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Op-Ed

Palestinians: Americans Now Legitimate Targets

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There is a new development in Palestinian hatred of the Trump administration: the Palestinian leaders’ verbal attacks on the US are now being translated into acts of violence against US delegations visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

The Palestinian campaign against the US began in December 2017, when President Donald Trump made his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and escalated after he announced that the US embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem.

The anti-US rhetoric has come from Palestinians representing all walks of life — from the most senior, including President Mahmoud Abbas, to ordinary citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and from secular groups such as the ruling Fatah faction to extremist Islamist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

If there is anything that unites the vast majority of Palestinians, it is their hatred of the Trump administration’s representatives and policies.

It is hard to find even one Palestinian who is prepared to say a good word about the US administration or its policies, especially with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Now, however, it is official: Palestinians view the US as an enemy. Even more worrying, some Palestinians even see US citizens and officials as “legitimate targets” for violent assaults. It does not seem to matter to these Palestinians whether the Americans they are targeting have come to help them or express sympathy with their cause.

Attacks on Americans visiting Palestinian cities in the West Bank are no longer uncommon. It is only by luck that no US citizen has thus far been hurt as a result of these assaults, which are being carried out by Palestinian activists who have been told by their leaders that the US is an enemy of the Palestinians.

The latest incident took place on May 21 in the town of Bet Jala, near Bethlehem. Activists belonging to the Palestinian Popular Resistance group attacked a US consular vehicle with eggs and shoes, forcing it to flee the town. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the US as the “head of the snake” and carried banners which said, “US Government, You Are Not Welcome in Palestine” and “America is a State of Terror.”

A video posted on social media showed the protesters surrounding and kicking the US vehicle as it sped away. This was a rather humiliating scene for the Americans who came to Bet Jala to attend a graduation ceremony for Palestinian students who participated in a US-sponsored educational program.

“Our message to the Americans today is that there is no room for the US Government in Palestine because this Government is in collusion with Israel,” explained Mazen Al-Ezah, one of the leaders of the anti-US protest. “We love the American people, but their Government is part of the Israeli occupation of our land and people.”

Another protester, Mahmoud Brejiyeh, said that the goal of the protest was to convey to the Americans that they are “not welcome in Palestine. We are here to tell the Americans that the Palestinians no longer trust them and they can no longer play any role in the peace process [with Israel].”

This was the second incident of its kind in the Bethlehem area since the beginning of this year. In January, a group of Palestinian activists expelled an American delegation that was visiting the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry as part of a cooperative effort between Palestinian businessmen and the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

In February, Palestinian Authority (PA) policemen had to rescue an American delegation that was visiting a research center in Ramallah. The delegation, which included New York legislators and civil society groups, was pelted with eggs as Palestinians chanted, “America is the head of the snake.” Again, no one was hurt.

In addition to the violent attacks directed against Americans in the West Bank, Palestinians have also been burning effigies and photos of Trump, as well as US flags. During one protest in the Al-Aydah refugee camp near Bethlehem, Palestinian protesters staged a mock trial for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The verdict: a death sentence. The Palestinians then carried out the “death sentence” by hanging effigies of Trump and Pence in a public square in the camp.

All these anti-US protests have a common feature: the Palestinian activists always coordinated their moves in advance with the local media. Palestinian journalists and photographers were invited to cover the protests to make sure that their message reaches the White House and the rest of the world.

It is also worth noting that the Palestinian Authority security forces, which are partially funded and trained by Americans, did not take pre-emptive measures to stop the anti-US protests. It is hard to imagine that these security forces, which enjoy excellent intelligence information, did not know what several Palestinian journalists and photographers knew in advance about the planned protests. In fact, some Palestinians say that the anti-US protests could not have taken place without the prior approval of the Palestinian security forces.

Why should the Palestinian security forces prevent such protests when President Mahmoud Abbas and many other Palestinian officials are engaged in almost daily rhetorical attacks against the US administration and its representatives? Why should these security forces prevent such protests when the Palestinian Authority itself has been boycotting the US administration and launching scathing attacks on Trump’s “Jewish advisors” — David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner?

Hardly a day passes without the Palestinians gushing forth venom concerning the US administration. And as time goes on, the Palestinian tone gets more and more vicious. Trump and his advisors are being denounced as Zionists and settlers and accomplices in Israeli “war crimes.”

In addition, the Palestinians continue to accuse the Trump administration of “conspiring to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights” through the yet-to-be-announced US plan for peace in the Middle East. Under the current circumstances, it is hard to see how any representative of the Trump administration would ever be able to set foot in Ramallah or Bethlehem.

The Palestinian Authority has whipped up anti-US sentiments to a point where no American can feel safe visiting any Palestinian city. Not even an American who comes to offer help in the business or educational fields. The Palestinian Authority leadership has made it clear to Palestinians that the Americans are now the enemy, and this puts the lives of US citizens and diplomats at risk. US diplomats and officials who continue to visit Ramallah and Bethlehem with good intentions to help the Palestinians are jeopardizing their lives in order to help those who are spitting into the cup they are drinking from.

          By: Bassam Tawil
(Gatestone Institute)

Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.

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