Dozens of Palestinians protest on June 15 in Al-Manara Square, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, against the upcoming Bahrain conference. (Noor Khatib)

Palestinians Protest Against Bahrain ‘Workshop’

‘We call on Jordan, Egypt and other countries not to participate in the Manama conference’

Dozens of Palestinians carrying flags marched in the center of Ramallah on Saturday, holding signs with one message: “We are united in rejecting the ‘Deal of the Century’ and dropping the Bahrain conference. We are committed to the rights of our people.”

The West Bank city, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, has been gearing up for street protests ever since the White House announced the date of the economic workshop set for Manama, Bahrain. It is meant to be part of the so-called “Deal of the Century,” the proposal for Israel-Palestinian peace being developed by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior Middle East adviser.

The PA has said it will neither attend nor support the conference. And to express their disapproval, Palestinian leaders called for mass protests in the days leading up to June 25, the first day of the workshop, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and wherever Palestinians lived.

Munir Aljaghoub, a spokesman for Fatah, the ruling party in the PA, told The Media Line the US position was unacceptable and that the Trump Administration had demonstrated it aimed to “eliminate” the Palestinian cause.

“Israel and America are imposing a political, economic and financial siege on our people, both in Gaza and in the occupied West Bank,” Aljaghoub said.

The Palestinians said the proposed economic solutions would come at the expense of their political rights.

“The Palestinian cause is a political issue and not an economic one. We don’t need money; what we want is an end to the occupation, the removal of all settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital [and] based on the June 4, 1967, borders,” Aljaghoub stated.

The US has cut off financial aid to the Palestinians and the PA is facing a crippling financial crisis. Arab and European states have been reluctant to increase their own contributions, while Israel has since February deducted millions of dollars from the tax money it collects on behalf of the PA, saying the PA pays attackers and slain attackers’ families salaries that encourage more attacks against Israelis.

“How can those who impose a siege on our people and those who refuse to help it claim that the aim behind the Manama workshop is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people?” Aljaghoub asked.

The PA is determined to demonstrate that the Palestinians are united behind its decision to boycott the conference. Palestine Liberation Organization factions, among them PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, will participate in the anti-conference protests from now leading up to the conference.

Salaah Khawajah, a Palestinian activist, told The Media Line that there was massive popular support behind the movement aiming to defeat the “Deal of the Century” and the Bahrain conference.

“Trump’s policy violates the rights of the Palestinian people and supports the occupation. It changes the American role from being a backer of Israeli policies to an implementer of them,” he asserted.

The summit is intended to kick-off the first phase of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan through economic incentives to the Palestinians and regional countries. But activist Wael Faqih told The Media Line that the Bahrain conference merely aimed to end the Palestinian cause with the approval the Arab states.

“We are witnessing the implementation of normalization of relations between Israel and Arab regimes,” said Faqih, who insisted that this approach would eventually destroy Arab support for the Palestinian people.

Despite intensive efforts by the U.S. to rally support for the conference, it has received a lukewarm reception in Arab capitals. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the workshop, while only last week, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco informed the Trump Administration that they would attend.

Israel is expected to send a high-level delegation.

Arab participation infuriates Palestinians. Many say their Arab brethren have put their own interests and those of the U.S. ahead of those of the Palestinians.

Faqih said that protest activities were going to take place every day and that he wanted to tell Arab governments that a final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had to be reached before they spoke directly to the Israelis.

“The danger this time is that the Arab regimes are showing a willingness to normalize relations with Israel before a final resolution is reached to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which goes against the Arab League initiative of 2002,” Faqih said.

Khawajah was even more blunt, saying the U.S. administration was using the wealthy Gulf states.

“We need an honorable Arab position that supports the just Palestinian cause and its people, but participation in the conference is collusion with Trump and confirms that the Gulf states are starting to become a bridge to pass the project of liquidation of the Palestinian cause,” he said.

The Palestinians have boycotted American officials since late 2017, following U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying Washington was no longer acceptable as a mediator between them and Israel.

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