A remarkable conference took place in Jerusalem last week on “The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran; the Responsibility to Prevent.” Its purpose was to present a report of that name, signed by 100 international scholars, jurists, and government officials, whose content would presumably be familiar to anyone who has followed events in Iran over the past few years. What made it remarkable was the identity of one of the three presenters.
The other two were unsurprising: Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian justice minister who has campaigned for years to get Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicted for incitement to genocide in an international court, and Amnon Rubinstein, a former Knesset member and minister from Israel’s far-left Meretz Party who, unlike most of his colleagues, recognizes the threat posed by the current delegitimization campaign against Israel and has devoted himself since retirement to defending his country’s good name.
But the third was a shocker: Bassem Eid, a West Bank Palestinian who made his name documenting alleged Israeli abuses of Palestinians as chief researcher for B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Eid has always been an anomaly among the so-called human rights community, in that he objects to abuse regardless of who commits it. That’s what precipitated his break with B’Tselem: after the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, he wanted B’Tselem to start documenting PA abuses of Palestinian rights as well as Israeli ones. When B’Tselem refused, saying it had no interest in abused Palestinians unless Israel was the alleged perpetrator, Eid left to found his own organization, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.
Still, most human rights activists focus on a particular area; it’s unusual to see a specialist in Palestinian rights throwing his weight behind a report focused on two issues seemingly unrelated to his chief concern: Iran’s genocidal threats against Israel, and its massive abuse of its own people, including “reports of torture, an assault on women’s rights, oppression of minorities such as the Baha’is and Kurds; murder of political dissidents; the denial of gay rights and what Cotler described as ‘the wanton imposition of the death penalty, including the execution of more juveniles than any other country in the world.’”
But as Eid explained, it really isn’t so far afield — because by propping up the Hamas regime in Gaza, Iran is also responsible for massive Palestinian suffering. That suffering, he noted, has been thrown into sharp relief in recent years by the contrast between Gaza’s decline and the West Bank’s impressive development.
So if the world cares about Palestinian suffering as much as it says it does, shouldn’t it also care about Iran’s perpetuation of it? Eid certainly won’t be surprised if the answer is no; after founding PHRMG in 1996, he complained bitterly that the same journalists who flocked to hear his reports on alleged Israeli abuse of Palestinians gave him the cold shoulder when he tried to tell them about PA abuse. But he keeps on trying — eternally hoping that someday, the answer will be yes.