Open your eyes Obama and see the protests

March 20, 2013
Sarah Benton

UPDATE: Protest village dismantled as Obama leaves, item 5.
Reports and photos of protests about Obama’s support for Israeli/AIPAC policies from
1) Slate: “You Promised Hope and Change—You Gave Us Colonies and Apartheid”;
2) Ynet: Palestinians set up E1 outpost in protest of Obama;
3) Ha’aretz: As Obama arrives, Palestinians erect protest camp in E-1 area;
4) Popular Struggle: Palestinians erect new Bab al Shams neighborhood as Obama lands;
5) IMEMC: Army evicts Palestinian Protest Village UPDATE;
6) Ma’an news: Demonstrations in Gaza against Obama’s visit;

A Palestinian man holds a poster during a protest against the visit of the U.S. President Barack Obama in the West Bank city of Jenin, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. Photo by AP

Palestinians to Obama: “You Promised Hope and Change—You Gave Us Colonies and Apartheid”

By Daniel Politi, Slate
March 20, 2013  

High hopes and low expectations. That’s probably the best way to describe President Obama’s much-anticipated trip to Israel that begins today. And while Israel laid out the red carpet, a small group of Palestinians organized protests, with activists wearing “I have a dream” T-shirts and masks with the faces of Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr, reports +972. Also, some 500 people put up 15 tents on privately owned land, where Israel intends to build new settler houses. Activists there were holding up signs reading, “You promised hope and change—you gave us colonies and apartheid.”

Palestinian protesters wearing masks of US President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr, wave national flags during a protest in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. Photo by Hazem Bader, AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, as Obama descended from the plane for his first official visit to Israel, the word of the day seemed to be “unbreakable.” President Obama spoke of the “unbreakable bond” between Israel and the United States, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the “unbreakable alliance” between the two countries, reports NBC News. U.S. officials have made it clear Obama has gone to Israel to listen, and has no new initiatives to offer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high hopes for the trip to mend what has often been a tense relationship over the past few years.

“It is the most dysfunctional relationship in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations,” former U.S. Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller told CNN. “There is no real sense of confidence or trust. There is no capacity to give the other the benefit of the doubt.”

But even though Netanyahu clearly supported Romney in the presidential election, and Obama has been overheard complaining about the Israeli leader, they’re both acting like old pals, joking around as soon as Obama got off the plane. A hot microphone caught Obama telling Netanyahu, “It’s good to get away from Congress.” For his part, Netanyahu told Obama he knew of a few bars the two could go to in Tel Aviv, seemingly a reference to how Obama had said he wanted to wear a disguise and mingle with regular people during the trip, reports the Hill.

Photos of Gaza protests from APA/Rex Features

Palestinians set up E1 outpost in protest of Obama

Some 500 activists erect tents east of Jerusalem claiming US provides Israeli occupation with full support

By Elior Levy, Ynet news
March 20, 2013

Some 500 Palestinian activists set up a new outpost in Area E1 consisting of some 15 tents. They said that their aim is to express their opposition to the US administration’s stance claiming that Washington “provides the Israeli occupation and oppression with full support.”

The outpost was set up at the initiative of the popular committees and is situated east of Jerusalem and south of the previous Palestinian E1 outpost. The new outpost was named “Younes’ Grandchildren” after one of the main characters in Bab al-Shams, a novel depicting the lives of Palestinians after the establishment of the State of Israel.

As Obama arrives, Palestinians erect protest camp in E-1 area

Activist says move is aimed at sending message to U.S. president.

By Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz
March 20, 2013

Palestinian activists set up a protest camp on Wednesday in the West Bank’s E-1 corridor, close to where Israel wants to build a new settlement, drawing attention to their struggle during a visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The first of four tents erected to make the Younes’ Grandchildren camp in E1 on March 20, 2013. Perhaps Obama’s proximity meant the police did not storm in and pull it down. The message says: “Obama Another four years of AIPAC policy”. Photo by Ilia Yefimovich, Getty images.

Over a hundred demonstrators erected four large, steel-framed tents and a massive Palestinian flag on the rugged, rocky tract near Jerusalem, just as Obama arrived in nearby Tel Aviv for three days of talks and meetings.

“We are here to send a message to President Obama, our struggle, our non-violent peaceful resistance will continue until we are free,” said senior Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, standing on the windy outcrop.

Israel Police entered the tent colony and told protesters to clear the area, which they called a “closed military zone,” but did not immediately try to tear down the camp.

Obama was holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and is due to travel to the West Bank on Thursday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He has said he was coming to listen and would not bring anew peace initiative, three years after the last direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians broke down over the question of Jewish settlement construction.

Palestinians complain that Obama has not put enough pressure on Israel to halt the settlements and warn that the prospect of creating a viable, independent state is fading fast.

Netanyahu announced in December plans to build hundreds of settler homes in a sensitive area on Jerusalem’s outskirts that is known by its administrative name E1.

If construction goes ahead, E1 would create a linked-up stretch of Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank between Pisgat Zeev and Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement of some 30,000 Israelis.

Palestinians say this would destroy hopes of tying together their communities across East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of their country.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, a cauldron of tension between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, dozens of school-age Palestinian children wore Obama masks to protest at his visit and marched through the streets.

Israeli forces arrested several of the demonstrators who were marching through Shuhada Street, the city’s Palestinian commercial hub until Israel unilaterally closed it in 1994.

“We say to Obama, visiting occupied Palestine is a terrible idea. If you want peace for two states, seek justice for us,” said Jamal Jafar, an activist involved in Wednesday’s protest.

Palestinian activists have repeatedly established tent camps in areas close to Israeli settlements in recent months in a bid to throw a spotlight on unhindered Jewish construction.

All the sites were subsequently demolished by Israeli forces, who say they present a security risk and lack building permits. A handful of Israeli soldiers gathered on the fringes of Wednesday’s camp, but did not try to dislodge it.

Slightly angrier protests against Obama’s visit flared in the Gaza Strip, a Mediterranean enclave bordering Israel and Egypt from which Israel withdrew settlers in 2005.

Demonstrators set fire to posters of Obama and to U.S. flags, saying the president’s trip would make no difference to Palestinian aspirations.

“Palestinian blood is on your hands Obama” read one banner. Another said: “Obama, the Hitler of the 21st century.”

Kayed Al-Ghoul, a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said all Palestinian factions agreed that Obama’s arrival would only [serve] Israel’s purposes.

“At this time, the visit aims to support the newly formed Israeli government and put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to return to bilateral talks that have proven to be a failure,” he said.

Palestinians erect new Bab al Shams neighborhood as Obama lands in Israel/Palestine

By Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, Mondoweiss
March 20, 2013

Photo: Facebook/Bab al Shams (The Younes’ Grandchildren camp has been erected on the original Bab al Shams peace protest village) )

Hundreds of the Palestinians arrived this morning, Wednesday March 20th, to Eizariya and erected about 15 tents on lands of the village as new neighborhood of Bab al Shams village, on a hillside opposite to the one on which the original village of Bab al Shams was established two months ago.

Organizers stress that 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 village is established on the lands of Eizariya east of occupied Jerusalem in an area the Israeli government calls E1 and where it has committed to building 4000 settlement units. The hillside falls between Ma’ale Adumim settlement and Jerusalem, and is 13 square KM in size. This land belongs to the villages of Al-Issawiyeh, Eizariya, Al-Tor, Anata, and Abu Deis.

Activists consider this area to be the lands of Bab Al-Shams where we have established today a new neighborhood called “Ahfad Younis” (Younis’ Grandchildren-after the name of the main figure in Bab al Shams novel).

Residents of the new neighborhood of Bab Al-Shams invite Palestinians to join the village and participate in maintaining its steadfastness.

About Popular Struggle Coordination Committee
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee was formed by prominent activists in the popular committees from all over the Occupied Territories and across the Palestinian political spectrum. Popular committees present a unique form of community based organizing and resistance in the tradition of the first Palestinian Intifada.

Army evicts Palestinian Protest Village

By IMEMC & Agencies
March 24, 2013

Sunday at dawn March 24, 2013; dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded the Ahfad Younis Palestinian protest village, installed by nonviolent activists five days ago, and removed it after detaining several activists.

Eyewitnesses reported that dozens of soldiers invaded the village, and violently attacked the nonviolent activists before detaining five who were release later on, the Maan News Agency reported.

One of the detained was Dr. Mustafa Bargouthi, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative.

Demonstrations in Gaza against Obama’s visit

By Ma’an news
March 20, 2013

GAZA CITY – Palestinian protesters on Wednesday torched photos of US President Barack Obama and US flags in front of office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza City.

The protest started as dozens marched from the Unknown Soldier statue toward the UN office waving Palestinian flags. Representatives of nationalist and Islamic factions joined the rally. The protesters chanted slogans against Obama’s visit to the region.

“We are out here today to say enough to the ongoing pressure on the Palestinian people and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority seeking to impose a unilateral settlement, and US preconditions forcing the PA to make more concessions,” said senior leader of the Islamic Jihad movement Khalid al-Batsh.

Obama’s visit, he added, does not serve the Palestinian people’s interests, but rather support the idea of a Jewish state, and maintains Israel’s military superiority.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Obama’s visit “is not welcomed because it means giving legitimacy to occupation and showing US political support at the expense of Palestinian rights.”

Prominent leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Jamil Muzhir pointed out to a Palestinian consensus on opposing Obama’s visit to the region “as the visit will bring nothing new to the Palestinian people.”

“Obama will try to exert pressure on the Palestinian president to get him to resume US-backed negotiations.”

Several other leaders of Palestinian factions delivered speeches during the rally highlighting that Obama continues to side with Israel. “He will never be nonpartisan in his approach to the question of Palestine,” said Walid Al-Awad, a senior leader in the Palestinian People’s Party.

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