We are deeply saddened by what happened to our dear friend Bassem Eid at the Presbyterian General Assembly. The incident is chronicled in this article which appeared in the Presbyterian Outlook, and more information will be forthcoming.

As free people in a free country, it is difficult for us to fully grasp the challenges people elsewhere face. In both Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians are subject to arrest for speaking critically of Palestinian leadership. Speaking out for peace with Israel carries the risk of being labeled a “traitor” or “collaborator”, and both labels expose Palestinians and their families to threats of physical harm and even death. This is the reality they face, and why there is silence. Bassem Eid is a very brave exception.

Serious discussion of the Palestinian political situation is effectively off-limits for most Palestinians, and this leads to some incorrect conclusions. Some on the Israeli right see Palestinian silence and assume that all Palestinians support violent factions like Hamas and share their hatred of Israel. This is simply wrong. Others conclude that if well-meaning Palestinians do not openly discuss the Palestinian political situation, it must not be all that important. That conclusion is just as wrong.

Peace will not become reality until all Palestinians can speak freely, without fear, and have the right to choose leaders who will better serve them.