A leading Palestinian activist faces years in jail just for protesting against Israel’s military occupation in his West Bank home.
Issa Amro told Socialist Worker how he is being punished for “pure non-violent resistance.”
“The Israeli occupation denies Palestinian people the basic human rights of protesting against the occupation peacefully,” he said.
Issa was convicted in an Israeli military court earlier this year on charges dating back as far as 2010. They include “crimes” such as participating in a march without a permit.
When he is sentenced, he could be jailed, hit with a heavy fine or banned from taking part in any more protests.
It’s an attempt by Israel to make an example of one of Palestine’s most prominent activists.
Issa lives in the Old City of Hebron, where some 700 Israeli settlers—and the soldiers who protect them—do their best to make life a misery for Palestinians. They face Israeli soldiers at checkpoints and violence from settlers on a daily basis.
He has spent years organising peaceful protests demanding that once-bustling market streets—shut by Israeli forces—be reopened. And he is known by Palestine solidarity campaigners around the world for speaking out and showing them the reality of the occupation when they visit.
“I am a Palestinian activist who does only pure non-violent resistance,” he said. “I organise rallies, peaceful protests, sit-ins. I document human rights violations, I do a lot of tours including for diplomats and politicians.
“That means Israel hates me and exposes itself by using the military court.”
But he added that his conviction was about much more than trying to remove one activist. It was about “showing that there is no space for peaceful Palestinian resistance".
Under the military law that Israel imposes on the West Bank—which it invaded in 1967—Palestinians have to apply for permission for a political gathering of more than ten people. It means that “We as Palestinians are not allowed to protest peacefully according to Israeli military law,” said Issa.
“The right of protest is violated by the Israeli military authorities. It means Palestinians don’t have any tool for resisting the occupation.”
Issa also explained how the use of military law exposed the “double standards” that Israel applies to Palestinians and settlers. While Palestinians are tried in military courts, settlers are subject to the same laws as residents inside Israel’s borders—often not enforced in the West Bank.
Israeli human rights monitor Yesh Din recorded an increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in January—including attacks and riots against Palestinian villages.
Yet no settler has been charged. And while soldiers protect the settlers, they have stepped up raids on Palestinian homes.
“Under military law, we are guilty until we are proved innocent,” said Issa. “In the meantime, the Israeli settlers are under civilian law but there is no enforcement. They live with impunity.”
Issa is set to be sentenced on 8 February—by an Israeli officer who lives in a settlement. He is asking supporters to campaign for justice for him and all Palestinians.
“I want people to participate in our online campaign,” he said. “Contact their parliament and their foreign ministry. Talk to them to put pressure on Israel to stop going after Palestinians and human rights defenders.
“Give the Palestinians the right to protest against the occupation.”