Dr. Mustafa Barghouti talking at the press conference. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
At a press conference held today at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Al-Bireh, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative Dr Mustafa Barghouti stated two factors about why the Palestinian people are disappointed and unenthusiastic with US President Barack Obama’s visit to the occupied territories.
“The main goal of Obama’s visit is, as stated by his office, is to listen,” Dr Barghouti said. “We Palestinians have been listening for too long. This passivity on Obama’s part is unacceptable and dangerous at a time when the two state solution is under risk.”
This will mark the first time Obama will make an official visit to the Palestinian territories, where he is expected to meet with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the PA compound of al-Muqata’a in Ramallah on Thursday. After a press conference and working lunch, Obama will then join Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the al-Bireh Youth Center.
The US President’s convoy will arrive at the Lydd airport on Wednesday, where Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet him with an arrival ceremony before taking him to view the Iron Dome.
Dr Barghouti declared that the second discouraging factor of Obama’s 3 day visit to the region is that the president will not see with his own eyes the segregation system that he US civil rights movement worked so hard against.
The least expectation I had hoped from Obama was for him to issue severe condemnations against Israeli violence against Palestinians in nonviolent resistance protests
“I was hoping Obama would go to Hebron, where the geographical segregation system [imposed by the Israeli occupation] is very clear,” he said. “He should be most sensitive to issues of racial discrimination and segregation.”
Dr Barghouti referenced Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo in his first visit to the Middle East after he was elected president, where he called for an end to settlement construction and for Palestinians to stick to acts of nonviolence.
“The least expectation I had hoped from Obama was for him to issue severe condemnations against Israeli violence against Palestinians in nonviolent resistance protests,” Dr Barghouti said, “and to praise Palestinian nonviolence as we have stuck with that end.”
The US diplomacy efforts suffer from a number of what Dr Barghouti called “negative gestures,” which he elaborated on.
“The US get cold feet when it comes to meeting with Palestinians, such as Obama’s refusal to accept a letter from and meet a daughter of a prisoner…in the case of the prisoners and hunger strikers, there should be more sympathy from the US,” he added.
“The second negative gesture is Obama’s refusal to visit the grave of [the late Palestinian president] Yasser Arafat’s grave even though he will visit Yitzhak Rabin and Theodore Herzl’s graves,” Dr Barghouti continued. “Arafat is a symbol of the Palestinian people. The third is Obama’s visit to the Israeli museum in Tel Aviv on Friday…his legal advisors should have warned him that the museum contains stolen Palestinian artifacts.”
Dr Barghouti denounced the US’ repetitive calls for the Palestinian leadership to return to negotiations without any effort from the Israeli side at stopping their occupation policies, mainly their settlement construction.
“The newly formed Israeli government contains the biggest number of settlers in its cabinet, whose main goal is to increase Jewish settlers to one million in the West Bank,” he said. “This Israeli government will convince Palestinians to become governors of their own bantustans, instead of a Palestinian state.”
Dr Barghouti believes that the Palestinians are at a historical junction after they proved that they want a state based on the 1967 borders, and that Israel is killing this option with the US simply passively watching.
“We hope a miracle will happen and that Obama will condemn apartheid,” Dr Barghouti ended.
Amended on March 20, after changing Vad Vashem museum to the Israeli museum