Bassem Eid’s visit to Chicago interrupted by valid questions
Sarah Risheq contributed to this article
Bassem Eid, an unpopular Palestinian figure among Palestine activists, intended to speak at three universities in the Chicagoland area last week, but cut his plans short when Palestinian members and their allies grilled him on his criticism of Palestine.
After his speaking engagement’s negative response at the University of Chicago, he made his speech at Depaul University private and would go on to cancel his speech at Northwestern University.
“What I did witness [at the University of Chicago event] was students speaking out of their pain and knowledge on the subject. Various students asked Bassem [Eid] if he could talk about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict—which is what he was supposed to do. He became upset. He shouted at the students and dismissed them. I just sat there wondering how could he react that way? Why? This was not disrespectful, it was necessary,” Mariela Barajas, a student at University of Chicago, told Palestine in America in an email.
His next speech at DePaul University was switched from public, to students and invited guests only, as a result of the pressure he faced at the University of Chicago. The Q&A portion of the DePaul event was also screened to weed out any questions Eid refused to answer.
Eid’s visit to Chicago is a part of a larger tour, where he plans to visit more than two dozen U.S. campuses, including Harvard Law School in Cambridge, MA, Duke University in Durham, NC and Dickinson Collegein Carlisle, PA, just to name a few.
“I think it is one of the most important tours to appear here in front of 27 different campuses in all of the U.S. I am a person who believes that the students of today probably will be the leaders of the future. I know that the students has a very complicated view towards the Israel [and] Palestinian conflict,” Eid said during his speech at Depaul.
Eid’s lectures were filled with criticisms of organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), asserting they were initiated solely to benefit from the suffering of the Palestinian people. He additionally refers to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as an organization, instead of a global movement. According to Eid, BDS is trying to destroy the economy, not only in Israel, but in Palestine as well. Justifying that Palestinians holding positions that were created by the occupation, have lost those jobs due to BDS pressure.
His final scheduled appearance in Chicago—at Northwestern University—was originally advertised as a public event. The Facebook page for the event posted, “The event will be closed to NU students and invites only.Please make sure to bring your Wildcard,” five minutes before the event was scheduled to begin.
This move to privatize the event was too late as a handful of Palestine supporters had already sat down and waited for the event to begin.
Thirty minutes after the event was scheduled to begin, Eid’s speech was officially canceled. According to Omar Mansour, a student who attended the event, the organizers decided to hold the rest of the event “behind closed doors to a fraction of the attendees.” To the Palestinian attendee’s luck, however, some members did get a chance to meet him outside while he smoked a cigarette outside of the The Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center. Mansour said Eid was “incredibly defensive”, “quick to yell” and even “belligerent.” Again, Eid refused to answer questions from Palestinians who attended his event.
“Bassem has made his fortune as a colonial mouthpiece selling out the Palestinian people. His success has come because he is a Palestinian willing to present the same points as the Israeli right wing. His entire rhetoric is based on the denial of an oppressive power-dynamic between the Israeli and Palestinian societies; it is difficult to see what he hopes to accomplish by lecturing Zionist extremists about the faults of Palestinian society (which he absolves Israel from creating), rather than just maintaining the status quo.”, Mansour said.
*Mansour has written for Palestine in America