The Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem Municipality removed a stone monument of historic Palestine, worried President Barack Obama would see it when he visits the birthplace of Jesus this week. The monument shows a map that negates the existence of Israel.
But the operation to hide the monument turned into a tug-of-war with local activists who insisted the structure be returned to its rightful place.
Instead of going through the usual process of appealing to the council, activists – along with some of the council members themselves – returned the monument to its original location.
The Jerusalem Post’s Veteran Arab Affairs Correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh who first reported the story writes:
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.
Abu Toameh explains that monument was erected in honor of the “birth of the State of Palestine on November 29, 2012 [the UN vote] and the launching of the Palestinian revolution on January 1, 1965,” according to its inscription.
He quotes Najla al-Hajj, the director of a charity and the wife of a man serving a life sentence in Israeli prison, saying the Palestinians have the right to “set up any monument or map that represents their struggle and steadfastness.”
The tug-of-war over the monument comes on the heels – literally – of violent protests on Monday in the same city against Obama’s visit.
Protesters threw shoes at an American advance team’s vehicle as it drove near Manger Square, on its way to prepare for the presidential visit.
As TheBlaze reported, Palestinians also trampled on and set fire to a billboard of Obama as they chanted: “America is the head of the snake.”
They wanted to send a message to Obama that Palestinians have “been deprived of the right to have 3G telecommunication technology because they compete with Israeli companies.”