Palestinians Protest Against Bahrain, Burning Flags and Effigies

BEIT LECHEM (AP) -
palestinian protestors
Protestors in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near Sidon, South Lebanon, Tuesday. (Reuters/Ali Hashisho)

Palestinians burned effigies of President Trump and marched a donkey pasted over with images of Gulf royals in Yehudah and Shomron on Tuesday, as the U.S. opened its conference in Bahrain, which focuses on the economic portion of the White House’s long-awaited plan for Mideast peace.

“Palestine is not for sale!” protesters chanted as they filled the streets of major Palestinian cities. “From Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, we are not tempted by your millions!”

Thousands across the region held up signs saying, “Down with the Bahrain conference!” and “Do not sell the Palestinian cause and erase our identity.”

Scattered clashes erupted as demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired back tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In the northern city of Shechem, protesters hanged an effigy of President Trump from a column. In Beit Lechem, the protesters’ donkey took center stage, its backside covered with the crossed-out faces of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who are viewed as supporting the White House’s efforts.

Multiple Palestinian factions, including Hamas, have called for continued mass rallies, and in Gaza, stores and public institutions shuttered Tuesday in observance of a general strike.

A black-and-white banner calling for a strike replaced the usually illuminated billboard over the central Omar al-Mukhtar street in Gaza City.

Residents of the impoverished territory, where unemployment exceeds 50 percent, voiced opposition to the Trump team’s ambitious proposal, which envisions health, education and public works projects but leaves the core political issues for a second phase of their plan, to be presented after Israeli elections in September.

In Beirut, Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinians took part in a protest orchestrated by Hamas outside the U.N. headquarters, chanting against the economic workshop and the possible naturalization of Palestinians in Lebanon.

Some 175,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, and consider the right of return to their ancestral lands in what is now Israel a part of any future resolution to the conflict. Despite 70 years in the country, Palestinians continue to live under harsh conditions, confined to squalid camps and deprived of basic rights afforded to Lebanese citizens.

The U.S. economic plan’s large sums for Jordan and Lebanon, countries with substantial Palestinian refugee populations, have raised fears that the Trump administration aims to have Palestinian refugees absorbed into these nations, rather than allow them to someday return to Israel — one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict.

In Jordan, about 400 demonstrators in the capital of Amman surrounded the prime minister’s office to protest their country’s participation in the Bahrain workshop.