Activist Issa Amro dragged through Israeli Gulag
Israel tries to silence the struggle for human rights by Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the militarily occupied West Bank. One target is civil rights activists Issa Amro who shines a light on the illegal activities and extremism of Jewish settlers in the besieged city of Hebron located in the Occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem
By Ray Hanania
Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro, 37, has angered the Israelis by putting a spotlight on the illegal activities of the radical Jewish settler movement.
All of Amro’s protests have been non-violent but effective in generating public attention to the illegal activities of the settlers, who often engage in unpunished violence against Christians and Muslims.
Israeli settlements are built on lands taken by Israeli military force from Christian and Muslim civilian land owners and then converted into heavily armed security stations in order to prevent a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In response to Amro’s effective activism, Israel has filed criminal charges asserting that he has engaged in violence, a charge Amro has called ridiculous. Israel has also filed charges against Amro’s activist colleague, Farid Al-Atrash.
Amro’s activities are based in Hebron where the Israeli settlers are the most violent and vicious against Christians and Muslims. He heads up the organization Youth Against Settlements.
“Witnesses” produced by Israel include Israeli soldiers who falsely testified that Amro “incited violence” at a protest held against the illegal settlements on Feb. 26, 2016, more than a year before. Amro responded at the time that merely display signs denouncing the illegal settlements like Hebron’s Kiryat Arba is not “inciting violence.”
Israel allows its Jewish citizens to protest and rally on a wide range of issues, but imposes a different set of legal standards for non-Jews inside Israel and in the Occupied territories, justifying public denunciations of Israel as an “Apartheid-like” state, because the government discriminates ont he basis of race and religion.
Amro’s plight puts a spotlight on the recent decision by UNESCO to designate Hebron an Endangered Heritage Site. Click here to read my column at the Arab News about the violence and racism of Hebron’s Jewish settlers and Israeli military.
Ironically, Amro represents a new generation of human rights activists who have taken up the same struggled that was once faced by Jews in the Soviet Union which targeted political dissidents with false criminal charges, detention, abuse and even physical violence. At that time, Israel defended the rights of dissidents to protest against the Soviet brutality.
Today, however, as the purveyors of brutality, Israel and many Israelis simply close their eyes to the violence and oppression against non-Jews inside Israel and under Israeli occupation.
Israel’s Gulag system, which represents illegal detention of civilian dissidents, closely resembles the Soviet Gulag system which suppressed dissension against the government’s oppressive policies against civilians including bullying, intimidation, detention, false criminal charges, and incarceration.
The respected human rights organization Amnesty International has condemned Israel’s action and has called on Israel repeatedly in official statements to drop their “baseless” charges. (Click to read Amnesty’s statement.)
Amnesty International wrote:
On 7 June 2016, 18 charges were leveled against Issa Amro at Ofer Military Court, some going back as far as 2010. They range from “insulting a soldier” to “assault”.
Some of the charges, such as “participating in a march without a permit”, are not internationally recognizable criminal offenses.
One of the charges of assault refers to an incident in a protest on 20 March 2013 that took place after Issa Amro had already been arrested and was therefore not present. A video from the scene clearly shows another man was responsible for the incident, in which a settler’s camera was broken.
Here is a letter Amro sent this week, which includes a link to help him raise funds to confront Israel’s persecution of his rights and the rights of other civil rights activists protesting Israel’s atrocities and abuses:
Sunday, I began trial on 18 charges in Israel military court. It is a kangaroo court system where there is no justice at all. The charges against me are an effort to shut down my human rights work and stop me from speaking up for my people.
But no matter what I will not be silent. Recently, Israel moved from segregated streets in Hebron to enclosing entire Palestinian neighborhoods. The gate is locked at 11pm each night and families are imprisoned inside. So, even as I prepare for the surety of my conviction, I am working to end this new injustice.
Tomorrow (Monday) the first two of the 38 witnesses against me will testify. All of the witnesses are settlers and soldiers. The judge and prosecutor are military officers. The conviction rate is 99.74%!
In an encouraging show of support, 32 members of US congress released a letter last week to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to tell Israel to reconsider the charges against me. Yesterday, UN human rights experts followed suit and also called on Israel to reconsider the charges.
As I enter Ofer military court tomorrow, I know all of you will be there with me in spirit. I appreciate your support. If you are able, please make a donation to support the continuation of my work.