Bethlehem removes historic 'Palestine' monument

City takes down monument of historic Palestine that ignores the existence of Israel; Palestinian activists put it back in place.

CHURCH of the Nativity in Bethlehem 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
CHURCH of the Nativity in Bethlehem 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
Baboun said that the decision to remove the monument, which depicts a map of historic Palestine without Israel, had been taken unanimously by the Bethlehem municipal council.
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.
On 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.
Najla al-Hajj, 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.”