A crowd of angry Palestinian protesters chased American diplomats out of Bethlehem on Tuesday, signifying a shift of focus in Palestinian anger, which is now directed at the United States and its president. Jerusalem, formerly the battlefield for the Muslim-Jewish conflict and directly north of Bethlehem, appears to be a paragon of peace in comparison.
The attack on US diplomats occurred at the same time when a digital marketing workshop organized by the American Consulate in Jerusalem was held in Bethlehem’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Five Palestinians entered the building and began protesting the delegation’s presence. The protesters also held up signs that read, “America = ISIS = Terror,” and shouted, “you are not welcome.”
The American digital marketing experts and consulate staff were forced to leave the building.
As the Americans got into their armored SUV’s, the Palestinian protesters pelted the vehicles with tomatoes. It was also reported that the protesters even hit the vehicles with their hands and feet, successfully damaging the side-mirror on one of the vehicles.
“Though no one was hurt, the objective was clearly intimidation,” said a US State Department representative criticizing the protesters. “The United States absolutely opposes the use of violence and intimidation to express political views.”
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s bureau in Ramallah issued a short statement also condemning the attack.
“The presidency emphasized its absolute opposition to such behavior that deviates from the Palestinian values and roots.”
The PA police, responsible for security in the city, made no arrests in connection with the incident.
The attack on the delegation comes in the wake of a mock trial held in the streets of Aida, adjacent to Bethlehem, on Saturday. Representatives of the PA led the demonstration which culminated in the hanging and burning of full-sized images of US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Dr. Ze’ev Maghen, chair of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, suggested that the protests took place in Bethlehem because unlike Jerusalem, the city is the place where Muslims and Christians could act as allies.
“The Palestinian national movement was started at least partially by Christians and there has always been an attempt to line up the Christians and Muslims together against Zionism and whoever they perceive as a common enemy,” Dr. Maghen told Breaking Israel News.
“Muslims have a connection to Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, who also plays a big role in Islam. He is not the son of God, as he is in Christianity, but he is a major prophet. He is a part of their apocalyptic vision of the end-of-days.”
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, sees this shift of focus towards Bethlehem as a sign that the Palestinian cause is coming undone.
“The Palestinians are retreating,” Dr. Kedar told Breaking Israel News. “They built a house of cards that reaches up to the sky. They built it on dreams: dreams of Jerusalem, the right of return, their own state.”
“By taking away the dream card of Jerusalem, Trump brought it all falling down,” he continued. “Trump made them realize that they never had Jerusalem so they can’t even fight there anymore.”