As a general strike paralyzes the West Bank, President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the region is a distant memory. “Since Obama left, nothing has changed except for the worse. Settlements have continued to grow, and today we buried another Palestinian,” said Issa Amro, a Hebron-based leader of an activism group called Youth Against Settlements.
In Ramallah, Obama told Palestinians that they “deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it.” But in the wake of the American president’s departure, the Israeli crackdown has only worsened. The strike was called to protest the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a cancer-stricken Palestinian who died in an Israeli jail cell on April 2. In the ensuing protests over Abu Hamdiyeh’s death, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian youths in the West Bank.
The disparity between Obama’s words and the reality on the ground is not lost on Palestinians. While the president’s Middle East trip may still be hailed as a diplomatic success in Washington, it is viewed in the West Bank with a mixture of apathy, skepticism, and outright hostility. In Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of the West Bank, posters of the American president were doused with black paint prior to his arrival. In Bethlehem, some of the U.S. flags hung the night before he visited the Church of the Nativity were burned.