Palestinian activist Issa Amro tells MEMO about his experiences of being arrested by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and his thoughts on the upcoming court case brought against him by Israeli occupying forces.
Issa Amro is no stranger to Israeli detention centres. A prominent human rights activist from Hebron and the founder of Youth Against Settlements, he has been arrested dozens of times for his engagement in non-violent resistance against the occupation. This month he faces a further 18 charges in an Israeli military court.
“Many of [the charges] are about inciting Palestinians to disobey the Israeli military order, inciting Palestinians to engage in non-violent and peaceful actions and protests, disturbing the soldiers, participating and organising non-violent campaigns and actions,” he says.
“Fourteen of them were very old from 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015 and only four were from 2016. They have [even] opened closed cases in the past.”
Under the jurisdiction of military law in Hebron Amro says he endures apartheid as Israeli settlers are accountable under a different set of laws. From separate streets for settlers and Palestinians and the continual storming of the Ibrahimi Mosque, to Arabic road names being changed to Hebrew ones, his resistance against such changes makes him a target.
“The settlers don’t like what I am doing so they file complaints against me, false complaints and they are believed until I can prove the opposite,” he says. “I was attacked physically many times by the soldiers and the settlers, I got stoned in the head, my bones were broken, I have permanent back bone problems because of the soldiers attacks.”
Amro has also been subjected to arrest by the Palestinian Authority (PA) after being accused of violating the Electronics Crimes Law, which can see those guilty of “disturbing social harmony” on social media face up to 15 years hard labour.
“The PA has a big pressure from the occupation to shut up Palestinian activists and journalists. I was defending Palestinian journalists online. I was against arresting them, detaining them, intimidating them. For that they arrested me for one week.”
He also alleges that the PA cooperated with Israeli security in his arrest due to Israeli forces pressuring Palestinian leaders to comply with their demands or face further repercussions. “The PA [behaved badly against] me. They should correct that and they should correct their behaviour with all the Palestinian people and journalists,” he says, continuing:
“I don’t compare the two arrests; Israel’s occupation is the main enemy of the Palestinian people… but there was a kind of connection between my arrest because of the security cooperation between Israel and Palestine. The Israeli occupation goes to the PA to stop non-violent resistance. They put a lot of pressure on them.”
“However PA leaders stood with me and defended me when I was arrested by the PA security forces but certain forces listen to the Israeli pressure,” he clarifies.
Amro’s next hearing is set for the 26 December; if convicted he faces up to three years in jail. Some 38 witnesses are being brought against him, many of whom are illegal Israeli settlers. “This is part of my struggle as a Palestinian. I feel worried, I feel scared about the movement I’ve created, but I’m determined to continue and I’m ready to pay the price to make a change. There is no change without sacrifice.”
Amro has been travelling to the UK and the US in recent months in an attempt to gain support for his case internationally and met US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, of whom he is an admirer, during a trip in September.
But despite significant international support Amro is doubtful this can save him from being convicted: “For sure I will go to jail because in the military court the conviction rate is very high… I am just trying to reduce the sentence by reaching friends and political leaders to support my case,” he says.
Amro urges Palestinians to continue to engage in non-violent resistance against the occupation and not be deterred by Israeli aggression: “I am a big fan of civil disobedience… to disobey the occupation orders, to refuse to give the Israeli occupation ID cards at the checkpoints, to refuse to listen to the soldiers, to go to the checkpoints and stage a sit-in, to close the main streets to settlers, and a lot of other things.”
Amro also joins the global chorus of condemnation against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which has sparked protests throughout the world and been panned by world leaders.
“This is very bad for the Israelis and the Palestinians; it is destroying any peace opportunity for the future. It is a biased decision towards Israeli right-wing opinion… but what about the Palestinians? What about international law? What about the consensus in the international community that East Jerusalem is part of Palestine and is occupied?”
“He [Trump] is provoking the Palestinians and giving the Israelis something that they don’t need and they don’t own. He’s giving them something that’s not related to him,” he insists.
For Amro, the solution to the Palestinian issue lies in the hands of the international community, and he calls on pro-Palestinian activists around the world to use their freedom to highlight the oppression in the occupied territories:
“We should work to increase the cost of the occupation and stop many countries profiting from the occupation. The best way is to ban the settlement products, to put pressure on the international community to make Israel accountable to international law and take Israel to the International Criminal Court, to be engaged in a lot of advocacy all over the world.”