Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro has been arrested more than 20 times by Israeli forces over the last 8 years for opposing new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, says CTIP guest columnist Bessa Whitmore. He is in court again this week on charges that Amnesty International claims are “political”. She writes an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau saying that Canada, which officially says it opposes the settlements and supports human rights, should intervene. Read more…..
CTIP is reprinting here a letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau by Professor Bessa Whitmore. It is shared with her permission.
Ottawa, January 7, 2020
Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing to urge your government to intervene on behalf of Issa Amro, a well known and respected Palestinian community leader and human rights defender. If you really value human rights, as you say you do, tell Israel to stop persecuting Issa Amro.
On January 6, after a lengthy trial in an Israeli military court, he was convicted on 6 counts, three counts of protesting without a permit, two counts of “obstructing” an Israeli soldier, and one count of assaulting an Israeli settler in Hebron. In fact, he is leading Palestinian non violent resistance to continuing harassment and persecution by illegal Israeli settlers in Hebron, a town in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As Amnesty International has reported, the charges against him are “baseless” and “politically motivated.” Because the Israeli military court has a conviction rate of almost 100%, it’s clear that he has not received a fair trial.
Upon the conviction, Mr. Amro stated (January 7, 2021) “This conviction is the military system against the Palestinian nonviolent resistance. It aims to suppress my voice and end all activism against the Israeli occupation.”
This is a gross travesty of justice. Mr. Prime Minister, if Canada is true to its values as a champion of human rights and justice, we are obligated to speak out. Silence is not an option.
Mr. Amro has been called the Mandela of the Palestinians for his non-violent approach to advocating for the rights of his people. I had the privilege of meeting him myself, as part of a trip to Israel/Palestine in 2017 (organized by Interfaith Peacebuilders now renamed Eyewitness Palestine) that included Hebron. We witnessed first hand the harassment of Mr. Amro by both Israeli settlers and by IDF soldiers, as we walked peacefully through the old city.
Here is a link to a short interview with Issa Amro (December 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA04Hnzpwpk
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem believes that “the threshold for meeting the requirement of prima facie evidence [in Israel’s military court system] is so low that it poses no obstacle to the prosecution”
The activities Mr. Amro is accused of are either considered legitimate free speech in most other countries (such as “participating in a march without a permit”) or unfounded (because Mr. Amro was already in Israeli custody at the time and video evidence of the incident shows another man was responsible).
Others have spoken up – why not Canada?
Expressions of concern for his safety have been voiced numerous times since then: by UN Human Rights experts (2013) in the U.S. state Department Human Rights Report (2016) and by members of the U.S. Congress and U.K Parliament.
Mr. Amro’s Israeli lawyer stated that “the fact that in this case he was released dozens of times over the years without any indictment, and suddenly an indictment is served that collects all the conduct for which he was released, absolutely seems to be a matter of political persecution.”
I believe the universal right to peaceful protest and nonviolent political engagement should also extend to Palestinians. The Israeli government wants Mr. Amro silenced. It is up to those of us in Canada to live up to our moral obligation to speak up in the face of injustice.
Thank you for your attention to this matter
Professor Emerita, Carleton University
cc. Hon, Francois Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Catherine McKenna, MP Ottawa Centre, Jagmeet Singh, Leader of NDP, Erin O’Toole, Leader of the opposition, Paul Manley, leader of Green Party in the House of Commons, Yves-Francois Blanchet, Leader of Bloc Québécois
CTIP subscribers who agree with Professor Whitmore can forward a copy of her letter (or write their own) to the Prime Minister (firstname.lastname@example.org), Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, and their own Member of Parliament. (NOTE: all MP’s have a common email “formula” – first name.second name @ parl.gc.ca). Even more important is to send a copy to your friends and suggest they too, write their MP.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. We accept guest columnists from time to time. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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