The U.S. must start treating Palestinians as equals to Israelis.
By Issa Amro / Al Jazeera
January 17, 2017
“It was reading the works of giants such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and your own civil rights pioneer, Martin Luther King, Jr., that convinced me to spend my life using nonviolent methods of resistance to forge a path forward for myself and my people. I owe a great deal of my fortitude and strategy to King and thinkers like him.”
My name is Issa Amro. I am a 36-year-old Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where I work with an organization called Youth Against Settlements.
While we live thousands of kilometers apart and have never met, my fate is more closely linked to the office you will hold, and the choices a U.S. president makes, than many might think. The United States’ military, economic and diplomatic support has allowed Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian lands, upholding their racist, apartheid regime.
I have not spent my youth thinking about my career or travelling the world, the Israeli chokehold on our society limits my opportunities on both those fronts. Instead, I have been engaged in near-daily confrontations with hostile settlers and an occupying army, both of whom want me, my family and my friends to leave our land and never return.
We have had to walk long, circuitous routes home, as Israeli settlers often block the way to our houses or the market — even blocking our children from getting to school. Israel often denies Palestinians the right to travel along certain roads.
Settlers have also attacked me verbally while I was giving tours of Hebron, hurling insults at me, or worse, making threats against my life. I have been stopped, frisked and beaten, sometimes on my own property.
Later this year, I will stand trial in a military court on a series of trumped-up charges that are years old in what many see as a targeted attack on my human rights activism. I could spend several years in jail if convicted, and of course, I am afraid to lose that precious time. I am also afraid that the intimidation I am facing will dissuade other young Palestinians from following my example and engaging in the non-violent human rights work we so badly need.
I wish my story were unique, but for nearly 70 years, millions of Palestinians have lived under a brutal Israeli military dictatorship, which grants us few rights — we don’t even have the right to protest peacefully, steals our land for settlements that are in violation of official US policy, and imprisons us in isolated enclaves.