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Palestinians greet Obama with popular resistance; army arrests dozens

After several days of small-scale demonstrations ahead of Obama’s visit, Palestinians organized two larger events Wednesday morning as the American president landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Non-violent Palestinian activist with Obama mask arrested in Hebron (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Non-violent Palestinian activist with Obama mask arrested in Hebron (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

About 500 people rebuilt 15 tents on privately owned lands in the new village-outpost of “Bab Al-Shams,” located at the heart of the much controversial E-1 area, where Israel intends to build thousands of new settler houses, isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and cutting it in two. Bab Al-Shams was originally set up a few months ago, and dismantled by Israeli police several days later. Activists in the new Bab Al-Shams held signs saying “you promised hope and change – you gave us colonies and apartheid.”

With the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim visible on the horizon, Palestinian activists erect a new protest camp in the E1 area, focusing their protest on the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, West Bank, March 20, 2013. All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law. The action took place at the same hour Obama landed in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. Photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Meanwhile in Hebron, Israeli army forces arrested about 30 schoolchildren, at least five of whom were between the ages of 8 and 10 and thus under the age of criminal responsibility, according to B’Tselem. The children were accused of having participated in acts of stone throwing.

Later in the afternoon a group of some 25 Palestinians, internationals and Israelis marched on Shuhada Street in Hebron, where freedom of movement has been restricted for Palestinians, and the street has been open only to Israelis for the past 12 years. The activists, who were following up on a Saturday workshop on civil rights in the U.S., wore “I have a dream” T-shirts and masks with the faces of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., and carried signs connecting the fight for civil rights in the American South to that of Palestinians against apartheid. Activists sang “Woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” when a group of settlers started to attack them. Soldiers who swiftly arrived on the scene reportedly zoomed in on the prominent local activists, arresting four Palestinians, three internationals and two Israelis, who were later released.

Hebron demonstrators were calling upon Obama to remember the civil rights movement in the US (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Hebron demonstrators were calling upon Obama to remember the civil rights movement in the US (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The approaches Palestinian activists took to Obama’s visit were varied. Demonstrations in Ramallah (and Bab al-Shams) called on Obama not to come at all, and many blame the U.S. government for its cooperation with the Israeli occupation. The demonstrators in Hebron employed a more “welcoming” approach, asking that Obama remember the history of racism in the U.S. and implement the lessons learned there, for the benefit of Palestinians here today.

Read also:
Waiting for Obama: Hebron youth take cue from U.S. civil rights movement
Palestinians build ‘settlement’ near Jerusalem, receive eviction orders from Border Police
Palestinians erect third West Bank outpost, are attacked by IDF, settlers

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Giora Me'ir

      Palestinians should boycott Obama’s photo opportunity. When he wants to get serious and use his economic leverage to punish and deter Israel for and from its illegal colonization, then he can show up.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ahmad

        He apparently lacks economic leverage, considering he’d rather take an AIPAC check for his campaigns. Hopefully I’m wrong.

        Reply to Comment
        • kate

          well it appears that IDF have given Zionists the photo op they were hoping for, well sort of they wanted “Death to America” flags being burn effigies being hung, but this will do.
          A note to Palestinians though wearing masks of MLK and quoting him does nothing Mr Obama is an American African not an African American, his Black heritage has no roots, no relationship to the civil rights struggle in the US, and the White half, his mother was related to Dick Cheney ’nuff said?

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Kate – the MLK masks aren’t for Obama, they’re for the black voters who somehow think of the Zionists as escaped slaves crossing the Ohio.

            Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Palestinians should boycott American financial aid too then. Now that would really send a message.

        Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      Yes, the best way to get someone important to like you is to curse him and carry out hostile demonstrations against him. When Pope John Paul II visited the mosques on the Temple Mount, the qadi there harangued him, demanding an apology for the crusades (the Pope could have demanded an apology for the Muslim conquest of the country which was under Christian rule 400 years earlier and for the Muslim conquest of Christian Constantinople lin 1453). A member of the Pope’s entourage stated that here was a chance for the Palestinians to make their case to a world-wide audience but they blew it. I see nothing has changed.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haggai Matar

        XYZ – first of all, the Hebron demonstration is doing what you speak of, holding out a hand to Obama and trying to use American history to explain their struggle. Doesn’t do them any good.
        Second – Obama has been supportive of Israel’s policies for more than four years now, ignoring at best or undermining at worst all Palestinian attempts for deplomatic moves in the UN, peace talks, etc. Why would they warmly welcome him now, when he visits Israel and keeps on supporting it fully?

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          This article uses every cliche’ in the non-violent [stones kill, but in your parlance they are ok] anti-Israel agenda and discourse.
          There is no comparison to the American Civil Rights Movement.
          American Blacks fought for political equality.
          Palestinians fight for the destruction of Israel.
          Please let the Palestinians cause lots of disruption during President Obama’s visit, so that he can see their true colors.

          Reply to Comment
          • Counting Israeli deaths by rocks, the Palestinian : Israeli death ratio is infinite. Counting Israeli maiming by rocks, the Palestinian : Israeli maiming ratio is extremely large, at the least.

            Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        XYZ, you should embrace this president because he is by far the most zionist president in history.

        (not that he’s really zionist, of course; he is merely a profound coward and a fraud – but hey, if the shoe fits…)

        If I were Mahmoud Abbas, I would tell Obama he can stay in Jerusalem with his new best friends and not bother to come to Ramallah for his photo-op.

        Obama is making me miss George W. Bush.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          What a silly response Haggai.

          He came to see them, at least partially.

          What planet do you live on?

          Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            Richard, I have a very hard time understanding your contributions. Should the Palestinians thank Obama for the role the US played the last fourty plus years?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Oh, so now Obama is gulty of eveything that took place even before he’d finished college.

            Excellent thinking.

            Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            If Obama speaks he speaks as president of the United States not as mr Obama. As president he is responsible.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            By this logic Jews must hate Angela Merkel.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      Pretty clear by now that Obama is no friend to Palestinians.

      Hell – George W. Bush got Israel to quit Gaza. What has this guy done for Palestine?

      He is perhaps the most anti-Arab and anti-Islam president in history. Probably to counterbalance his deep insecurities about his own Muslim background.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Pretty clear by now that Obama is no friend to Palestinians.

        Of course. He is not an idiot.

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          I never said he is an idiot. Rather, he is a fraud and a sham, not to mention a spineless coward.

          Enjoy your new BFF – he’ll help your beloved country to become a bi-national state faster than you can say Michelle Robinson.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Palestinians has displayed their unconditional hatred towards USA more than once.

            Only an idiot would befried people who hate his country – and his race, by the way.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            Look who’s talking.

            Reply to Comment
    4. XYZ

      Obama came to office as the President most friendly and attuned to the Palestinians of any President. Don’t forget that his policy is to support the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliates thoughout the Middle East and he has turned his back on the secular moderateds whom one would think a liberal-”progressive” President would normally support. If you recall around 2007-8, there was a lot of talk of separating American Jewry from Israel by claiming that liberal, pro-Obama American Jewry was supposedly against the Likud, against the settlers and against the Orthodox/religious who were all the backbone of right-wing Israeli gov’ts. This was the basis for forming J-Street. Thus, the idea was to demand a settlement freeze which would either bring Netanyahu down and/or turn American Jewry against Israel, giving Obama the maneuver room to come down on Netanyahu. Recall that Obama and J-street all said “to be pro-Israel doesn’t mean you have to be pro-Likud”.
      All this blew up in Obama’s face….American Jewry was very uncomfortable with this policy and, worse, the Palestinians did not respond. Obama spent hours on the phone with Abbas attempting to get him to the negotiating table and to make some minor gesture cliaming he wanted peace with Israel. All this failed, and so Obama understands the situation here better than the 972 “progressives”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Not that Obama will look out his window to see.

      Reply to Comment
    6. I think the Administration realizes that, long term, the occupation is explosive. I think, as well, that they have a sense that long term quasi liberal regimes in several Arab countries would benefit from a true “solution.” And I also think that the settlers are understood to be a colonizing force with religious roots.

      All the activists can do is continue presenting the dissonance. I do not think this will as such lead anywhere. The solution to apartheid must come from within. All Obama can do is offer a platform; Israel, and the PA, must be willing to use it. Since the new Minister of Defense must sign off on Bank moves, I suspect no offering will be used.

      Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      Haggai-
      I am going to play the “concern troll” now. Please explain to me how having the Palestinians curse Obama and the US and trampling on American flags is going to get the US to change its position to make it more favorable to the Palestinians. You saw the recent poll showing American support for Israel at an all-time high and only 12% of respondents saying the sympathize with the Palestinians. I don’t believe that Obama has any real sympathy for Israel but he sees that Israel has strong American domcestic support, even among the “progressives” who support him and the Democrats. He realizes he can’t simply buck that and that if the Palestinians want something from him, they have to play to American public opinion. How are they doing that? Even Mubarak, who was supposedly pro-American, had his state-controlled media constanlty cursing the US and they refused to give the US any public credit for aid and projects Egypt directly benefitted from. Maybe this had some influence on Obama pulling the plug on him when the protests started. It seems that general Arab PR is self-defeating, fortunately for us.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haggai Matar

        XYZ – I think you have some strange assumptions here. First, that there is such a thing as “the Palestinians”. Fatah, Abu-Mazen and his crew are totally pro-American. Hamas is swinging right now. Amongst the demonstrators, as I mentioned, some are anti-Obama’s visit, and some are welcoming it but asking that he considers them as well. You don’t get one voice.
        Second, I must say I can totally understand people who just curse Obama and ask him to “go home Yankee” etc. If he comes here only to support Israel and its colonial system, give more military aid, offer international backing against the BDS movement, and more – why should they welcome him with open arms?
        Leading to my third point: you say that it is in their interest. Well, perhaps some people here in the middle east don’t care what Americans think. Perhaps they believe that after hundreds of yeas of imperialism it’s about time for the colonized to be setting the terms, and not ask for the Empire’s love and care.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          Just for the record…the “hundreds of years of imperialism” you refer was almost entirely under Muslim rule. It was the British and French imperialists who set the Arab Middle East free of Ottoman Muslim rule. It was British and French soldiers who have their lives to set the Arabs free of the Ottomans, they practically didn’t lift a finger to achieve it themselves. The Western colonialist period lasted about 30 years. Thus, when you refer to “Empire” you are referring to Western rule and this is nothing more than a blip on their history. They should be yelling at Erdogan. India was under Western colonial rule for 300 years (after several centuries of being under Muslim imperialist rule) and we don’t see them endlessly complaining and protesting against the British to this day for what happened back then.

          Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >First, that there is such a thing as “the Palestinians” … You don’t get one voice.

          In Israel we somehow do manage to get one voice – that of PM, via elections.

          If Palestinians can’t produce one voice as well, then with whom Israelis could negotiate?

          Create separate agreements with all different Palestinian parties?

          Reply to Comment
          • Well, Begin was against that one Israel voice for a while.

            I fear a bifurcated Palestinian State with a suspicious if not hostile neighbor inbetween, is not viable. Let us recall that Hamas (who I am no direct fan of) won the Legislative Council elections quite fairly. The result was restricted income into the PA as the US, EU, and Israel turned down or off funds. This created a zero sum game in the PA government. The Saudi’s tried to paper it over with money, but control on the ground won, with the Hamas Gaza coup.

            Even if Hamas is inclined to believe in elections, their past experience will make them think that if they win the win will not be recognized, as last time; so they lose no matter what and have no reason to risk loss of control of Gaza. It is satisfying to claim that the Palestinian government cannot sustain a single voice. That might have been true without the post election sancitons; we will never know. What is clear is that the Western promise of elections was broken–by the West. I cannot ask people to believe in my ideals if I am unwilling to lose under those ideals.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Hamas has clearly and openly declared that one of their main goals is liberation of “whole Palestine”, which translates into modern English as “extermination of the Jewish State”

            People of Gaza voted for Hamas, which is meaning that (majority of) people of Gaza would rather wage war than live in peace.

            Basically, Gazans had failed the democracy exam, and now are learning how it is to live under the rule of world renowned terrorist organization.

            Reply to Comment
    8. tod

      Richard Witty,
      If he came to see them (pals) too he should go to see the reality on the ground in Jenin, Gaza, Qalqilya, Tulkarem…ect… and not in the Ramallah-bubble. Moreover, while he went to pay a tribute to the Jewish/Israeli past sofferance and history (Israel museum, Yad Vashem, Herzl’s grave…ect) he did not even dare to set a foot on Iqrit, Ein Houd, Deir Yassin… and few other hundreds of villages that were defaced on this land not so many years ago. But we know, there is only 1 victim and Obama has to bow his head to the only victim.
      Haggai lives in a much more decent planet than yours.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Noevil9

      Why would any Palestinian be excited about Obamas visit or any Americans visit to Israel, then by the side margins ,to the Abbas failing authority? What have America done for the Palestinians struggle except a declarations in speech after speech for the full support for Israel and its existence in wars, aggression, and occupying Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrian people and lands? Lip service can only go so far to calm the people and fool them for sometimes. This has been going on for the last 65 years. Don’t you think the Palestinians ought to wake up and have some right to voice their dismay with Obama and America! What is amazing also are those Israelis/Zionist/Jewish who criticize the Palestinians ways of reaction, to their disastrous condition, that Israel have achieved with the full aid and support of America, and the Jewish american lobby? They exhibit such a hypocrisy that surpasses my comprehension, while they claim fairness and justice.

      Reply to Comment
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