Press treats Palestinian protests as tactic aimed at Obama, but they began long before he announced visit

on 12 Comments

Yesterday Israel demanded that the Palestinian Authority take action to “calm the territory,” responding to Palestinian protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners ahead of President Obama’s visit to the region, less than a month away. That Israeli demand has gone viral–as the protests are finally garnering international attention after months.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the resistance and gave no indication he would be issuing any “call for calm“.

Reuters stated in its report:

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, questioned whether the protests were just a tactical move by the Palestinians to draw international attention before Obama’s visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

And this has become a theme in western coverage. Two days ago the Islamophobic publication Front Page Magazine headline glared, “Palestinian Muslims Planning ‘Mini-Intifada’ for Obama Visit”, and Isabel Kershner opened her New York Times coverage of the Ofer prison protests on the 19th by citing Obama’s trip:

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails refused meals on Tuesday in solidarity with four hunger-striking detainees, and supporters held protests in the West Bank, as the Palestinians sought to pressure Israel before President Obama’s visit to the region next month.

This idea the Palestinians are staging protests in response to Obama’s visit draws attention away from their actual mission: against occupation and the cruel and archaic practice of administrative detention.

We began posting on the drastic increase in provocative actions taken by Israel back in early December, just days after the UN Palestinian upgrade, when Israeli media first started spreading rumors of a Third Intifada. Then in January an Israel army commander, Yaniv Alaluf, declared the intifada had already begun. Our timeline from last December includes a video of a protest for hunger strikers on December 12th. The idea that this is a tactic related to Obama’s visit is refuted by the evidence. Some of the prisoners have been on hunger strikes for over 200 days.

Back to Reuters:

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Abbas aide, said Israel’s treatment of prisoners and anti-Palestinian violence by Jewish settlers were “the cause of the deterioration”.

This is a reference to Israeli raids on occupied Palestinian towns, making arrests including children. In an interview with Haaretz  last December, Abbas says that the Israelis were motivated by the Palestinian move at the U.N. in November:

“The Israeli government has taken 50 different steps since the UN move,” Abbas told Gal-On. “The Israeli military has started to raid Palestinian cities without coordinating with our security forces. They don’t ask permission and don’t even let us know in advance.”

The secretary-general of the PA presidency, Tayeb Abdul Rahim, who also attended the meeting, intervened and said that during the past three months Israel had arrested 200 members of the PA security forces, though most were released after a brief questioning.”

Palestinians have been trying to get the world’s attention to stop these inhumane practices for a long time. Note this long pattern of stepped up arrests (here, here) and rearrests of prisoners previously released in the prisoner exchange with Gilad Shalit, the invasion of  Palestinian towns from Jenin to Hebron and jailing of P.A. security forces, the cooperation and collaboration of the Israeli army and violent settlers , the increase in settler violence with incidents happening daily. This pattern began long before Obama announced his visit.

If Israel wants calm on the eve of Obama’s visit, abducting innocent people (including children) from their homes, or at checkpoints and hauling them in for extended periods of interrogation is not the way to assure it. An accelerated policy of land confiscations and demolition orders sweeping East Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank, many accompanied by arrests won’t stem the tide either.

Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe has suggested Obama “should exert pressure on Israel to release the prisoners.”

International pressure on Obama surrounding his visit may be the only way to get Obama to speak out. But so far the results are not very encouraging. The western press has been largely silent about the Israeli tactics in the West Bank. For instance, that rally in support of hunger strikers locked in Israeli prisons last December was picked up in China, by Xinhua, no story here. (The reports are archived here.)

Gee, ya think? This is a global problem and it needs a solution, now.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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12 Responses

  1. Hostage
    February 25, 2013, 10:46 am

    This idea the Palestinians are staging protests in response to Obama’s visit draws attention away from their actual mission: against occupation and the cruel and archaic practice of administrative detention.

    I don’t think it does. The US talking points have insisted for years that the status quo is unsustainable. This is what unsustainable looks like. Why not stage protests during Obama’s visit? More to the point, how could anyone prevent them at this point?

    FWIW, the Palestinians didn’t actually invite Obama to come. I’ve read here and elsewhere that they only learned he would be stopping by for a few hours through reports in the press.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 25, 2013, 3:25 pm

      Why not stage protests during Obama’s visit? More to the point, how could anyone prevent them at this point?

      i am not advocating they not stage protests now. i would also say in the context of his visit one cannot divorce their impact from the overall environment surrounding his visit. but i think just because the press picks up and covers these protests now, (possibly/probably) because he’s coming, doesn’t mean they should be framed as happening because of his visit. unless that is the truth, and i don’t believe it is the truth. the protests have been ongoing and sustained.

      i don’t think americans should be led to believe palestinians are all of a sudden calling large protests because of his visit, unless they say they are. i don’t agree with kershner’s opening of the Palestinians sought to pressure Israel before President Obama’s visit . well then what were the earlier protests about? and the hunger strikers? this has been a sustained ongoing campaign. kershner has largely ignored it.

      i think it is a good thing it’s finally broken thru in the mainstream press here. which is why i included it in this headline . i think it’s very important. but i also think it’s important for anyone first hearing about the palestinian protests in solidarity with prisoners to understand they have been ongoing.

      the reason i posted the video above from december is nobody noticed it at the time. and it was a big protest and it’s a powerful video.

  2. Obsidian
    February 26, 2013, 8:54 am

    This ‘slow-burn intifada’ has been going on many weeks and it’s been well planned in advance by Abbas and his cronies.,7340,L-4339020,00.html

    • Annie Robbins
      February 26, 2013, 1:40 pm

      obsidian, we have been reporting on israel’s provocations for months. and you would have us believe this is designed by abbas? you think abbas plans on having 200 of his security personnel arrested? iof entering pa controlled territory uninvited over and over? torture of prisoners? rearresting the prisoners from the prisoner exchange? please. the western media might repeat this,and they are, but we know the truth here. israel wants a third intifada and has been provoking it. they have more power and the ability to haul off innocent people and interrogate them, including children.

      • eljay
        February 26, 2013, 2:48 pm

        >> link to

        While Israeli intelligence officials and politicians argue over whether a third intifada has erupted, the PA has already activated a “soft intifada” – or an “awareness intifada.” The goal is to methodically place their demands at the top of the international media’s agenda while avoiding violence and terror. The PA is initiating dozens of non-violent provocations, or provocations that involve a minimal level of violence – without the use of weapons or explosives …

        Good gawd, the Palestinians have activated a “soft intifada” – or an “awareness intifada”! 8-o

        Why are they denying the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” the excuse to steal, destroy, colonize, torture and kill?

        Why do they hate the supremacist “Jewish State” so much?! :-(

      • Obsidian
        February 27, 2013, 2:48 am

        Israel can easily have a third intifada simply by shooting and killing a Palestinian boy.
        Apparently, that’s just what Israel is trying to avoid.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 27, 2013, 2:22 pm

        if they were trying to avoid casualties they wouldn’t be shooting at children and using live ammo.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 27, 2013, 3:55 pm

        Obsidian, I’ve been working on another story and i just realized this helicopter story is related.

        Soldiers arrived on the scene and, as usual, protected the invading settlers. Clashes then continued for the remainder of the day with the Israeli military firing rubber coated steel bullets and tear gas directly at local residents. A sixteen year old boy, Osama Rami Hassan, was shot with a rubber coated steel bullet in the forehead that narrowly missed his eye. He is currently undergoing surgery at Rafidia hospital in the attempt to save it, however the prognosis is not good.

        there are photographs of the soldiers protecting these settlers, in what is described by yesh din as a ‘pogrom’. the settlers attacked the village. if ‘israel’ is trying to avoid these incidences why aren’t the soldiers protecting the civilians? why aren’t they arresting the violent settlers who invaded the village? this happens over and over again, just like the villagers of Yasuf being repeatedly attacked by the Kahanist settlers of Tapuach?

        so do not tell me Israel is trying to avoid a third intifada when they let these fanatics run free. i’m sick of these lies. they are only protecting the settlers, not the boy. they don’t want the story to get out what really happened. but believe me, it will get out. and the photo at your link is not of the event, just some heroic rescue stock footage.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 26, 2013, 3:00 pm

      i’m using your article for my next draft, especially this:

      [T]he Palestinian leadership is fomenting controlled unrest in the West Bank territories.


    • piotr
      February 26, 2013, 3:37 pm

      I do not know if “Abbas and his cronies” plan mass protests, I know that they should. What would satisfy you — if they played dead? They almost do it anyway.

      What is really happening is that “Abbas and his cronies” mouth some patriotic platitudes but delivers “security cooperation”, however, with Israel currently stealing their money they cannot pay security forces (and teachers, doctors and so on) so obviously unpaid troopers are not as dutiful as paid ones. So now Israel returned 100 million of the stolen money and still owes several hundred million more.

  3. James Canning
    February 26, 2013, 2:16 pm


  4. gamal
    February 26, 2013, 2:32 pm

    In Kingston Ja, the area around the the Tivoli Gardens, terrible slum despite the name, from Queen street to Harbour road the area controlled by the PNP is called Tel Aviv, as oppossed to the JLP, its very strange here that you see Gaza and Tel Aviv,
    as in (garrissons are the belligerent slum communities) : “But that sort of jungle justice is common to all the other garrison communities throughout the corporate area of Kingston and St Andrew – from Tel Aviv to Matthews Lane, from Arnett Gardens, also known as Concrete Jungle, to Trench Town, from the Wareika Hills to Dunkirk.

    Bodies found in handcarts in downtown Kingston or dumped elsewhere on Kingston’s streets, did not all originate in Tivoli Gardens, but Tivoli always managed to be singled out for the sensational treatment.”

    Read more:

    graffitoed everywhere. No one denies that Politicians flood the ghettoes with guns, its quite open, a couple of young men i know are party operatives, given motor bikes and guns with which they cause a degree of mayhem.

    As to Abbas planning anything i thought it was Arafat, one he’s dead you know all will be well.

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