Human Rights

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Palestinian Activist Cancels Chicago Lecture After Threats by Anti-Israel Protesters

A Palestinian human rights activist who opposes the anti-Israel BDS movement was heckled, threatened, and eventually forced to cancel one of his talks during a tour of Chicago-area universities last week.

Bassam Eid, a former researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem and the founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, was heckled and threatened at the University of Chicago and DePaul University last week. A planned talk at Northwestern University was forced to move locations due to security concerns, before being cancelled altogether when hecklers who had been at his previous talks arrived and argued with him.

Eid told The Forward that he decided to cancel his talk at Northwestern because he was concerned there wasn’t enough security present. He said that he would talk anywhere where security could keep “BDS thugs” in check. The goal of the BDS movement, Eid observed, “is not to let you talk.”

Eid was one of the first researchers for B’tselem, which focuses mostly on documenting Israeli misdeeds, but later became a critic of Palestinian governance. Since founding his own rights organization, Eid has become highly critical of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

During his February 19 talk at the University of Chicago, Eid was shouted at by an attendee, who said in Arabic, “Dr. Bassam, do not dare talk about us [Palestinians] anymore. You have shamed our God… you’ve shamed us, disgraced us, you are a traitor, you are a traitor, in the name of God you are a traitor… You are worse than the Jews and we will hunt you down and find you in every place, be prepared…”

Eid’s focus on changing Palestinian institutions from within prompted J Street U, the campus arm of the Israel-related lobbying J Street, to drop its sponsorship of his talk at Northwestern. Eid rejects an American role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, which contradicts J Street’s proposals for active American involvement. “We found some of the things he said troubling and not in line with our core values,” Northwestern J Street U copresident Jacqueline Soria told The Forward. She also complained that Eid “spoke exclusively about Palestinian responsibility.”

A video from last week of Eid explaining the problems facing the Palestinians, and why he opposes boycotts of Israel, is embedded below.

BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, a hard-line opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” Leading BDS activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

An analysis published in Forbes last year concluded that boycotts of Israel would take a significant toll on the Palestinian Authority’s economy, a point that Eid frequently makes.

[Photo: Jewish United Fund / YouTube ]