March 24, 2013

Obama in the West Bank

Palestinian labourers Bethlehem checkpoint

Unfortunately, you have to work pretty hard to get a more two-sided look at Obama’s visit to the West Bank. Perhaps the most evocative visual commentary and counterpoint to the President’s visit to the walled-in Bethlehem was this photo from Reuters. Evoking people in animal cages, we see Palestinian workers waiting to cross through the checkpoint into Jerusalem.

Sad, but not surprising was the absence of any photo of the President driving by the exclusion wall after he was forced by the weather to drive, rather than take a helicopter, from Jerusalem to the completely encircled Bethlehem. This AP shot was the only photo I could find of the convoy. Even still, it hardly appeared in American media.

That’s not to say, though, there wasn’t plenty of opposition.

Bethlehem protest Obama visitObama Bethlehem protests

Rather than reflect much on Palestinian life, most of the photo coverage, particularly from the White House photo gallery of the trip, focused on Obama’s time in Israel and Jordan, the majority of the West Bank images concentrating on his visit to the Church of the Nativity, allegedly the birthplace of Christ, with Palestine Authority head Mohammed Abbas in tow.

Souza Obama Church of Nativity

Obama Abbas Church of Nativity.png

Obama did meet with youth, pose for various photo ops and witness a cultural demonstration while in Ramallah.


More than anything, though, this image emphasizes how much Obama’s photo ops with Palestinian’s involved children rather than adults, in this case, the kids flying Obama’s colors more than their own.


What I like about this shot is its unscripted quality, Pete Souza hanging in the background waiting for a shot and the Secret Service guy vigilantly keeping his eye on the young Palestinian girls. Beyond evoking the staging we featured in our post from Jordan yesterday, it drives home the primary takeaway of the Administration’s diplomatic effort in the region so far: visual tokenism.

Obama Israel tarmac
That, and ensuring the missile supply — the device bisecting the two Presidents like a pair of cocktail olives.

(photo 1: Ammar Awad/Reuters caption: Palestinian labourers wait to cross into Jerusalem at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on March 18, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama is due to make his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week, looking to improve ties after sometimes rocky relations with both sides during his first term in office. Israeli settlement expansion lies at the heart of much of the rancour between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama, who has said the U.S. does not accept the legitimacy of continued 2: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP caption: President Barack Obama’s motorcade travel to the Church of the Nativity in West Bank city ofBethlehem, Friday, March 22, 2013. photo 3: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters caption: A Palestinian protester shouts at a policeman during a demonstration against U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Church of the Nativity, revered as the site of Jesus’ birth, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem March 22, 2013. photo 4: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP caption: Demonstrators hold signs along the motorcade route of President Barack Obama during his visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday, March 22, 2013.. photo 5: Pete Souza/White House caption: President Barack Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus during his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. photo 6: Pete Souza/White House caption: President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. photo 7: Jason Reed/Reuters caption: U.S. President Barack Obama interacts with children as he tours the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem March 22, 2013.. photo 8: Pool/Getty Images caption: U.S. President Barack Obama (3R) and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad (C) visit Al Bera Youth Center March 21, 2013 in Ramallah, the West Bank. This is Obama’s first visit as president to the region and his itinerary includes meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.. photo 9: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP caption: President Barack Obama, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, tour the Iron Dome Battery defense system at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 20, 2013.)

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Michael Shaw
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