Palestinians burn effigies of Trump in Gaza
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continued to express outrage over US President Donald Trump naming the Hamas movement—Gaza's de facto ruling party—in a list of terrorist organizations during a speech in Riyadh before 50 leaders of Arab and Muslim-majority countries on May 20. Palestinians in Gaza from across the political spectrum united in denouncing the remarks, which have been interpreted as a blanket condemnation of all forms of Palestinian resistance. "No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure. The true toll of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams," Trump said, in his first speech delivered abroad since taking office.
Shortly after the speech was broadcast, Hamas reacted by accusing Trump of "complete bias" toward the policies of the Israeli occupation by designating the movement as a terrorist organization. The designation "denies the Palestinian people's legitimate right to resistance to liberate their land and holy places," Hamas, which identifies as a Islamist national resistance movement, said.
Hamas denounced Trump's message at the summit in Saudi Arabia—which focused heavily on what he called "the crisis of Islamist extremism"—for attempting to divide the Muslim world, as Trump meanwhile "ignores the Zionist crimes of killing children and women and demolishing the roofs over their heads."
Israeli officials have routinely claimed that Palestinian armed resistance is part of an international rise in Islamist extremism, while many Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees organized a rally in Rafah city in the southern besieged coastal enclave on May 22 protesting Trump's remarks. Dozens of supporters crowded at Shuhada Square in the center of the city and torched US flags, as well as photos and an effigy of Donald Trump.
"Palestinian resistance is a source of pride for the nation fighting its enemy and occupier and trying to liberate its country," leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, Abu Fares al-Shamali, said. Trump's remarks, al-Shamali added, were blindly throwing US support behind the interests of Israeli occupation, "which is the true source of terrorism and violence in the region and in the world," he said.
On May 23, anti-Trump protests raged on in the small Palestinian territory.
Hundreds of supporters of the leftist and secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) rallied in Gaza City to protest Trump's remarks in Riyadh, demonstrating that the comments were being interpreted as offensive to Palestinian resistance movements at large, irrespective of political or religious affiliation.
Demonstrators waving Palestinian flags, PFLP flags, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian flags, rallied from Palestine Square to the prisoners' solidarity sit-in tent at Saraya Square, chanting against US policies in the region. Two masked PFLP gunmen aimed their guns at an effigy of Trump tied up in ropes in Saraya Square, behind a banner that simply stated: "Resistance is not terrorism."
Member of the PFLP's politburo Kayid al-Ghoul told Ma'an News Agency that the rally reflected the group's support for the demands of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners and firm solidarity with their plight, as well as opposition to Trump’s policies, which he said were "predictably in support of Israel’s conditions for the so-called peace process." Al-Ghoul added that, "today, we are sending a message that the Palestinian people refuse to give up any of our rights, and refuse to go back to US-sponsored negotiations."
The Islamic Jihad movement also organized a rally in central Gaza City condemning "Trump's statements against resistance factions," with the group stressing that they completely rejected the US president's characterization of Hamas as a terrorist organization, raising a banner that said: "Our dignity is our most valuable possession. Trump, resistance is not terrorism— we will triumph and you will leave."
Member of the Islamic Jihad's politburo Muhammad al-Hindi said that "Palestinian resistance factions are holding on to Palestinian rights stronger than ever, despite all the conspiracies being planned against the Palestinian cause." Al-Hindi said that "Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia and his description of the resistance as terrorism, in front of all of the Arab and Islamic world leaders, is a reflection of the ongoing deterioration in the region," referring to a growing alliance between heads of state in the region, the United States, and Israel at the expense of the Palestinian cause.
Al-Hindi denounced the leaders—Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas among them—for their silence to Trump's message, particularly as the US president famously hinged his presidential campaign on inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric
Ahead of Trump's visit to Riyadh—which was marked by the US signing a $110 billion weapons deal with the Saudi regime—Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International Philip Luther said that the "potential for President Trump to build toxic alliances with leaders who share his disdain for human rights during his first foray into foreign diplomacy is deeply worrying."
Touching on Trump's ambitions to secure “the ultimate deal” for Middle East peace, Amnesty International's statement also deplored successive Israeli governments for large-scale violations throughout the 50-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territory, which "have inflicted mass suffering on Palestinians."
The international rights group highlighted how the state of Israel has been "emboldened" by the new Trump administration to accelerate the expansion of illegal settlements in violation of international law as well as step up Palestinian home demolitions.
Trump's visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory was also met with a widely observed general strike and protests in the occupied West Bank, with a combined message of support for a mass hunger strike under way in Israeli prisons, and also to voice opposition to the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel under US sponsorship.
From Ma'an News Agency, May 23
Trump's Saudi visit was but the latest in a string of diplomatc gaffes. Even before the outrage over his Riyadh speech, the West Bank had seen weeks of protest in support of the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike.