israel indicts “Palestinian Gandhi” Issa Amro

Israel indicts “Palestinian Gandhi”


Hebron’s Issa Amro, founder of Youth Against Settlements, says he was inspired by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

The Israeli army has laid a lengthy list of charges against Issa Amro, the longtime Palestinian activist and organizer in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

The indictment includes incidents that span the last six years.

Among the 18 charges are organizing an “illegal demonstration” in August 2010, spitting in the direction of a settler in 2012, insulting a soldier in March 2013 and entering a “closed military zone” in February this year.

Amro’s lawyer, Gaby Laski, told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that the sudden resuscitation of past events for which Amro was arrested and released at the time, “absolutely seems to be a matter of political persecution.”

“They closed all the cases I was framed for in the past,” Amro told Haaretz last week. “I don’t think somebody can claim that my political activity is criminal. The court always lets me go when they arrest me for no reason.”

“Over a number of years, the accused has committed many offenses, among them taking part in disturbances, assaulting soldiers, incitement and obstructing soldiers in their duties,” a military spokesperson told Haaretz. “After evidence of these offenses was collected, the indictment was served.”

In April, Amnesty International highlighted a March arrest of Amro and his colleague, Farid al-Atrash, in a report on Israel’s intimidation of human rights defenders.

The human rights group wrote that Amro and al-Atrash were “arrested solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Amro, 36, is the founder of Youth Against Settlements, a group that organizes demonstrations and direct actions against the violent settler encampments that are protected by heavily armed soldiers who frequently harass Palestinian residents in the city.

Amro has said he was inspired by the nonviolent tactics made famous by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year, Youth Against Settlements organizes a week of activities calling to open Shuhada Street.

Once the city’s main commercial strip, Shuhada Street was closed off to Palestinians in 1994 after American Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque.

In March, following Youth Against Settlements’ annual Open Shuhada Street campaign, Amro was arrested and charged with incitement, organizing illegal demonstrations and evading arrest. He spent one day in Israeli custody and was released pending trial.

“It is a kind of intimidation to stop the nonviolent activities,” Amro said at the time, after he was released.

That arrest now appears to be among the charges lumped into the current broad indictment against Amro.

But most of the charges stem from alleged offenses in 2013. Haaretz says that the indictment recounts one episode in which soldiers took Amro’s identity card and refused to return it to him.

Amro reportedly began to shout before turning to leave, without his identity card, at which point the soldiers threatened to arrest him if he left.

“The accused replied that [the soldier] could not arrest him and called him stupid,” the indictment states, according to Haaretz.

When the Border Police began to arrest Amro, he allegedly said, “Who do you think you are? You can’t detain me.”

Palestinians in Hebron are patrolled by Israeli occupation forces who roam the streets and can freely stop Palestinian residents, insist they show them their identity cards and arbitrarily delay them for lengthy periods of time.

Another charge Amro is facing is entering a building known locally known as the Valero House, which Israel has declared a “closed military zone.”

Amro told The Electronic Intifada the Valero House was once used by the Hebron municipality. It is now a private Palestinian home that was closed by the army and today stands empty. Amro had entered it to try to clean it so it could be revived for Palestinian use.

Amro is also a point-person for foreign media and visitors to Hebron, frequently giving tours to international delegations.

Amro told Haaretz that he publishes a lot of videos that “embarrass” the occupation authorities. “They don’t want moderate Palestinians here who talk to diplomats about a two-state solution.”

The Electronic Intifada has learned that the army plans to bring 38 witnesses to testify against Amro. His military trial will begin on 25 September.

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