Obama slights Palestinians, who stage Tent Protests

Aljazeera English reports on Obama’s opening remarks on arrival in Israel, and how he called Palestine the historic homeland of the Jews but neglected to mention the Palestinians. Non-Jewish Palestinians have lived in geographical Palestine for nearly 2000 years, first as Christians and after the Muslim conquest gradually becoming majority Muslim (and they been the vast majority of inhabitants for much of that time). Since Judaism probably did not emerge from the Canaanite people/religion until the 1000s BC or later, and since by 1000 AD most Jews in Palestine had converted to other religions and the Jewish presence there was thereafter slight until the late 19th century, the non-Jewish presence in that land has arguably been as or more significant than the Jewish-majority period.

Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan very nearly equal the number of Jews in Israel and the West Bank, and the two populations will likely be equal by 2020. The difference is that the Jews and the Palestinian-Israelis are citizens in a state and have the civil rights that come with citizenship. The 4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are stateless, and have no firm rights against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment (including of their children), against restrictions on the rights of assembly and speech, or against being abruptly deprived of their property and water rights by the Occupying population. Human rights violations against the Palestinians are documented by B’tselem.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu did mention the Palestinians and said he wanted peace with these neighbors, which manifestly is a lie, since he is daily stealing more of their land and oppressing them. He wants peace with them the way the white southerners in the US wanted peace with African-Americans during Jim Crow.

The USG Open Source Center translates an item from the Ma’an News Agency in Arabic on the tent protest and its suppression by Israeli forces:

IDF Raids Encampment Set Up By Palestinian Activists, Demands To Remove Tents
Ma’an News Agency
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 …
Document Type: OSC Summary …

A report posted at 1446 GMT cites Jawad Siyam, head of the Wadi Hulwah Information Center, saying that on 20 March, IDF forces raided the Ahfad Yunus neighborhood and “handed activists orders to remove their tents and leave the area, under the pretext that it is closed military zone.” The report notes that “dozens of Palestinian and foreign activists” set up tents on land of the Al-Ayzariyah village which are in danger of confiscation for the Israeli E1 project.

And here is raw video of a Palestinian tent protest:

46 Responses

  1. Given that Islam is not even 2,000 years old, I highly doubt there were Muslims in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The ancient people of this land were Jews and that’s a historical fact. Don’t fudge it. The status of Palestinians today needs to be addressed, stop writing made up historical events. THAT does nobody any favors.

    • The area has a very complex history as this video illustrates. Jews were not the first inhabitants of the region.

      link to blog.ninapaley.com

      The difficulty is that at present Israel’s only argument seems to be that possession is 9/10′s of the law. With that as the starting point, it is difficult to reach a sensible compromise. Israel is annexing the land that by UN resolution belongs to the Palestinians. That is wrong in itself but whats worse is that Palestinians living there are not given Israeli citizenship as that would dilute the idea of a Jewish state. So where are the Palestinians supposed to go?

      It will not end well for anyone especially after the US interest in the region wanes.

      Tibet got crushed after the US decided it was better to improve relations with China rather than help the Tibetans.

      Unless things change quickly the Palestinians can expect the same to happen to them. The critical differences are that Muslims don’t value peace in the same way that Buddhists do, Israel is much smaller than China and is surrounded by a lot of Islamic countries. Recipe for disaster in the making.

      • Tibet is not a good analogy, since the Chinese gave them citizenship (whether they want it or not). Israel is keeping the Palestinians in a far worse condition.

        • You are right Juan.

          I was using the example in the sense that a small party has little leverage among big parties.

          Right now Palestine has little leverage, politically or in the mainstream media and with US support Israel feels free to act with little consideration for the response of the international community.

          But once the US has oil/energy security its likely that they will not support Israel in the same way as the do now. By not earning goodwill with its neighbors today, Israel is undermining its future.

        • I read this blog every day and rarely disagree with Prof. Cole, but on the situation in Tibet I disagree with his statement that the Palestinians are in a far worse condition than Tibetans. Tibetans are not sacrificing their lives in self-immolations because having Chinese citizenship is a great blessing. Citizenship for Tibetans does not mean that they have self-determination or the right to practice religion as they choose, or the right to sustain their culture, or even learn their own language in school.
          I think having Chinese citizenship is meaningless for Tibetans, and their situation is quite similar to the Palestinians. Both peoples deserve their own nations.

      • Tibet has for centuries, to a greater or lesser degree, been under China’s suzerainty. Contrary to popular opinion among the “Free Tibet” crowd, Tibet has never been recognized as an independent country. That does not excuse Chinese attempts to forcefully impose Han culture on Tibet. But it is simply wrong to suggest that in 1950 China invaded an independent country.

        • I thought that Tibet became independent sometime before WW1 and then was invaded by China post WW2 ?

        • I came upon a map of south Asia at the beginning of the 11th century recently in which the borders of Tibet were shown enclosing an area significantly larger than China, which was an oddly-shaped region to the East. The borders of Mongolia, to the north, were nearly as extensive as Tibet’s, in this rendering. The annotation indicated that of the three, only China was sufficiently militarized to protect its borders.

    • It is entirely accurate to note that most Jews converted to Christianity and then some again to Islam. The ancient people of this land are still there. Just because they are no longer Jewish does not elevate the claim of European Jews to this land above theirs.

      In fact, it is your fudging of facts and attempts to revise history that are unhelpful.

    • Shane, if the Jews lived in Palestine in ancient times, the only evidence for that is the Old Testament; secular Jewish scholars predominately now claim most of the Old Testament history is a myth. Which if read in an common sense and unbiased manner, explicitly states the Israelites were set up as a people to live in accordance with God’s will. So the idea that they are a secular ethnicity is bunk. God was not creating a separate people so there could be “secular” Jews.

      Moses lived around 1300 years ago, King Solomon lived a little less than 1,000 years ago. So for three centuries Jews worshipped God, and did all the sacrifice thing, for about 300 years, in a variety of places, with no temple. So if people want to live in accord with the specific instruction of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, they have my vote for considering Israel as their homeland. But if they want to be religious Jews, who live with the rabbinical interpretations (where the Oral Law — which many Jews admit was culturally invented, and not at all issued by God at Mt. Sinai— is followed far more religiously then any of the statements in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), or claim the delusion secular Jew exists, they have not a smidgen of right to claim Palestine is their homeland.

      And that false view is the basic foundation from which Jews live in the delusion you can have a Jewish state and be democratic. The only way any people can have a religious state, is to be on a path that inevitably leads to stone cold fascism, which Israel in the past decades has demonstrated in spades.

    • Shane, it doesn’t say that there were Muslins in Palestine 2000 years ago, just non-Jewish Palestinians.

  2. the argument “… the non-Jewish presence in that land has arguably been as or more significant than the Jewish-majority period.” is misleading, since you can re-write it more accurately, for example by saying that in the last 3000 years Jews as a nation hold the land longer than any other nation.
    More over you can always reverse this argument on other countries, such N. Or S. America. You can state the Indian of the Sioux held Dakota more years than the white people.

    • Alon……its clear that in the prior 2000yrs Jews have been a microscopic entity in the region.

      Personally, i can’t even listen to Obama anymore —– just months ago he went in front of the UN and said that Palestininans DESERVE a state of their own and then advocated, personally, that he would not support a UN mandate to that effect.

      Then, months ago, he voted AGAINST even observer status. Lets face it….the guy is a politician. He even had the temerity to blame the Israeli children for the belligerant behavior of the country.

      In clear view, our president has SUPPORTED the long standing policy of —- is there any other way of saying it? —– ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian mandate by the Israelis – just as our other presidents have ……

      • Bernard…I can assure you that I am supporting the two state solution as well, even though the border will cross the fields 5 miles from my home. So does agree more than 50% of Israelis.
        The only problem is what will happen if the next day the Palestine PLO leadership will be over-thrown and an El-Qaeda or Hizaballa or Hamas government will take control.

        The risks I am going to take are so huge, I must have good guaranties for that not to happen.

        • Alon, … i can appreciate your risks. However, i think they were packed into the pie many years ago by Israeli politicians (like Shimon Peres) that decided to opt for annexation rather then a 2 state solution.

          Here, in America, Jews like me, watch in horror and amazement at the behavior of Israeli officials. For years, they have been using the pretense of defending the country to launch invasions in Lebanon, annexing W. Bank and Gazan land and incredibly oppressing the Palestinian people in plain daylight. I think the country may not only be rogue but perhaps the most despised country in the world. And its only ability to function in this lawless manner is its ability, as a sphere of USA influence, these many years.

          For us in the USA Alon, it should be understood, that we have SO LITTLE CONNECTION to the country. It has alienated us. There is no tie. All that is left is the commercial/political AIPAC group. I would guess that by the next generation — most American Jewry will have little understanding/connection WHATSOVER to Israel.

          The only way for the Israelis, now, or in the past, to have ensured their safety was to become ONE member of the COMMUNITY of mideast countries. And one doesn’t do that by oppression and occupation. Instead of building walls – and sending troops —— they should have pulled down the walls and sent plumbers and electricians to the occupied territories. Good luck Alon….

  3. From the context, Juan probably meant that Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (not Jordan) roughly equal the number of Jews in Israel and the occupied territories. But the Jordan reference reminds us that Palestinians live in large numbers in neighboring countries, too. It’s hard to imagine how the present status quo can be maintained over the medium term without increasing use of force and repression.

  4. I personally support a one state solution for Palestine. If the people of the region can not live together the two state solution should be based on the 1947 UN Plan. That would mean a lot of settlers would have to go somewhere else. They should have thought about that earlier.

  5. “Given that Islam is not even 2,000 years old, I highly doubt there were Muslims in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The ancient people of this land were Jews and that’s a historical fact.”

    The Bible is not a history book…
    Modern Archaeology proves that monotheistic Judaism is also less that 2000 years old:

    link to naderlibrary.com

    “The Davidic Empire, which archaeologists once thought as incontrovertible as the Roman, is now seen as an invention of Jerusalem-based priests in the seventh and eighth centuries B.C. who were eager to burnish their national history. The religion we call Judaism does not reach well back into the second millennium B.C. but appears to be, at most, a product of the mid-first.

    This is not to say that individual elements of the story are not older. But Jewish monotheism, the sole and exclusive worship of an ancient Semitic god known as Yahweh, did not fully coalesce until the period between the Assyrian conquest of the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586. ”

    “Whereas previously archaeologists had concentrated on the lowland cities where the great battles mentioned in the Bible were said to have taken place, they now shifted their attention to the highlands located in the present West Bank. The results were little short of revolutionary. Rather than revealing that Canaan was entered from the outside, analysis of ancient settlement patterns indicated that a distinctive Israelite culture arose locally around 1200 B.C. as nomadic shepherds and goatherds ceased their wanderings and began settling down in the nearby uplands. Instead of an alien culture, the Israelites were indigenous. Indeed, they were highly similar to other cultures that were emerging in the region around the same time–except for one thing: whereas archaeologists found pig bones in other sites, they found none among the Israelites. A prohibition on eating pork may have been one of the earliest ways in which the Israelites distinguished themselves from their neighbors.

    Thus there was no migration from Mesopotamia, no sojourn in Egypt, and no exodus. There was no conquest upon the Israelites’ return and, for that matter, no peaceful infiltration such as the one advanced by Yohanan Aharoni. Rather than conquerors, the Hebrews were a native people who had never left in the first place. So why invent for themselves an identity as exiles and invaders? One reason may have been that people in the ancient world did not establish rights to a particular piece of territory by farming or by raising families on it but by seizing it through force of arms. Indigenous rights are an ideological invention of the twentieth century A.D. and are still not fully established in the twenty-first, as the plight of today’s Palestinians would indicate. The only way that the Israelites could establish a moral right to the land they inhabited was by claiming to have conquered it sometime in the distant past. Given the brutal power politics of the day, a nation either enslaved others or was enslaved itself, and the Israelites were determined not to fall into the latter category.”

    link to individual.utoronto.ca

    “Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and doesn’t want to hear about it

    This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.

    Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people—and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story—now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells. ”

    Why otherwise intelligent and educated Jewish people feign ignorance of the historical inaccuracy of the Bible, while simultaneously ridiculing Fundamentalist Christians who deny evolution or claim that the earth is 6000 years old is beyond me…

    • Michael, if you believe that archeology is more scientifically reliable than scripture, I suggest to you that you have swallowed a major whopper. I do not propose that archeology can be disproven to be factual. But to claim it has a monopoly on the truth is to be deliberately avoiding the truth as to how almost all science is done in Western civilization in the past 400 years.

      • “Michael, if you believe that archeology is more scientifically reliable than scripture”

        Ok, your argument is: scripture is as historically reliable as modern archaeological findings based on physical evidence and the current archaeological concensus based on peer-reviewed academic literature – and I’m the one who has “swallowed a whopper”.

        I’m not claiming archeology has a monopoly on the truth in anything, of course archaeological theories change over time. But on this particular topic and on the basis of the evidence available you haven’t picked a particularly promising horse to back…

  6. Obama said today that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state. With more than 30% of Israel’s citizens including all the Soviet Union’s non-Jewish migrants being not Jewish, how such logic is to be reconciled and how does this logic differs from calling for the US to be a Christian or a white state?

  7. A ginned-up nontroversy. From Obama’s speech:

    Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

    Did you read the remarks before you wrote this?

    • hi, Joe. The posting was about his remarks on the first day, and obviously was written that day. It is not useful for Obama to say this to the Palestinians, who know it. What would have been remarkable is if he had said it in Jerusalem. After all, Bibi grandstanded at the White House, so it would have been fair play.

      • What would have been remarkable is if he had said it in Jerusalem

        The quote is from a speech he gave at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

        Since this is “remarkable,” will you be writing a post about Obama’s remarkable statement to the Israelis about the Palestinians’ right to a homeland?

      • Absolutely on the mark, Professor Cole. Had President Obama made it clear in Jerusalem that the Palestinians had a right to freedom in a state of their own, he would have accomplished something. He should have also made it crystal clear that the building of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is directly contrary to the long-stated US position and hinders any peace process.

        • Had President Obama made it clear in Jerusalem that the Palestinians had a right to freedom in a state of their own, he would have accomplished something.

          From Obama’s speech in the Jerusalem Convention Center:

          But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

          It’s always good when a President accomplishes something.

        • What is this, Calvinball?

          I managed to find the text of Obama’s well-attended, published speech in Jerusalem, to an Israeli audience. You don’t think the Prime Minister of Israel could?

        • If Obama had any “cojones” he would have made the statement about Palestinian rights to freedom and a state AND the illegality of settlements on the West Bank as he stood side-by-side with Netanyahu. It would have been no more a breach of protocol than Netanyahu showed Obama during their joint press conference in Washington.

  8. Obama on a Palestinian state:

    link to boomantribune.com

    But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

  9. Obama, in his remarks with Abbas:

    We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people

    It doesn’t appear that he used the word “homeland” to describe Israel in that particular speech.

    I don’t find this to be noteworthy at all, but it appears that there are some who do, so I thought I’d pass it on.

  10. All this parsing of words means nothing. At the end of the day you are only as good as your actions in these affaris, and the only important message Obama is sending is that he intends to spend exactly zero effort or political capital in furthering any sort of resolution to this issue. Everything else, quite frankly, just doesn’t matter.

    • Yes. Presidents have been saying things that sound good to Palestinians since Carter. But what they do is to send money that is used to occupy Palestinian land. And they enable colonization by doing nothing to stop it. And the pro-Israel stuff in their speeches is always more voluminous than anything said on behalf of Palestinians. Only a fool would be impressed by a few lines in a speech.

      • Predictably, Obama’s words in Israel were an important subject, sufficient to condemn him, right up until you saw him saying good things, at which point they immediately became insignificant, and only a fool would find them meaningful.

        This isn’t too transparent or anything.

  11. The history of the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem gets very little coverage in the American educational system. Some fascinating historical facts:
    1. The 2nd Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem in 638 C.E. and preserved the Christian heritage of the city. He was horrified to see the Temple Mount used as a landfill and had the site restored.
    2. The Byzantine Christians had outlawed Judaism prevented Jews from visiting the city. Umar allowed the Jews to return.
    link to gojerusalem.com
    link to gojerusalem.com

  12. All this is background noise. Yes, I felt like any minute Obama would declare “I am an Israeli” a la Kennedy in Berlin. Of more concern was a softer line on settlements and an implication of calling for a re-start of negotiations ‘without conditions’ which plays into Netanyahu’s hands.

    Obama had no intention of being equal=equal in his speech in Jerusalem. His motive was to reassure the Israeli people he is their friend and protector. It seems absurd that he’s trying to recoup the role of ‘honest broker’ the Clinton team relinquished before the ink dried on the Oslo treaty. But symbolism is important here.

    Netanyahu is weakened in the elections. His coalition is built on fault lines. Lapid has already announced he will be the next PM within 18 months. Israel is increasingly isolated internationally. Lapid may not be a gun-ho peace guy but he represents a constituency that is unhappy with money wasted on settlers.

    It is into this mess that Obama waded as the adult in the room. He made sure he spoke before a friendly crowd, young Israelis who cheered when he talked about Palestinians deserving a state.

    If you didn’t think Obama was going to cater to the Israeli crowd, you haven’t been keeping up. Complain if the speech is not a tactic in a larger peace strategy that Obama wants to follow in his second term. If Obama can help forge a peace treaty, any slights to the Palestinians will not be remembered.

    These people are tough. Whatever threats, incentives and deal-making to restart the peace talks are going on behind the scenes. Obama could just walk away from the whole thing but I think he realizes his efforts will be the last if they fail.

  13. ” It no longer matters who started it… it only matters who suffers. ”
    – J. Michael Straczynski in “Babylon 5: Dust to Dust” (1996)

  14. Important thing to note about Israel’s ongoing occupation – it is and has been very expensive.

    The Second Lebanon War and the Operation Cast Lead incursion cost Israel billions of dollars. The Israeli government has had to scavenge from social programs in order to pay for defense costs associated with occupation as well as administering areas of the West Bank. This does not include property damage and lost productivity from opposing forces rockets and other war materiel.

    Noteworthy is the social protests in Israel led by Daphni Leef, who signed a pledge not to serve in the Israeli military and has not served. Hundreds of thousands have appeared at her demonstrations where she has denounced the victimization of the Israeli government of various strata of Israeli society – specifically citing Bedouin Arabs and others. The leftist Hadash and Meretz parties have endorsed her movement. Leef’s movement got started over the housing crisis when she pitched a tent across the street from the Prime Minister’s office in protest.

    The miltary adventurism of Israel has been expensive and has undercut the standard of living for the average Israeli.

  15. Settlements are not necessarily an obstacle to peace in the long term. When Israel has annexed all the best parts of the West Bank and left the rest to the Palestinians, there will be no demographic problem and the Palestinians will be left to rot.
    The fact that the US is not fighting Native Americans is not because of negotiations.

  16. If Judaism is only 2,000 years old as you claim, it still trumps Islam in terms of invention. The point is, inventing history and pretending that Arabs from the Arabian peninsula were around during the time of Jesus, if he existed too, is risible. There are Palestinians and Israelis who have banded together and created global groups for peace – they are in the thousands – it is THESE people who deserve the credit, and who deserve media attention, not the keyboard colonels who sit around arguing like children over who owns what and who got there first. The Israelis need to give the Palestinian people a reason to turn away from Jihadist violence and the Palestinians need to throw off the shackles of Hamas oppression and choose their own self determination.

  17. I really appreciate Juan’s willingness to explicitly state Netanyahu was lying when he said he wanted peace and an Palestinian state. I believe that is the first time I have observed that explicit statement about any Israeli government official in a widely read blog. Maybe we are changing to a time where people will realize that democratic and religious state (Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Christian, etc.) is an oxymoron.

  18. Obama on this trip for the first time attached US approval or acquiescence to the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, which to my way of thinking is an incredibly irresponsible, wrong-headed thing for him to have done.
    Now, the official policy of his administration and presumably that of future US governments is that Israel’s right to exist as an Ethnocracy trumps any and all other considerations. So, if you had a situation down the road where an Israeli government cited a ‘demographic threat’ and began to round up and/or deport Palestinians, Eritreans, or anyone else the State deems as ‘un-persons’, then technically there would be little reason for the US to raise a stink about it because it has already given it’s official stamp of approval for Israel to do so.
    So, for this president to tell people in the region to their face that he supports equal rights for all, when he’s actively colluding with the same government that is trampling those rights, and their dignity, under a hobnailed boot is so off the scale in terms of hypocrisy and contempt for the sensitivities of others that I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
    I knew this was more or less how Obama’s trip was going to go, but after the past three days I’m still mystified at how anyone could say such outrageous stuff and then beam that charismatic smile.
    Nobody can do the things Barack Obama has done this week and not have it come back to bite him at some point. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next four years but I have not only lost respect for this president and his endless self-serving prevarications I also have little confidence in his ability to make the right decisions in the event of a crisis in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    He has been an unending disappointment, in many ways his policies have been much damaging than others who came before him.

  19. “Obama on this trip for the first time attached US approval or acquiescence to the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, which to my way of thinking is an incredibly irresponsible, wrong-headed thing for him to have done.”

    Where have you been, Susan? The United States recognized Israel as a “Jewish state” from the beginning. Obama’s statement was nothing new.

    On May 14, 1948, eleven minutes after Israel proclaimed its independence, President Truman signed an executive order granting de-facto recognition to Israel as a “Jewish state.” I have quoted the executive order in full below.

    “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de-facto government of the new state of Israel.”

    Signed: Harry S. Truman
    Approved: May 14, 1948

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