‘Obama, don’t bring your smartphone to Ramallah’

Activists call to remove posters protesting absence of mobile Internet in West Bank, say Palestinian cause "bigger than 3G."

Obama poster in Ramallah 370  (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Obama poster in Ramallah 370
(photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Posters protesting the absence of 3G communications technology in the West Bank have angered several Palestinian political activists, who on Sunday called on the PA to remove them from the streets of Ramallah and Bethlehem.
The large signs appeared over the past few days in a bid to draw US President Barack Obama’s attention to the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank still don’t have the 3G Internet service.
The posters read: “President Obama, don’t bring your smart phone to Ramallah; you won’t have mobile access to Internet; we nave no 3G in Palestine!” It was not clear on Sunday who was responsible for the posters. Some Palestinians said they did not rule out the possibility that the two local mobile phone companies, Jawwal and Wataniyeh, were behind the signs for purely commercial purposes.
Other Palestinians said the campaign to highlight the absence of 3G Internet had been initiated by local youth groups.
But what is clear so far is that the posters have managed to anger a large number of Palestinians.
“The Palestinian cause is much bigger than the issue of 3G,” said Ali Khader, a 30-yearold Fatah activist from Bir Zeit, near Ramallah. “This is a very silly idea that does not help the Palestinians.”
University student Maha al- Masri denounced the posters as an “insult to the Palestinian cause.”
The 22-year-old student said it would have been better had the Palestinians used the posters to depict the “suffering of our people and the plight of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.”
The 3G signs, she said, “create the false impression that everything is fine in the West Bank and that the only problem facing the Palestinians these days is the lack of 3G.
What about our prisoners who are on hunger strike? What about the checkpoints and settlements?” A Fatah official in Ramallah said that he too agreed with the criticism against the 3G campaign. The official said that he and a number of his colleagues contacted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office last weekend and demanded that the posters be removed immediately.
“True, depriving the Palestinians of modern communications is a serious matter,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.
“But this is a time when Palestinians should be talking about the Judaization of Jerusalem, settlement construction and the release of our prisoners from Israeli jails.”
Jamil Awad, who works for a PA ministry in the West Bank, said that when he first saw the large posters, “I did not know whether to laugh or cry.”
He added: “Palestinian employees have not received their full salaries for months because of the sharp financial crisis. We were hoping that this would be the number one topic on the agenda of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of Obama’s visit. I’m sure many people are now laughing at us because of this stupid campaign, which ignores all the major problems we are facing.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian activists have called for a demonstration in Ramallah on Tuesday to express their opposition to Obama’s visit to the Palestinian territories.
A youth group called Palestinian For Dignity called on Palestinians to march from the center of Ramallah to Abbas’s presidential compound in objection to Obama’s visit.
The group claimed in a statement that the visit aims to achieve three goals: “first, to relieve the pressure off the Israeli government, which is suffering increased international isolation; second, to restrain the frustration of the Palestinian street simmering in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and finally, to prolong the expected lifetime of the PA, which after 20 years is becoming more and more disconnected from its people.”
The Palestinians, the group stressed, “will not accept to play a role in achieving these interests, and will not succumb to these pressures.”
In further criticism of the PA leadership, the group noted that it is “hypocritical and disingenuous that the PLO disregards the role of the Obama administration in blocking its membership request in 2011 at the Security Council, and its vote against the resolution at the General Assembly in 2012.
Furthermore, the US Congress has imposed financial sanctions on international institutions recognizing Palestine.”
Some 100 Palestinian political and intellectual figures in Syria on Sunday signed a statement strongly condemning Obama’s visit to the Palestinian territories.
Entitled, “Go Back to your Bloody Country, you Murderer,” the statement accused Obama of destroying Iraq and supporting massacres in Syria and Libya.
PA officials and political analysts in Ramallah said they were not pinning high hopes on Obama's visit.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former PA minister, pointed out the the PA leadership was too weak to exert any form of pressure on the United States administration.
“The Palestinian Authority is divided and struggling to pay salaries to its employees,” he said. “The only card is has in its hands is the success of the Palestinian Authority security forces in fighting terrorism. All indications are that Obama’s visit won’t achieve any miracles.”
Palestinian political commentator Faisal Abu Khadra expressed concern over reports suggesting that Obama was coming to the region merely as a “tourist.”
“According to what we read and hear, Obama is coming as an American tourist to visit Jewish and Christian sites and offer advice to our people,” Abu Khadra said. “He has no plan to end occupation and oppression against our people.”
He too noted that the PA leadership was too weak to put any kind of pressure on the US administration, especially in wake of the absence of Arab political support for the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, he added, view the visit as a failed trip on the humanitarian, legal and moral levels.
Abu Khadra urged Obama to advise Israel to that it is in its interest to “end this illegal and immoral occupation.”