Obama visit fails to impress Palestinians in Ramallah

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 38 Comments
obama visit 1
Palestinians in Ramallah make light of President Obama’s short
stop in the West Bank during his trip to Israel this week.
(Photo: Shabab al-Awda/Facebook)

Despite some fanfare over President Barack Obama’s upcoming three-hour visit to Ramallah during his three-day long trip to Israel, Palestinians in the de facto capital of the West Bank are for the most part nonplussed with the diplomatic tour.

Last week I asked Palestinians who live and work in Ramallah what they think about the upcoming visit and their responses ranged from blasé to outright disappointment. While the president has seemingly added Ramallah to his itinerary as a good will gesture, the Palestinians I spoke with felt the Presdent’s decision to only meet with political leadership during his very short visit was not enough.

In fact all the four respondents rebuked the notion that President Obama has an interest in the well being of the Palestinian people. All of them stated that his policies already indicate Israel is the U.S.’s ally in the region.

Nadia, 29, works at an investment bank:

“I am very disappointed!

Palestinians were very strong supporters for President Obama when he was first elected. We are very optimistic in particular when he promised that he would work hard to make sure that Palestinians get an independent state. However, he did not keep his promise, and his visit to Israel reflects his strong support to the Israel with no consideration to Palestinian suffering. His visit has nothing to do with finding a solution to the conflict, I believe he is visiting as a tourist and his visit schedule reflects this fact! I was hoping that he would be a bit more neutral towards the conflict but this visit shows that he is standing on the Israeli side! Despite all the Israeli violations, ongoing occupation, illegal settlement activity, aggression against Palestinian people, President Obama is sending a clear message that Israel is a friend and ally, and Palestinians are the last thing on his agenda! I am asking President Obama to reconsider his position, to listen to us, to our suffering, concerns and dreams. I am asking him to visit Palestine, to visit refugee camps, to meet youth and women! I am asking him to help us make our dream come true; end the occupation and build a civilized, liberal, independent Palestine! I am asking him to put real pressure on the Israeli government to stop its violations against us!”

Jumana, 30, development assistant, member of Palestinians for Dignity who are expected to organize a demonstration during President Obama’s West Bank visit:

“We don’t expect anything good happening from Obama’s visit to occupied Palestine. Obama has wholeheartedly expressed his strong commitment to the security of Israel. In fact the US successive administrations have not been honest brokers for peace in the Middle East. The Oslo peace process which was signed 20 years ago have brought nothing to the Palestinians but more prisoners, more illegal Israeli settlers, whose numbers have increased to more than twice as many as 200,000 settling in the occupied Palestinian territories. The U.S. Congress has pledged $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel for the year 2013 alone including to financing the Iron Dome system.

Obama’s visit comes at a time when Palestinian prisoners are waging a hunger strike for freedom and dignity, however he aims to relieve the pressure on Israel at this moment and to pander to the current Israeli government, which is suffering some international and diplomatic isolation. This visit also aims to prolong the life of the Palestinian Authority, which is becoming more disconnected from its people after 20 years of the futile negotiations and Oslo agreement. We therefore call for supporting the boycott of Israel in the security, economically, politically, culturally, and academically.”

obama visit 2
Poster on President Obama’s expected visit to Ramallah. Palestinian
cellular providers are not able to provide 3G service in the West Bank.
However most Israeli networks do, via telecoms towers in illegal
settlements. (Photo: @Ramisms/Twitter)

Noticeably a few of the respondents mentioned the on-going Palestinian prisoner hunger strike movement inside of Israeli prisons. Since last fall when the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) gained non-member observer status at the United Nations, protests have mounted against the civil administration—sometimes over the hunger strikers. There are currently twelve long-term detainees fasting against Israeli imprisonment. Their call for Palestinians to join them and demonstrate has been well received across the West Bank. So while on a diplomatic level the PA is discussing returning to direct negotiations with Israel, albeit with a settlement freeze, Palestinians on the ground from the cities to small villages are in a period of increased organized dissent.

Ahmad Abuquake, 22, vendor in the Ramallah outdoor fruit and vegetable market:

“What are you doing in Palestine Obama? What do you want? I wish America could help make peace with Israel. I wish that you knew Palestinian are being killed—our children and women. We hope that you can help us, help Palestine get rid of the apartheid wall, and checkpoints. And finally we wish to free Jerusalem so it may be the Palestinian capital. But we know that you are supporting Israel. And so we say to you welcome, and freedom to all prisoners in the Israeli jails.”

Samir Habash, 26, works for an NGO part-time:

“It’s pointless. It reminds me of a story of a man who went to a rabbi to complain about his living situation. The rabbi had the man bring all the animals he owned into his house. Then when his life got worse, the rabbi told the man to take out the animals one by one. After all of the animals were back to their outdoor enclosures the man was happy. But at the end of the story, nothing has really changed for this man’s life.

This is very similar to our situation. People come and go but nothing really changes. It’s just keeping up appearances.”

The gap between the political aspirations of the leadership versus the people will likely erupt in demonstrations during President Obama’s trip to Ramallah. The tensions on the ground with both the PA and Israel can certainly be felt in these comments from Ramallah.

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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38 Responses

  1. Ramzi Jaber
    March 18, 2013, 3:45 pm

    So true. So appropriate. So poignant.

    We take two hours to have a coffee and often that is not even enough time!

    He gives us two hours as if we are beggars, doing us a favor. This trip is all about cleansing the criminal illegal zionist regime. This is not about peace. And certainly this is not about fairness, justice, or being a balanced mediator. This is certainly not about us and Palestine, so, Obama, don’t come to my country. You are not welcome here.

  2. Annie Robbins
    March 18, 2013, 3:49 pm

    thanks allison, excellent report and quotes.

    what’s the gorilla graphic about? is it in context of US or obama, or is it the name of the cafe?

  3. Kathleen
    March 18, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Allison thank you for that report and the individual Palestinians perspectives. Can you imagine if President Obama were to get on one of the Palestinians segregated buses on the West Bank and say something about how wrong that situation is. Calling Rosa Parks, calling Rosa Parks. I can dream for the Palestinian people

  4. BillM
    March 18, 2013, 5:11 pm

    It’s hard to blame the Palestinians. Since the purpose of this trip is solely for Obama to proclaim his love of Israel and his pledge not to actually DO anything, it’s easy to understand why Palestinians won’t fall into place in the love fest. The US media will end up with a lot of pictures of angry-looking Arabs doing mean things to American flags and pictures of Obama. I don’t know if that’s helpful, really, but it is completely understandable.

    • Ellen
      March 18, 2013, 6:43 pm

      Bill, you nailed it. And yes there will be lots of expressions or anger by Palestinians, many really stupid, but understandable. That will then be used by the western and Israeli media to feed the image of the threatening Palestinians.

      Best thing they could do is simply ignore Obama and his visit to profess love and allegiance to Israel. That would be the more powerful message.

      It is a dangerous visit for the POTUS and if he showed any understanding of the plight of Palestinians and what has been done to a people, he would be deemed a threat to Israel and as any perceived threat…..

      • peeesss
        March 19, 2013, 2:33 am

        It behooves me to believe that any anger shown to Obama during his “visit” to Palestine could be considered “stupid”, albeit understandable. This deference to Obama by so many ,intelligent commentators “angers” me. After seeing the destruction of their history, civilization since time immemorial I can see no anger as being stupid expressed to the man who says proudly , loudly, at every opportunity that he “has Israel’s back”. That he thinks often of the Israeli children and the fears of their parents. That he has given more aid, military, economic and diplomatic to Israel than any other POTUS before him. That he said nothing about the massacre in Gaza in 2008-9, and praised the latest Gaza massacre . That he has been unflinching in his opposition to Palestinian membership in the UN threatening to veto it. Truly has been more supportive of Israel than George Bush . If only the puppets Abbas and Fayoud would show some “anger” and backbone. This nonsense about Obama “washing’ his hands of the Israeli/Palestine situation is hogwash if its meant that he is giving up “peacemaking , It only means he will give up the ludicrous suggestion that he is an ” evenhanded mediator” in the so called peace process. I must admit he is no more guilty of this hypocricy than past Presidents .

  5. Justpassingby
    March 18, 2013, 5:16 pm

    I am more amazed that Obama is even let in to the Westbank by palestinians, why would you let in someone that support the oppressors? But, with the corrupt leaders in the Westbank that do whatever US and Israel tells them to, this is nothing but a puppet-government so I guess its no surprise. Besides, palestinians seems quite naive if they think Obama have an interest in peace.

    • Kathleen
      March 18, 2013, 8:09 pm

      Good point

    • Accentitude
      March 19, 2013, 2:39 am

      I don’t think the Palestinian people have any power to accept or deny his entry into the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand pretends it has such power but will never deny the president an opportunity for a photo-op at the PA compound. They, the PA are nothing more than American and Israeli lap dogs, eager to do their master’s bidding. Even when the they are directly slapped in the face by the American and Israeli leaders, like obedient little dogs they take the chastising and remain at their master’s side. As Jumana mentioned in Allison’s article, the Palestinian people are becoming far too detached from the interests of the so-called Palestinian Authority whom no longer represent the citizens. They have become the new sub-contractors of the occupation.

      Today, here in Ramallah there are expected protests, as well as on Thursday when he’s expected to meet Abbas and his high-level goons at the Muqata’a (PA compound), and protests in Bethlehem on Friday when he’s supposed to visit the Church of the Nativity. The PA mentioned that they won’t stop the protests…..as long as the protestors have already applied for and received approval for their demonstration….which is almost impossible. But it does give the PA security forces an opportunity to display that they are in control when they whip out their batons. We’ll see….

  6. ToivoS
    March 18, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Interesting reports Allison. Keep them coming.

    These impressions can be seen in an optimistic light. I have been worrying for the last month or so that Obama will go to Israel and try to launch another chapter to the “peace process”. We all know that US sponsored peace efforts have done nothing more than provide Israel with a shield to continue seizing more WB land. Thus is it is better that the US stop doing anything, the least we can do is withdraw that shield. Apparently Obama agrees.

    These comments by the Palestinians are encouraging. It means the man on the street realizes that the US is not going to be part of any solution, the US is, and will remain, over the immediate future, part of the problem. The lobby is simply too powerful inside the US for Obama to make any meaningful changes. For him to do nothing, means that previous total support for Israel remains our policy. Given that is the reality it is positive that this is the message that the rest of the world receives without any doubt. Of course the Palestinian people are more attune to that message than others, but hopefully this message will become clearer everywhere. The important factor here is that official US statements will have less influence over events, especially inside Europe.

    BDS can flourish in that environment. Without the innumerable “peace” accords obscuring the underlying reality, BDS can more easily gain traction. So at one level Allison’s report might sound depressing but at another it suggests potential growth for an international movement against Israeli aggression.

  7. dimadok
    March 18, 2013, 6:03 pm

    “Bethlehem: Swastikas on Obama billboard

    Dozens of Bethlehem residents vandalize large billboard bearing image of US president, stress that Obama would not receive warm welcome during Friday visit”


    This is because of the occupation obviously…

    • eljay
      March 18, 2013, 6:29 pm

      >> “Bethlehem: Swastikas on Obama billboard
      >> Dozens of Bethlehem residents vandalize large billboard bearing image of US president, stress that Obama would not receive warm welcome during Friday visit”
      >> link to ynetnews.com
      >> This is because of the occupation obviously…

      Bethlehem residents vandalize a billboard with swastikas: Stupid. Very stupid.

      Zio-supremacists use terrorism and ethnic cleansing to create an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” in Palestine, and maintain and expand that state by means of a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder: Hateful, immoral and unjust.

      But at least you did notice that there’s an occupation. Bravo.

    • ToivoS
      March 18, 2013, 6:41 pm

      This is because of the occupation obviously…

      Most certainly yes it is. The Palestinian people are waking up and realizing the US actions over the last 25 years not only permitted, but gave cover to, the expansion of WB settlements. This is a positive development.

    • K Renner
      March 18, 2013, 7:04 pm

      Why else would they do that? It’s meant to be an insult to Obama the supporter of occupation. Not, as the cheerleaders for Israel say, an indication that “Palestinians HATE all the jews and love Hitler.”

      Don’t imply that it is, dimbulb.

    • thankgodimatheist
      March 18, 2013, 7:11 pm

      “This is because of the occupation obviously…”
      Why? Do you read it differently?

    • Cliff
      March 18, 2013, 7:37 pm

      Who cares dim duck

      The Palestinians aren’t the occupiers and aren’t the immigrants who ran out the indigenous population.

      And this story you gleefully link does not change the power dynamic and the legacy of the Nakba and the colonial character of Zionism.

      But colonists and fascist nationalists have always used stories like the ones you cite to dismiss the grievances of the indigenous population.

      I don’t remember you or the other colonists caring about the daily CONSTANT abuse by the settlers and IDF – which yes, the horror, includes defaming Palestinian homes and mosques and whatever else with the swastika.

      Last time I checked I don’t recall you caring when settlers wrote ‘gas the Arabs’ because you agree with them.

    • Justpassingby
      March 18, 2013, 7:55 pm

      Who said it was palestinians, your prejudice?

      Jewish man arrested ‘after posting swastikas on doors’

      • sardelapasti
        March 18, 2013, 11:22 pm

        thankgodimatheist – And who said a Jewish guy could not avoid missing the high similarity between the original swastikaed occupation and the one today?

      • Annie Robbins
        March 19, 2013, 12:55 am

        there’s also a rather well publicized case of the college girl (jewish) getting busted for painting a swastika on a door ..forget the details…blamed/claimed she was persecuted or something.. someone linked to the news article here not long ago.

      • dimadok
        March 19, 2013, 3:37 pm

        @Annie:. There must be a special commando unit that goes inside the Ramallah center and paints those things on the beloved POTUS face…
        I am officially crying from laughter now. God bless.

      • Cliff
        March 20, 2013, 1:20 am

        There are Israeli soldiers who look ‘Arab’ and go undercover. That’s been in the Israeli press a few notable times. Particularly, when the IDF does its kidnapping.

        So no it’s not surprising.

        The point is rather that you don’t give a shit about swastikas when Jews are painting them on Arab homes and mosques or when Jews are saying ‘Gas the Arabs’.

        Your implication is that this story confirms your political perspective that the occupier is the victim and Palestinians are Nazis and in spite of the power differential – they, the Palestinians, are holding the poor poor Israelis hostage.

        Get over yourself.

      • dimadok
        March 21, 2013, 1:12 pm

        @Cliff. Laughing again-thank you for the mind reading and the conspiracy overload.

      • ToivoS
        March 22, 2013, 2:32 am

        Good links cliff. It is hard to understand what dim duck is trying to say. I guess all he can he can say that he continues to laugh away. It is an interesting pathway into the mind of the Zionist.

    • Cliff
      March 18, 2013, 8:39 pm

      Dim Duck is frightened by the possibility that Palestinians painted these marks.

      But not when Jewish colonists like him have done so.

      Oh and he apparently doesn’t care about the 50 year (almost) occupation and theft of Palestinian land.

      Just more fake outrage and hasbara garbage.

      • sardelapasti
        March 22, 2013, 3:37 am

        Cliff – “the 50 year (almost) occupation and theft”
        2013 – 1947 = 65 1/2

    • Accentitude
      March 19, 2013, 2:53 am

      63% of Bethlehem Governorate (what is commonly known in America as a “state”) has been swallowed by Israeli settlements, outposts, “closed military zones”, the Apartheid wall, and the ever-expanding Israeli Jerusalem Municipality under Pro-settler Mayor Nir Barkat. All of this of course funded by the USG’s 3.1billion per year to the Israeli government and supported by vetoes against Palestinians in the United Nations. Call me crazy, but I think the people of Bethlehem have a legitimate gripe with Mr. fancypants Obama. They also might want to remind him that he’s visiting the Church of the Nativity which is a UNESCO heritage site…you know, the same UNESCO that America withdrew funding from because it accepted Palestine as a member? And that this site is in the non-member observer state of Palestine which Obama voted against and whose legitimacy he does not recognize. They might also want to remind him that they only have 37% of their land because of the increased settlement activity supported by a USG veto against condemning settlements in the UN.

  8. Koshiro
    March 18, 2013, 7:34 pm

    If Abbas, Fayyad or any of the politicians Obama wants to have his photo taken with had any dignity or integrity, they would just have told the President of the US they had no time for him, and he could maybe meet with a junior vice Secretary of the Foreign office or something.

    • Citizen
      March 18, 2013, 10:15 pm

      Obama’s trip is just another campaign mode thing for him; he will play his smooth part, say all the code words, be charming–look into the sky with resolution when speaking of peace–a la it will be hard, put if we work together some day in the sweet by-and-by.

      • Accentitude
        March 19, 2013, 2:57 am

        He can’t give a speech without a teleprompter. Someone should sneak in an eff that thing up for him. Put in a whole bunch of lines about Palestinian rights to self-determination, about Israel being an apartheid state, about supporting BDS and the ISM flotillas, about how USG is arming the IDF to shoot unarmed youth in the face with dum dum bullets. He’ll either read it or stutter and look like a complete fool.

      • MK_Ultra
        March 19, 2013, 12:50 pm

        LOL! What a great idea! Of course, whoever does that will end up like the brave Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at Bush.

  9. Kathleen
    March 18, 2013, 8:11 pm

    What is Obama’s strategy now. He won the election. Stand up show some backbone, enough of the rolling over again and again. This is it Obama one year into this term will be hear and gone soon enough.

  10. jimmy
    March 18, 2013, 8:23 pm

    those four interviewed also reflect alot of Americans attitude towards obama too..

    I hoped he would make an effort to correct bush’s BS….but alas….he is as bad if not worse….

    drone killings all across the ME…

    the subservience to israel…

    I am beginning to wonder if it is even healthy to keep reading of the honor of the zionists and their us supporters

    it makes me sick…

  11. kalithea
    March 19, 2013, 12:26 am

    Palestinians are but an afterthought in Obama’s brain which is mostly preoccupied with his political and historical significance. So Obama’s going to scatter a few breadcrumbs in Ramallah, huh? And no doubt his stature will instantly attract a flock of pigeons and they’ll get to the breadcrumbs first. Obviously, he thinks it’s too beneath him to stay awhile and get his conscience bothered.

    Warning to Palestinians: Careful! If you blink; you just might miss His Haughtiness, Obama. Trust me; you won’t miss much.

    • Citizen
      March 19, 2013, 9:45 am

      “Palestinians are but an afterthought in Obama’s brain which is mostly preoccupied with his political and historical significance. ”

      Yes, I agree. He made one attempt at being historically significant in world history, not just US history–when he made his Cairo Speech. He won’t go over the top of his handlers and speak directly to the American people about our Israel problem, has decided he won’t go down in the history books as a great leader in foreign affairs. I bet he won’t even mention the illegal settlements in his speech to the young Israelis this week, and too he won’t mention the Nakba, or the occupation, or the seige of Gaza as a modern twist to “Never Again!” when he stops at the Shoah museum site. Imagine the reverberations around the world if he did any of those things!

  12. talknic
    March 19, 2013, 1:19 am

    Nazi symbols are quite apt for anyone who supports a State who dis-regards the Laws, UN Charter and conventions written in large part because of what befell Jewish folk under the Nazi regime.

    • kalithea
      March 19, 2013, 2:06 am

      And Zionists like to channel that regime and it’s symbolism:

      A. to bully the Palestinians into submission and also gradually neutralize the Palestinian problem, and
      B. to ensure successive generations of Jews forever remain and appear needy, traumatized and requiring exclusive dispensation to act above the Law to guarantee their insatiable need for security.

  13. MK_Ultra
    March 19, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Obama visit fails to impress everyone including (or particularly) those whose desperate approval he seeks. The man is a complete disappointment even to himself.

    Israel to ask Obama to use air strikes in case of Syrian missile transfer

    US expected to resist Israeli pressure to attack Iran, while Tel Aviv unlikely to yield on Palestine, leaving Syria a common goal


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