News / Middle East

President Obama Faces Palestinian Frustrations

Palestinians protest March 19, in Ramallah against the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
Palestinians protest March 19, in Ramallah against the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
Rebecca Collard
President Barack Obama faced some long-simmering frustrations among Palestinians when he visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Thursday.

 

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war and moving toward half a century later the Palestinians who live there are waiting for the independent nation they've been promised for decades. Many blame the United States over its long-standing support for Israel and others believe Washington has not done enough to help them even though it has mediated successive rounds of peace talks.

 

That's why about 150 Palestinian activists marched through the streets of Ramallah this week to protest the Obama visit. Some carried placards with and pictures of Obama in an Israeli military uniform under the words “No Hope.”

Watch related report by Jeff Custer:

Obama Calls for Talks on Core Israeli-Palestinian Issuesi
X
March 21, 2013 4:54 PM
On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tours of the area. Obama took the opportunity to call on Israelis and Palestinians to begin peace talks on core issues of their conflict. Jeff Custer reports.

Meetings with Palestinian Authority

The president visited Ramallah for talks with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body that administers the West Bank and its more than two million Palestinian residents. Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials are expected to once again press their case for statehood and express their unhappiness over Washington's moves to block their full recognition by the United Nations.

 

“We’d like to see President Obama say is that in time to end the [Israeli] occupation,” says Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Abbas. “We are watching the continuation of Israeli settlement and the evaporation of the Palestinian geography.

 

“If we are talking about democracy and freedom, why do they [the United States] support the Tunisia, for example, but this doesn’t apply to Palestinians?” Saidam asked.


Saidam says these issues would be on Palestinian agenda this week and that Washington should now support Palestinians in their pursuit of full membership in the United Nations as a sovereign, independent nation.


Oslo Accords of 1993

The United States has played a key role in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians over the years, and in helping to bank-roll both Israel and the Palestinian Authority—the governing body that grew out of the 1993 Oslo peace Accords.


The Hamas organization that governs the Gaza Strip and its 1.8 million Palestinian residents has been left out of the visit. It is considered a terrorist movement by the United States.

 

A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. CollardA Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
x
A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard

This week's protest in Ramallah was organized by Palestinians for Dignity, a coalition of a half-dozen local activist groups that has become key in organizing demonstrations against Israel, the Palestinian Authority and now the U.S. As well.


“Why are we protesting Obama’s visit?” says one member who asked not to use his name fearing arrest by Palestinian security forces. “The answer is two-fold. Both what he represents and what he’s here to do.”

 

He says Palestinians for Dignity are protesting the American government’s unconditional support of Israel, but also U.S. Support for the Palestinian Authority, an institution that he says lacks legitimacy in the eyes of many Palestinians.


Frustrations spill over

The Palestinian leadership has postponed elections and the 2013 Human Rights Watch report cites dozens of complaints of arbitrary detention and torture by Palestinian Authority security forces.

 

It is because of this, says Palestinians for Dignity, it has given-up on preaching their cause to foreign powers and instead are looking inward to Palestinian society.


“We don’t have a lot of belief that the U.S. could positively contribute here,” says the activist. “Maybe Obama is here to restart the negotiations. That might seem like a rosy objective but Palestinians have seen what that has brought us.”


Even those here who know the United States well say Washington has an image problem with Palestinians when it comes to possibly restarting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


“'Process' has become a four letter word in the Palestinian lexicon,” says Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American. He moved to the West Bank from Ohio, where he was born just after the signing of 1993 Oslo Accords.

 

“After 20 years of Oslo and negotiations, Palestinians are convinced the U.S. cannot play a neutral role,” says Bahour. “They support Israel, politically, financially and militarily. Palestinians have almost zero hope. Every time a dignitary, American or not, visits, they raise expectations but will not hold Israel accountable.”


Many Palestinians were hopeful when Obama took office, but the U.S. opposition to their bid for full membership in the United Nations last year was a serious blow to their belief in America’s interest in achieving a Palestinian state.


On the main road that runs from Jerusalem to Ramallah, large posters bearing President Obama’s picture line the street, but the posters aren’t there to welcome the U.S. president to the Palestinian Territories, but rather, to chide him:


“President Obama, Don’t bring your Smart Phone to Ramallah. You Won’t Have Mobile Access to Internet. We have no 3G in Palestine!”

 

A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.CollardA Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard
x
A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard
A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard

The signs are designed to focus attention on a small but indicative fact of life in the West Bank. Israel restricts access to the frequencies Palestinian mobile carriers need to offer fast 3G service to customers.

 

As Palestinians try to build the state promised by the Oslo Accords, they face the continued challenges of occupation—no control over their borders and trade, continued Israeli settlement activity and even an inability to offer the kind of mobile communications needed for business. Some feel the U.S. should use the clout of its $3 billion in yearly aid to Israel to push for changes.


“America does nothing to help us,” says 35-year-old Bilal, wheeling his taxi through the streets of Ramallah, a city where many are dependent on Palestinian Authority salaries. “When Israel doesn’t transfer us our money, Obama should do something.”


When the Palestinian leadership asked for membership in the United Nations, Israel withheld tax money and U.S. Congress also delayed aid bound for the government in Ramallah. The Authority couldn’t pay full salaries and the effect was felt across the territories.


Even so, not all Palestinians have given up. In his clothing store across from one of the massive posters warning Obama about his smart phone, Nasser Shatawi is hopeful.

 

“Obama is better than President Bush. He wants to make peace,” says Shatawi. “I ask Obama, help Palestinians, help us make peace and have security. But I wonder if he knows how.”

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Roger1942 from: Dc
March 20, 2013 10:57 PM
It's a shame what the Israel are doing to do Palestinians people. Why is Israel controlling most everything in Palestinians territories? Is Israel becoming a communist party? I thought we would learn from the past history. Why are we (US) send 10 billion dollars Americans hard earn money to Israel each year?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More