Palestinian activists shut down Bethlehem meeting with US officials: ‘you are not welcome anymore!’

FeaturesIsrael/Palestine
on 14 Comments

Palestinian activists shut down a meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday between a delegation from the U.S. Consulate and Palestinian city officials, marking an escalation in the widening rift between Palestinians and the U.S. after Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. 

After activists interrupted the meeting with banners comparing Trump to Nazis and ISIS, and shouting “you are not welcome anymore!” the American officials abruptly walked out of a conference room at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Then activists pelted their departing convoy with tomatoes, and some demonstrators kicked the vehicles. 

Mohammad Lutfi, a Palestinian activist who lives in Aida refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, was arrested hour later on Tuesday Palestinian Authority security forces. At least four others protesters were summoned for interrogation, of whom three are identified as Anas Abu Srour, Ahmad Odeh, and Ibrahim Msallam.

Shortly after the detention of Lutfi, dozens of Palestinians from the Aida refugee camp and the surrounding areas took to the PA headquarters in Bethlehem to demand his release. PA forces then released Lutfi after he, along with the four others, were made to sign documents saying they would appear for interrogation, if asked to, on Wednesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lutfi and a group of local activists were filmed as they interrupted the meeting between Palestinian officials and businessmen, the Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

The activists pushed through security, chanting slogans like “America get out” and “America is the head of the snake.”

As the American delegation was leaving the room, the chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry Samir Hazboun, apologized to the officials. In response, activist Anas Abu Srour can be seen in the video saying “We are not sorry! You should be sorry!”

In a statement given to the Palestine News Network (PNN) at the demonstration, Odeh said that he and the other activists expelled the delegation in light of calls for a nationwide boycott, in which Palestinian national factions have said that the neither government nor private agencies should receive American officials in the occupied territory.

After Palestinian officials refused to host Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the region earlier this month, President Trump withheld funding to Palestinian refugees because of their “disrespect” to Pence, he said in Davos at the World Economic Forum.

Amid ongoing threats from Trump, who has said that he will continue to withhold millions of dollars in funding to critical agencies like UNRWA–the UN agency tasked with providing relief to more than five million Palestinian refugees–anti-Trump protests have gained new momentum across the Palestinian territory.

During Tuesday’s demonstration, activists demanded the dismissal of Hazboun, saying that by holding the meeting, he disrespected the Palestinian national consensus to boycott American officials.

The activists also vowed that they would not accept any Palestinian officials dealing with any representatives of the American government, and will continue to hold demonstrations.

Hazboun released a statement on Wednesday on behalf of the office of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry denying that the delegation was from the State Department, and that the meeting was a digital marketing training with an American business developer with a media agency.

The statement, posted to social media by Odeh, accused the activists of “destroying the facility” and assaulting an employee. In the video, glasses can be heard breaking as the activists were pushed around by security, and a minor physical altercation can be seen breaking out between Odeh and an employee, who can be visibly seen prompting the altercation.

In the same post to Facebook Odeh accused Hazboun and the office of lying to and “misleading” the Palestinian people.

Countering Hazboun’s claim that the delegation was not American officials, the State Department confirmed the incident in their own statement. “Though no one was hurt, the objective was clearly intimidation. The United States absolutely opposes the use of violence and intimidation to express political views,” said the statement. 

Anas Abu Srour told Mondoweiss that the arrest of Lutfi and interrogation summons of the other activists were prompted by an unknown complainant who accused the activists of assaulting the delegation. But upon review of the video and pressure from locals, the activists were let go.

Abu Srour said the demonstration was spontaneous, and that the activists took to the office upon hearing of the meeting.

He clarified that Palestinians are not boycotting American citizens, but rather any American officials or delegations associated with the Trump administration.

“This was a message for the American administration that they are not welcome here anymore in the Palestinian territories until Trump withdraws his declaration on Jerusalem and his continued threats against UNRWA,” he said.

About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on twitter @yumna_patel.

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14 Responses

  1. mondonut
    January 31, 2018, 5:51 pm

    Classic.

    Why permit a meeting that essentially only benefits the Palestinians and their economy when you can cut off your own nose to make a meaningless point.

    • LHunter
      February 1, 2018, 10:59 am

      nutjob – your comment confirms your stupidity and bigotry – making you a classic example of a zionist whore.

      the US has been a dishonest broker for decades – allowing Palestinians to languish in poverty under a brutal occupation and apartheid regime. it bothers you when you see others actually standing up for their rights instead of bending over as you and your zionist whores have done to earn your keep.

      zionists have whored themselves to the US for protection and have whored out the jewish faith, the holocaust and your fellow jews to own an apartheid regime and occupation – job well done. Israel continues to be seen as a pariah, a rogue state that continues to make the top three worst countries in the world. The UN has called Israel one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

      All this whoring going on and this is what you have managed to achieve for yourselves? stupid, backwards bigots – the lot of you

  2. Mayhem
    January 31, 2018, 6:17 pm

    UNRWA just perpetuates the Israel-Palestine conflict. Its critics have been saying that for a long long time. Finally the Trump administration acknowledged that fact and acted on it. The Palestinians typically reacted to the danger of losing their free handouts.
    The Trump administration won’t kowtow to threats and intimidation like “This was a message for the American administration that they are not welcome here anymore in the Palestinian territories until Trump withdraws his declaration on Jerusalem and his continued threats against UNRWA.”
    It’s time that Palestinian supporters wake up to the reality that these kind of bullying tactics are doomed to failure today.

    • Talkback
      February 1, 2018, 8:47 am

      Mayhem: “UNRWA just perpetuates the Israel-Palestine conflict. ”

      Yeah sure. Not that Israel keeps them permanently expelled perpetuates the conflict but the organisation that helps them.

      Gosh, sometimes your idiocies are even worse than nazi propaganda.

      • festus
        February 1, 2018, 10:21 am

        The Special Relationship scores again.

        The coddling of the Apartheid State by America has created an additional billion enemies for us.

        Time to remove these racist land thieves and mass murderers from the welfare rolls.

  3. RoHa
    January 31, 2018, 6:22 pm

    “After interrupting the meeting with banners comparing Trump to Nazis and ISIS, and shouting “you are not welcome anymore!” the American officials abruptly walked out of a conference room at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ”

    Some mistake, surely. I cannot believe the American officials compared Trump to Nazis.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 31, 2018, 7:13 pm

      pt taken. thank you. edited.

    • Emory Riddle
      February 3, 2018, 8:00 am

      I cannot believe the American officials compared Trump to Nazis.

      Actually they do it all the time at the direction of their Oligarch masters

  4. Kay24
    January 31, 2018, 6:55 pm

    More power to the Palestinians, EU steps in and helps them after Herr Trump arrogantly cuts off aid to an occupied people. EU sends strong message to Trump. Thank you EU for doing the right thing.

    “EU pledges €42.5m extra aid to Palestinians after Donald Trump cuts US contribution
    EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini warns US jeopardising peace process by going it alone

    The European Union has pledged an additional €42.5m (£37m) aid package for the Palestinian occupied territories following Donald Trump’s decision to cut US support to the would-be state.

    The new money comes weeks after the US President decided to withhold $65m (£45.8) of a $125m aid package to the UN agency in Palestine, arguing that America gets “no appreciation or respect” for its payments.

    Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, announced the package on Wednesday in Brussels, warning Mr Trump that the US would jeopardise the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by going it alone in the region.”
    Independent.UK

  5. genesto
    February 1, 2018, 12:17 pm

    The Palestinian leadership needs to abandon its relationship with the US, regardless of whether or not it changes its stance on Jerusalem and decides to continue the $100 million in aid. And we need to work as hard as possible to stop military aid to the evil leaders of the Jewish state. Then, and only then, will we see progress.

  6. Ossinev
    February 1, 2018, 1:54 pm

    Any news about the Vichy PA`s take on this. Surely following Abbas`s recent fire and fury with regard to Mad Donald`s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel`s “capital” he and his good buddy Erekat (yes that Erekat the one who is forever dangling the keys and threatening to hand them back to Israel) surely they should be applauding these “activists” who are simply following through on his policy of cutting off any US role in the piss process.

  7. Maghlawatan
    February 1, 2018, 4:07 pm

    Khalaas ya’ni.

    Neoliberalism never did anything for the Palestinians

  8. JLewisDickerson
    February 2, 2018, 8:09 am

    RE: The activists pushed through security, chanting slogans like “America get out” and “America is the head of the snake.”

    MY COMMENT: Good one!

    EVEN BETTER: “America is the head of the poisonous snake.” OR “America is the head of the rattlesnake“.

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