Bassem Eid, a political analyst, expert commentator on Palestinian and Arab issues and a pioneer of human rights among Palestinians was the ideal guest for the latest Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council webinar, discussing the violence between Israel and Hamas and within Israel. Eid, whose topic was “The Palestinian Case Against Hamas”, said friends in Gaza tell him they feel like they are hostages of Hamas and want Israel to get rid of it.
He said he believes the international community is using Palestinians for their own agenda, rather than trying to help them. It is far more important, he said, to talk about the ceasefire rather than the reconstruction, or there will be further fighting in three to five years which will again destroy Gaza.
His advice is that Israel should be very tough and make clear that if there is further violence, it will end Hamas rule, and should only allow reconstruction if Hamas hands over its weapons. Any reconstruction, he says, should be done without Hamas, which would only use reconstruction money and material to rebuild its military infrastructure. He noted that much of the damage from the 2014 conflict is yet to be repaired.
He stated, “In my opinion, the Hamas are using their own people, the Hamas are sacrificing their own people. We saw recently how the Hamas leaders hiding themselves in the tunnels, they have shelters to protect themselves. But the other 2 million civilians, they have no shelters… And Hamas is not care about his people. Hamas is much more care about their own political agenda, how to gain power, and how to gain riches.”
There is, he said, a lot of misinformation about the fighting, in part because the press only reports what Hamas allows, and he blames the whole catastrophe on Hamas, which started it by firing rockets at Israel. The Sheikh Jarrah dispute, he said, was not the issue, but Hamas used it, and the violence in Jerusalem, for political purposes, adding that the people who moved there when the Jews were thrown out in 1948 never tried to register ownership of the land, meaning the Jewish owners kept title, so “Now the issue is in front of the court. So it is a legal issue rather than… a political issue.”
In the wake of Israel’s intercommunal violence, which he said was Hamas’ only success of the conflict, he pleaded for Jews and Arabs “to start realising that this is our country, and we have no other place to live. We should have to live together in peace, in security, in coexistence.”
He described the conflict as being like an ATM for those who call for Israel’s destruction. Of those who accuse Israel of apartheid, he said, “I don’t know how these people can reach the conclusion that Israel is an apartheid,” suggesting they must never have been there and have been misled by the media.
He revealed that Iran announced there are three factories in tunnels in Gaza making rockets, and believes there are Iranian engineers there making the rockets, while some people in Gaza allow Hamas to dig tunnels under their houses because Hamas pays them.
UNRWA, he said, is trying to protect its income by inciting Palestinians against Israel, and is corrupt. Western aid to UNRWA should be made conditional on it being accountable for its money and removing anti-Israel incitement from its school curriculum.
Finally, he said countries like Australia should focus on Palestinian civil projects, and donate to the economy and to reconstructing Gaza, but not through Hamas.