Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition on Jan. 6 to a visit by Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Theophilos III, along with several other religious and political figures, were visiting Bethlehem as part of celebrations for Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve. Despite an intense presence of Palestinian security forces who attempted to open roads near Bethlehem's Manger Square for the patriarch's car, angry citizens swarmed around his procession, holding signs, Palestinian flags, and chanting slogans against Theophilus III. People threw stones and smashed windows of the car the patriarch was riding in as they demanded he be stripped of his titles and be removed from the church.
Pope Tawadros II, leader Egypt's Coptic Church, has cancelled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Cairo later this month, in protest of the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people," the church said in a statement. "The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence," it said, adding it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, also declined to meet Pence.
Palestinian activists burned pictures of Donald Trump in Bethlehem in response to his Dec. 6 announcement that his administration will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He stated with typical bluster: "While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering." But this time the braggadocio was wedded to a nearly hallucinatory chutzpah: "I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians." (Palestine News Network, The Guardian) Of course precisely the opposite is true.
Israeli authorities have revoked the citizenship of hundreds of Bedouin Palestinians in the Negev desert in recent years, leaving many stateless and without recourse to appeal the decision. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the Bedouin community has faced policies of dispossession and displacement. More than half of the 160,000 Bedouin in the Negev live in "unrecognized" villages, leaving them deprived of water, electricity and other basic infrastructure. In recent years, Israeli authorities have started revoking the citizenship of Bedouin residents, according to a new report in Haaretz newspaper.
Israeli authorities revoked permits for Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel in response to a deadly attack in East Jerusalem's Old City—then launched a a mass arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds for being in the city without a permit. At least 350 Palestinians were detained in a single day, with those holding West Bank IDs being forced to board buses and sent back to the occupied territory. A police statement added that Israeli forces are continuing security measures in an around the Old City "to prevent further attacks and respond if necessary." One Israeli police officer was killed in the knife attack outside the Old City's Damascus Gate. Israeli soldiers responding to the attack killed three Palestinians.
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.
Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 113th time since 2010 on May 17 morning, and for the fifth time this year. The head of the local council, Aziz al-Turi, told Ma'an News Agency that Israeli bulldozers accompanied by police forces raided the village and demolished the steel-structure makeshift homes "without any consideration for their residents." The last time Israeli forces razed homes in al-Araqib was only weeks ago, on April 25. "All demolition crimes will not scare us or stop us from rebuilding our homes and holding on to our lands," al-Araqib resident Sayyah al-Turi told Ma'an. "We will stay here despite the injustice and criminal demolitions, we will not submit to their plans of uprooting and displacing us."
An Israeli cabinet committee approved a contested bill on May 7 seeking to enshrine Israel's status as a Jewish state into the country's central legislation, sparking concern the heightened discrimination Palestinians would face should it become law. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously to move the "Jewish State" bill—which is also being referred to as the "Nationality" or "Nation State" bill—to a preliminary vote in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The bill declares that Israel is "the national home of the Jewish people," and that "the right to realize self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.