Palestinians have responded with outrage to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s visit to an illegal settlement in Israel and his comments about such structures. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo became the first US top diplomat to visit an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories on Thursday, November 19. Pomepo visited the Psagot winery built on land that once belonged to Palestinians. He also said, in a statement, that items produced in areas where “Israel exercises the relevant authorities” [thus including settlements] will be marked as ‘Made in Israel.’
Earlier in the day, speaking to reporters, Pompeo said the policy of the US state department towards settlements had been wrong. He said that settlements could be done in a way that is “lawful, appropriate and proper.” He also termed the BDS movement anti-Semitic and called it akin to cancer.
A spokesperson for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas termed Pompeo’s visit “an active participation in the occupation.” Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted that Pompeo was trespassing on Palestinian land stolen by Israel.
Both @SecPompeo & @USAmbIsrael are trespassing on Palestinian land stolen by Israel for its illegal settler-colonial enterprise. You've done a lot of damage already. Just go away! #FreePalestine https://t.co/OAhdhqfnqL
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) November 18, 2020
The previous day, hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Al-Bireh city near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday to protest the visit. Israeli forces fired tear gas and used force to disperse the protesters injuring some.
The Psagot winery was built on occupied territory in 1981 on a hill called Jabal al-Tawil. On Wednesday, Palestinians gathered in anticipation of Pompeo’s visit and waved flags and shouted slogans denouncing Israeli occupation of Palestine. They also carried placards calling Pompeo a partner in Israeli war crimes and asking him to go back home.
Today, Palestinians protested @SecPompeo imminent visit to the Israeli settlement & winery Psagot. Several Palestinians owning land on which Psagot sits or affected by Psagot are US citizens. A US Secretary of State is therefore visiting a colonial enterprise harming US citizens pic.twitter.com/sYAz3cCAMI
— 𝑯𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝑺𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒂 -هيذر شارونا (@sharona_weiss) November 18, 2020
According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, at least four of the protesters suffered suffocation due to exposure to the teargas fired by the Israelis. Several Palestinian leaders, including deputy chairman of Fatah, Mahmoud al-Aloul, attended the protest and addressed the gathering. He blamed successive US administrations for their bias towards Israel and said the Donald Trump administration is complicit in consolidating the Israeli occupation and its colonial settlements because of its radical pro-Israeli moves.
The US under the leadership of Trump has broken numerous policy conventions on the Palestine-Israel conflict, including the recognition of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital of Israel” and shifting its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Israel has built hundreds of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands of West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem since their capture in the 1967 war. It has also built infrastructure including segregation walls and settler-only roads and checkpoints in the name of security around these settlements dividing Palestinian land into small Bantustans. Today there are more than 600,000 Israelis living in these settlements in complete violation of international law related to occupied territories. The settlers often indulge in illegal land grab and attack the Palestinian settlements. For decades, the US too had denied the legality of the settlements and demanded a halt of their construction until the Trump administration came to power.