Threats are nothing new for Bassem Eid. During his 26 years of investigating human rights abuses, he’s gotten a lot of them.
He says he received another one on June 18, when he stepped outside a meeting room in the St. Louis Convention Center where he’d spoken in favor of a measure condemning both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for indoctrinating and exploiting children in ways that perpetuate violence and hatred.
Eid, 60, is a rare sort of human rights activist — a Palestinian who speaks out as vehemently against Palestinian abuses as he does against those committed by Israelis. After speaking to a committee of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), he said, a young man approached him, accused him of being a Palestinian Zionist and told him in Arabic that he would kill him.
“He said that he’s Palestinian,” gave a name and claimed he was a relative, Eid said. “I know the family, but I don’t know that that’s his real name,” he said.
Eid said that when he left the convention center, the man followed him as far as his hotel. Later, a video and audio recording appeared on Twitter, showing Eid crossing a street outside the convention center while the man recording the video berated him.
When Eid returned to the convention center and reported what had happened, a security officer there summoned St. Louis Police, who interviewed Eid about the incident. Eid said later that he wasn’t too concerned about it, and that he was used to insults and threats.
He seemed more upset about the failure of a measure that would condemn militarizing of Palestinian children and debased educational methods that dehumanize children or “cleanse” the historical narrative of Palestinians or Jews. The Middle East Issues Committee voted 48-8 against recommending passage of the measure, an overture offered by the Presbytery of Philadelphia.
“I am very disappointed,” Eid said. “I think this is another example of how the international community became a part of the conflict rather than a part of the solution.”