Rioters in Bethlehem burn pictures of Obama

Protestors in Bethlehem say Obama is not welcome in their city. First they throw shoes at US diplomatic vehicle, then at a billboard with Obama’s picture, then they burned his pictures.

By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Palestinians in Bethlehem on Monday set fire to pictures of US President Barack Obama, saying he was not welcome in their city.

Scores of protesters gathered near Manger Square and threw shoes at a US diplomatic vehicle as it arrived at the scene in the context of preparations for Obama’s visit to the city later this week.

Palestinian protestors - Photo  Reuters

Palestinian protestors – Photo: Reuters

The protesters also set fire to signs posted in the city earlier this week and reminding Obama that Palestinians still don’t have 3G communications technology.

Similar anti-Obama demonstrations are expected to take place in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the coming days.

Palestinian Authority policemen did not intervene to stop the Bethlehem protesters from burning Obama’s pictures.

A PA security officer said that the PA would not act against demonstrators who seek permission to protest against Obama’s visit.

There were even indications that the PA leadership was encouraging or initiating some of the protests.

At the Bethlehem demonstration, some protesters carried a placard belonging to the PA Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees, which read: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The protesters also trampled on Obama’s picture, chanting: “America is the head of the snake.”

“We came here today to tell Obama that we don’t want 3G in Palestine,” said Samir Odeh, a Fatah activist in Bethlehem.  “We want a state, the release of prisoners and an end to settlement construction. We also want to see our refugees return to their homes.”

Waving a shoe in his hand, Fayez Mansour of the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem said that Obama was not welcome in Bethlehem.

“We won’t receive Obama with flowers and a red carpet,” he declared. “We will receive him with shoes. We want to tell America that we hate you and you have no place here. We don’t want to see Obama in Palestine. He is coming to save Israel. He does not have anything to offer our people.”

Bethlehem after Christmas

Bethlehem after Christmas

Another protester who asked not to be identified said many Palestinians in the city were opposed to Obama’s visit, “especially since he has made it clear that he is coming as a pilgrim.”

The Palestinians, he added, have sent a message to Obama that he is not welcome in the Palestinian territories.

“Obama is coming to help the Israelis,” he said. “He is not coming to help the Palestinians. He has been supporting Israeli occupation and oppression of our people.”

Mazen al-Azza, one of the organizers of the anti-Obama protest, said that the main objective of the US president’s visit was to support Israel politically and militarily.

“Obama is not welcome in Palestine,” al-Azza said. “He has done nothing for the Palestinians. He does not care about the Palestinian prisoners who are being held in Israel.”

Ahlam al-Wahsh, another activist, said that Obama would be welcome in Bethlehem only if he manages to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners and stops settlement construction.

Meanwhile, US helicopters landed in the PA presidential compound in Ramallah on Monday in the context of preparations for Obama’s visit.

PA officials said that the helicopters were rehearsing the arrival of Obama in Ramallah. The officials denied that the helicopters were carrying US security guards.

The arrival of the US helicopters in Ramallah drew strong protests from some Palestinians, who said they too were opposed to Obama’s visit.

As one of the helicopters hovered over the compound, a woman standing near the area shouted: “Allahu Akbar! Obama is not welcome in Palestine. He is an Israeli agent.”

Earlier, PA officials said that the Americans would be in charge of security arrangements during Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem.

 

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