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PHOTOS: Israeli forces demolish Palestinian camp built to protest Obama visit

Until its forcible eviction Saturday night, Palestinian activists built and maintained a new protest camp in E1 to protest Israeli occupation and settlement expansion, directing their message to visiting U.S. President Barack Obama.

Photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Anne Paq, Yotam Ronen, and Oren Ziv

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.

As U.S. President Barack Obama’s plane was landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, Palestinian activists returned to the E1 area to establish yet another protest village in the tradition of Bab Al-Shams and other similar actions in recent months. Organizers named the new camp “Ahfad Younis” after the main character in the novel Bab Al-Shams (“Gate of the Sun”) which was the namesake of the original protest village in January of this year.

At first, a small force of Israeli Border Police watched as hundreds of activists gathered on a hillside across the valley from the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim. Like all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Ma’ale Adumim is illegal under international law. However, as evening drew near, Israeli forces surrounded the tent village. According to Ma’an News:

An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established “an illegal settlement” and that security forces were in the area “to maintain order.” She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents. Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone.

The action, while continuing the theme of similar protests against the Israeli occupation and settlement expansion, focused much of its message on the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. According to a statement by the action’s organizers:

…the action today aims “first, to claim our right as Palestinians to return to our lands and villages, second, to claim our sovereignty over our lands without permission from anyone.  Third, our actions are aimed at protecting our land from continued confiscation and threat of settlement and colonization.  And Fourth to expand popular resistance as one form of resistance, out of many, that our people are engaged in everywhere.

As the action today coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the region, activists assert their opposition to the American Administration policy, which has been complicit in Israeli occupation and colonialism. Organizers stress: “An administration that used the veto 43 times out of 79 (between 1979 to 2011) in support of Israel and against Palestinian rights, an administration that grants military aid to Israel of over three billion dollars annually, can’t have any positive contribution to achieve justice and rights of the Palestinian people.”

The camp stood for four days before being forcibly evacuated on Saturday night, a day after President Obama had left for Jordan. Forty activists detained in the eviction were later released near Ramallah.

The new camp was named the Ahfad Younis (“Grandchildren of Younis”) neighborhood of Bab Al-Shams.


Activists form a chain to deliver rocks used in the building of a stone and mud structure in the camp.


Children play on a makeshift swing hung from trees near the camp.


Activists continue to build new structures in the camp.


Palestinian activists chant and wave flags and signs to protest Obama’s policies.


With the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim visible across the valley, children play in trees near the Ahfad Younis camp.


Activists rest after building the tent village.


Palestinian activists bundle to keep warm while maintaining their presence in the protest camp.


With the lights of the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim visible on a nearby ridge, activists gather around campfire.


As Israeli forces enter the camp, activists link arms.


Israeli forces surround and approach the camp.

Activists chant and sing as they anticipate being forcibly evicted.


Israeli forces arrest an activist as the camp is forcibly evicted.


An activist flashes a “V” for victory as he and other residents are loaded onto buses and detained. They were later released near Ramallah.

Obama’s speech: Israel’s Left and Right can be happy, and the occupation is here to stay
Obama compares Israeli occupation to racial discrimination in U.S.
An open letter to Barack Obama: You are welcome in Bethlehem
Obama’s speech: The view from the crowd

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    1. Relationships are made in those few days, presence a badge of risk and resolve. While the camps are sundered, the relationships remain; the action is thereby far from futile.

      Each camp and its removal is absurd. But that absurdity shows a determination to live and grow. And that cannot be taken away.

      “Fourth to expand popular resistance as one form of resistance, out of many, that our people are engaged in everywhere.” : While I understand the “big tent” logic, statements such as this will be used to flag the camp movement as the “peaceful” arm of a “violent resistence.” At the same time, however, it embraces the hunger strikes. Later rather than sooner, the question of violence in this long attrition will have to be addressed.

      Reply to Comment
    2. It’s shame that the Arabs rejected the 2-State Solution offered to them in 1947. That rejection, and their subsequent attempt to occupy Israel resulted in the occupation of Gaza by Egypt and the occupation of Judea/Samaria (“West Bank”) by Jordan.

      I don’t know why the Jordanians living in the West Bank didn’t declare themselves a separate nation and ask for independence during the years they were occupied by Jordan. I do know that the Egyptians petty much ignored the Gaza Strip until Israel occupied it after the attack on Israel in 1967. Israel built it up and gave independence to the Gazan Arabs (former Egyptians). This is something that the Ottoman Turks, the British and the Egyptians never did. The Gazan Arabs thanked Israel by creating an agenda of genocide & imperialism against Israel. Now, thanks to Hamas, thousands of innocent Gaza civilians are dying and Gaza has become a giant, open air prison.

      The former Jordanians now living on the West Bank must realize that, after trying to occupy Israel for the past 65 years, including genocidal attacks on Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, Israel is within its rights to defend itself and keep their enemies away from their borders. If the Arabs on the West Bank want autonomy, then they must accept the existence of Israel. If they finally do so, then they can decide whether they want to re-join their former country, Jordan, or if they want a separate country. If they want a separate country AND accept the existence & sovereignty of Israel, then Israel can stop new settlements and give the New Palestinians whatever land is still left. The longer the West Bank Arabs wait to decide, the less land will be left. It’s up to them.

      The 2-State Solution they were offered in the 1947 and which they rejected is off the table and is no longer and is not longer an option. They can accept a very much reduced 2-State Solution that includes the remaining, unsettled, land (with some other parcels of land in nearby Israel, reluctantly given up w/ the Israeli residents relocated, as they did with the Gaza Jews) — or they can re-unite with Jordan. Those are the only 2 options.

      The New Palestinians gave up their claim of “We deserve our own country and self-determination” when they rejected Israel’s right to their own country and self-determination in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Because Israel only wants peace, the West Bank Arabs can, indeed, get a country if they accept that the 2 options, above, are the only ones left to them.

      Reply to Comment
      • Scootalol

        I always wonder. Do you guys believe all that stuff, or do you just hope other people are going to fall for it? Relying on the ignorance of others is what gets the support of low-info, and often frightening people of the English Defense League and the tea party here in the US.

        You have two big and frankly strange presumptions running in your post. One is rather tangential, that Israel was attacked in ’67. It wasn’t. Israel fired the first shots (and did so very spectacularly). Similarly, ’73 was hardly genocidal, it was Egypt and Syria (the United Arab Republic, at the time) trying to reclaim territory captured in ’67.

        Your next big goof, and hte major one, is the belief that for whatever reason, the peopel of Palestine should have accepted the idea of 67% of their territory being stripped from them and handed to 13% of the population, a majority of which lived in three cities, and most of whom were immigrants. You can make all the pious hand-wringing arguments you want, but there’s not a single people in the world who would accept that deal.

        Reply to Comment
        • Leen

          It’s almost comical to expect palestinians to concede more than 50% of their territory to immigrants and decry them for being unfair, yet people go crying about the right of return, ‘YOU EXPECT ISRAEL TO ACCEPT NATIONAL SUICIDE?!’. Double standards.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Rauna

      When it comes to “Palestinian outpost” the action is so swift but It takes years for Israeli authotities to remove Jewish outpost with some of it eventually legalized. Yet israelis have the guts to declare themselves the only democracy in ME.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Vadim

      Relying on ignorance is never good. But I think you do so yourself.

      Without getting into the details of what happened before the six-days war. Saying that Israel fired the first shots and thus is the aggressor is like saying Britain is the aggressor in WW2, because it attacked Germany. You can say both things, but you would miss the big picture. Regarding 73 – it is never wise to speculate, and your claim that they were *only* trying to reclaim territory is only a speculation. One I don’t agree with. Had they were *only* trying to reclaim territory lost in 67 would imply they accept Israel’s right to exist on the rest of the territories and I don’t think that’s the case.

      Regarding your next part. You make lots of groundless assumptions as well – that there *was* a people of Palestine, that the land was somehow “theirs”, that there was a 67% homogeneous majority (I think you meant to say Jewish population was about 33%, certainly not 13%), that most of the majority were not immigrants themselves and that people (as opposed to countries and international institutions) somehow get to decide which borders they prefer. You are wrong in all of the above-mentioned assumptions.

      The conflict is complex and I think you are oversimplifying it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Leen

        It’s worth noting that Israeli officials admitted later that there was no immediate threat from Egypt.

        Mordechai Bentov, an Israeli cabinet minister who attended the June 4th Cabinet meeting, called into question the idea that there was a “danger of extermination” saying that it was “invented of whole cloth and exaggerated after the fact to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.”[ Menachem Begin said that “The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. (…) We decided to attack him”.

        Israel also received reports from the United States that Egyptian deployments were defensive and anticipatory of a possible Israeli attack, and the US assessed that if anything, it was Israel that was pressing to begin hostilities.
        Abba Eban, Israel’s foreign minister during the war, later wrote in his autobiography that Nasser’s assurances he wasn’t planning to attack Israel were credible: “Nasser did not want war. He wanted victory without war.”
        Israel’s attack isn’t seen as fulfilling the criteria of the Caroline test for anticipatory self-defence.

        So that is somethng worth to keep in mind.It definately is not similar to the situation of Britain and Germany.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          My former comment was meant for Scootalol.

          It’s too bad Rabin was not informed as you are. It’s very common for Chiefs of Staff to have a nervous breakdown when there’s no danger.

          Israel was and is a tiny state, surround by hostile countries. I do not know Nasser’s true intentions, but he made a very good show of being aggressive and preparing for war (and he closed the straits of Tiran).

          What you say is worth noting, along with everything else. Like I said, the situation is complex.

          My comparison to Britain and Germany is very simple – the aggressor is not always the one who fires the first shot.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Note that in some of the above comments the protest camps are ignored in favor of events 40 and more years ago. This is part of the absurdity, to wipe the protest action from our cognition.

      It is absurd to build the camps and wait for the IDF to come, ejecting the builders and tearing the camp apart. It is absurd for the IDF to come marching on to unarmed people who just want to build–somewhere. That absurdity is a sheild against the IDF. It turns Kafka around: the IDF becomes absurd. And with each camp, memories form, relationships build. I think it is a brilliant strategy for the apparently powerless: to turn the absurdity of authority onto itself.

      Reply to Comment