The Bethlehem Municipality has removed a stone monument of historic Palestine
out of concern that US President Barack Obama would see it during his visit to
the city later this week.
Palestinian activists expressed outrage over
the removal of the monument, which ignores the existence of Israel, and called
on the municipality to restore it immediately.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
But rather than wait for
the municipality, the activists, together with some municipal council members,
put the monument back in place.
Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun denied
Tuesday that the monument, along with an olive tree, had been removed because of
Obama’s visit. She said the original plan was to replace only the olive tree
with a statue of a white dove – the work of a local artist.
that the decision to remove the monument, which depicts a map of historic
Palestine without Israel, had been taken unanimously by the Bethlehem municipal
The monument will be replaced with a statue of a white dove
symbolizing peace, she said.
However, members of the Bethlehem municipal
council denied that they had voted in favor of removing the stone monument. They
said the municipal council would launch an investigation into the case to find
out who gave the order to remove the monument.
Maher Qanawati, member of
the Bethlehem municipal council, expressed regret over the removal of the
monument. He strongly denied that the municipality had voted in favor of
removing the monument.
The monument was established to mark the “birth of
the State of Palestine on November 29, 2012, and the launching of the
Palestinian revolution on January 1, 1965,” its inscription states.
Monday, scores of Palestinian activists in Bethlehem tore up, trampled on and
set fire to pictures of Obama near Manger Square. Some hurled shoes at a US
diplomatic vehicle as it passed near the area, expressing their opposition to
Obama’s visit to their city.
Shortly afterward, the activists were
surprised to see a small bulldozer working to remove the stone monument from the
Nisan Square on Manger Street. The activists managed to put the monument back in
its place after threatening the municipality workers.
director of the Aman charitable organization and wife of a Palestinian who is
serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison, told the Palestine Network News
agency that the Palestinians have the right to “set up any monument or map that
represents their struggle and steadfastness.”
Palestinian activist Mazin
Qumsiyeh commented on the removal of the monument by saying: “Instead of the
olive tree and the map, the idea is that Mr. Obama will see a new thing: a dove
at the entrance to Bethlehem. The people gathered and stopped the work. Some
said that the PA was acting as a subcontractor for the Israeli authorities.”