Eid’s scolding of the Squad — Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley — is here: “Palestinian Activist: It’s Time Ilhan Omar and ‘The Squad’ Learned the Truth About Israel and Hamas,” by Bassem Eid, Algemeiner, July 1, 2021:
US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Tuesday, and was asked by host Jake Tapper about her long record of virulently anti-Israel comments (which included her comparison earlier this month of Israel to Hamas) and why some of her Jewish Congressional colleagues had called her out for again issuing antisemitic tropes….
“I’ve welcomed any time my colleagues asked to have a conversation to learn from them [and] for them to learn from me,” she said. “I think it’s really important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice.”
Bassem Eid had ready his reply:
I’m a Palestinian who grew up in a UNWRA refugee camp outside of Jerusalem, and have been a human rights activist all my life. Let me say this as directly as I can: Rep. Omar does not know what she is talking about….
Politicians like Omar, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spend a considerable amount of time attacking Israel for the supposed harm it inflicts on Palestinians.
But if they truly care about the well-being of Palestinians, they ought to focus their attention elsewhere. These days, the vast majority of suffering Palestinians experience is the direct result of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the influence of the terrorist group Hamas.
Corruption affects every aspect of life for Palestinians. It cripples our economy, which in turn makes government jobs among the most highly prized. However, those jobs are awarded based on connections rather than qualifications, which perpetuates the cycle of corruption. No announcements are posted for new government jobs. This lack of transparency is pervasive throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
When there is massive corruption that buys the support of those in the government who determine everything from building and zoning rules, to property taxes, to health-and-safety regulations, to licenses to conduct certain kinds of professions and businesses, it is often too risky to start or maintain one’s own business. The only occupations that are secure are those in the government itself. These are also among the best paid jobs, both in Gaza and in the PA-controlled parts of the West Bank, and with the greatest degree of job security. And since they are so highly sought after, the rich and the well-connected manage to reserve such jobs for themselves, their relatives, and their friends. Most of the government jobs are not even advertised; any vacancies will be filled by those with the right connections, the right influence, and the right bribes. This is the reality that the Palestinians must endure, inflicted by their own rulers in Hamas and the PA.
The vaccine distribution process is one recent example of this corruption. A number of Palestinian human rights and civil society groups recently alleged that wealthy government officials were taking vaccines intended for medical workers.
The Palestinian Health Ministry eventually admitted that many of the doses it received were administered to government ministers….
Vaccines in the PA were given first not to front-line medical workers, but to wealthy government officials; when it became impossible to hide this — those medical workers who were not receiving the vaccines were the ones inoculating the rich officials – the Palestinian Health Ministry stopped trying to hide it, but suggested that it was “essential” that the government function and therefore, that those officials be inoculated first. This infuriated many Palestinians who could, however, do nothing.
Hamas rules Gaza and has a tremendous following among West Bank residents, especially after instigating the recent bloody conflict with Israel and showing off its relative competence compared to the pathetically inept Palestinian Authority.
Furthermore, Hamas continues to recruit and use child soldiers.
According to The Jerusalem Post, more than 30 Palestinian children and teens were enlisted in stabbing attacks against Israelis from 2015-2016, another 30 Palestinian children have been successfully used as suicide bombers (many more unsuccessfully attempted it), and more than 17,000 Palestinian children were recruited into Hamas child militia programs in 2019.
At least one of the children that authorities claimed had been killed during the recent war in Gaza was a Hamas member. The use of child soldiers is always abhorrent and unethical.
Hamas will continue to make life worse for Palestinians, as the US media and politicians continue to focus only on criticizing Israel.
Does the Squad really not know about Hamas’ use of child soldiers, dozens of whom engage each year in stabbing attacks of Israelis, having been incited to do this on children’s television programs, and taught the proper techniques in child militia camps? Dozens of children have also been persuaded by Hamas to become suicide bombers; curiously, none of the children of Hamas leaders ever engage in this terrorism themselves. Why has the Squad remained silent about Hamas’ use of child soldiers? Are its members so full of hatred for Israel that they are determined to say nothing bad about Hamas, lest it help the Jewish state?
Calling for boycotts, sanctions, and the destruction of Israel does not create real positive change for Palestinians.
Where successful, the BDS movement tends to have unintended consequences. For example, the Israeli company Sodastream had its manufacturing plant in the West Bank, where it employed both Jewish and Arab workers. BDS wanted to make an example of the company, for being based on the West Bank. Its boycott campaign was beginning to bite, when Sodastream simply picked up and moved from the West Bank to what is indisputably Israel. The result: 400 Palestinian workers at the West Bank plant lost their jobs. Sodastream did not suffer, but the families of those 400 workers certainly did.
There are some brave leaders, like Mansour Abbas, who are working for real positive change. Abbas is Palestinian Arab by culture and heritage, and an Israeli by citizenship. He is a devout Muslim. He also recently joined the new Israeli government as a deputy minister and secured an impressive list of benefits for his constituents.
Abbas’ Ra’am Party is the first exclusively Arab political party to fully join an Israeli government. He has said that he will work to negotiate large increases in government spending and improve social services in Arab communities. The coalition agreement already includes the allocation of over 53 billion shekels ($16 billion) to combat violent crime and improve infrastructure in Arab towns. This is how you improve the lives of the Palestinian people — not through violence, corruption, and terrorism.
Mansour Abbas has decided he’s had enough of focusing on Palestinian “national rights” – a long term, and perhaps impossible project — and prefers to stick with the bread-and-butter issues that most of his Arab constituents would like addressed. He’s an Arab Tip O’Neill, trying to improve roads, and schools, and provide more and better-paid jobs for the Israeli Arabs he represents. He’s already parlayed his power as the head of the Ra’am Party, which is. a critical component of Bennett’s coalition, into a promise of a colossal increase – some $16 billion — in spending on infrastructure in Arab cities and towns, and in allocating more resources to deal with violent crime within the Arab community, which means more funding for, and proper training of, an enlarged Arab-Israeli police force , as well as more vocational and educational programs for salvageable juveniles.
In this same spirit of willingness to come together, I invite Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to meet with me, a Palestinian living in the West Bank, to discuss the problems of the Palestinians and the best solutions to address them. These Congresswomen say they are willing to listen and learn, Well, if they really are, here’s their chance.
Bassem Eid has thrown down the gauntlet, but none of the Squad’s members is going to pick it up, and engage – even from long distance – in a discussion with him. And they certainly won’t be visiting him in the West Bank to see how the PA governs, or going to Gaza to take in how Hamas stays in power. The Squad knows – don’t confuse its members with facts – that Israel alone is responsible for whatever woe which the Palestinians must endure.
Bassem Eid did not have the space to provide a complete bill of particulars against Hamas and the PA, but we can mention just a few of those things here. When he speaks of “corruption” he doesn’t provide the truly staggering amounts that are involved. The PLO crime boss Yassir Arafat managed to divert during his lifetime between $1 billion and $3 billion for himself from the aid money foreign donors provided. Just two leaders of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, managed amass fortunes of at least $2.5 billion apiece. Mahmoud Abbas, though not yet in their category (why do you think he is still holding onto power at 85, if not to deposit still more in his Swiss bank accounts?), has at least $400 million. And then there are those who, just below the top rung, nonetheless have become multimillionaires. There are 600 “Hamas millionaires” living in villas in Gaza. Among the PA’s upper echelon, which includes such people as the late Saeb Erekat and Hanaf Ashrawi, Mahmoud Abbas has allowed them to help themselves to a few million dollars apiece.
He might also have wanted to detail how Hamas and the PA leaders stay in power. In Gaza, Hamas expelled or killed hundreds of members of its rival Fatah in 2007; since then it retains its iron grip by controlling all of the press, radio, and television in Gaza; whenever there are brief protests about economic conditions, these are quickly and violently suppressed.
It is no different with the PA’s rule in the territories it controls in the West Bank. The press and other media are under strict control; PA goons will threaten, beat, and sometimes kill – as we see from the murder of Nazir Banat – those who criticize the government and, especially, accuse Mahmoud Abbas of corruption. As for “democratic ideals,” there hasn’t been an election in Gaza since 2005. The President-For-Life Mahmoud Abbas is entering the sixteenth-year of his four-year term; earlier this year, it looked as if he might actually hold parliamentary and presidential elections, but two months after announcing them – and realizing he would lose badly – he cancelled the elections, claiming that it was the result of Israel refusing to allow Palestinians living in east Jerusalem from taking part. Israel pointed out that it had not objected to those Palestinians voting, but only to their voting inside the city limits of Jerusalem; they could vote in a suburb just outside.
There is so much that Bassem Eid could show the Squad’s members about the daily misery of Palestinian life under the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. The fantastic wealth of the rulers – just three of whom (Meshal, Marzouk, Abbas) – stole about $6 billion from the money meant for those they ruled over; the brutal suppression of dissent; the pathological hatred of Israel, expressed by both the Slow Jihadists of the PA and the Fast Jihadists of Hamas. But the Squadlettes, each of whom is the World’s Foremost Authority, don’t need to listen to the likes of Bassem Eid. He was born and raised in an UNRWA camp just outside Jerusalem. What can he possibly know about the lives of Palestinians that the Squadlettes don’t already know?