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Obama speech gets mixed reactions in West Bank

OBAMA IN THE MUSLIM WORLD

In one Palestinian family, a father hears words of hope but a teen sees trickery. Jewish settlers fear an infringement of Israeli sovereignty.

June 05, 2009|Richard Boudreaux

Abdul Saafan, his wife and 51 children and grandchildren live on a fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, squeezed into two modest homes smack up against a Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron. Six months ago an enraged settler wounded Abdul Saafan and his son Hosni, who were unarmed, in a shooting near their home.

On Thursday, the family welcomed a powerful American guest to hear how he might relieve their fear.

Live from Cairo on the Al Jazeera television channel, President Obama spoke to three generations of Saafan males sipping tea and seated in a sweltering bedroom where 17 family members sleep.

They were unsparing.

Abdul Saafan engaged in mild heckling when Obama admonished Palestinians to abandon violence. "Where is the Palestinian violence?" scoffed the 69-year-old patriarch, minimizing years of rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip. "What violence?"

"Obama is trying to trick us," Raed Saafan, 16, said dismissively. "He wants to pretend he is on our side while allowing the Israelis to get their way with us."

Only the middle generation of the politically unaffiliated family found hope in the president's criticism of Israeli settlement expansion and restrictions on Palestinians' lives.

"Obama has given me a little more hope than I had before, but he must go beyond words," said Hosni Saafan, 45, a stone quarry worker. "I want to see a tangible difference. When I leave my house, I want to feel safe."

-- Richard Boudreaux

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