No Hope, No Change: Palestinians Vent Anger at US Policy During Obama Visit to Ramallah
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Palestinian protesters in Ramallah vented their anger at Barack Obama today as about 200 demonstrators took to the streets to urge Obama to get out of Palestine. But the protest was relatively small, reflecting Palestinian disillusionment with the U.S. and with the moribund peace process. The action was well contained by Western-trained and financed Palestinian security forces as the president met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Oh Obama, out, out,” chanted the small group of Palestinian protesters in Arabic, as they headed from the center of Ramallah to as close to Abbas’ compound as they could get. They were met by rows and rows of Palestinian police officers, who successfully held back the protesters from advancing any closer to the Muqata, the Arabic name for the PA's compound. Small scuffles broke out as the police pushed back the demonstrators, who yelled at the security forces in response.
The Palestinian protesters, who joined a demonstration that was called for by some of the Palestinian political factions, also chanted about their lack of free access to Jerusalem. Factions represented included Fatah, Hamas and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and were joined by Palestinian youth. Demonstrators also held up posters affirming their right to return, and one sign read: “I want to see my father’s village.” Another sign in English read: "USA is not a fair sponsor for any political process in the Middle East."
“We need change,” said demonstrator Ibraheem Abdel Jawad, a young protester affiliated with the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy. “My message to Obama is: stop supporting Israel and stop the conflict.”
Palestinian Authority security forces put the area near the Muqata, the site of the authority’s offices, under tight security. As early as 9:00 am, two hours before Obama and Abbas were scheduled to meet, security forces patrolled outside the compound and asked for identification from anyone who was walking near it.
Western-trained and armed PA security forces were out in full force today.
(Photo: Alex Kane/Mondoweiss)
Inside the heavily guarded compound, Obama met with Abbas, as well as PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Malki and other top PA officials, according to the Ma’an News Agency. Obama mentioned settlements at his press conference with Abbas for the first time on his trip to Israel/Palestine, but did not demand a halt to them. While he said settlements are an important issue to resolve, he emphasized that the PA and Israel should return to direct negotiations, a plan that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu signaled support for yesterday. Obama also signaled support for “peaceful protests” in Palestinian villages during his press conference with Abbas--the same protests that are repressed by U.S.-made tear gas.
“We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace,” said President Obama at the PA compound. He said that the occupation delivers “indignities” to Palestinians and that “Palestinians deserve a state of their own.” He also condemned rocket fire from Gaza, hours after at least two rockets landed in the south of Israel. The PA likewise condemned the rockets from Gaza.
And in his speech to Israeli youth this afternoon, he briefly condemned settler violence and said that "neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer." Still, as the Palestine Center's Yousef Munayyer said, his "speech suggests that President Obama will do little more than pay lip service to an outcome he refuses to put the muscle of his office behind."