Israel persecutes ‘Palestinian Gandhis’

IssueApril - May 2017
News by PN

Nonviolent Palestinian activists are facing a new wave of repression, demonstrating again that the Israeli authorities fear effective nonviolent action.

Israeli officials themselves know ‘we don’t do Gandhi very well’, as the then director of policy and political-military affairs at the Israel ministry of defence, major general (reserves) Amos Gilad, said in February 2010. Gilad, who retired in February after 14 years in that critical post, was talking to US officials about the treatment of nonviolent Palestinian protests in the West Bank. Their memo was released by Wikileaks in 2011.

On 20 March, longtime Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion, and had his passport confiscated. This was just weeks before he was due to travel to the US to receive the Gandhi Peace Award at Yale University on 23 April.

The Palestinian BDS national committee said the Israeli government was ‘fabricating a case’ against Barghouti as part of its ‘systematic efforts to criminalise the BDS movement, intimidate activists and stop free speech’.

Give us Issa

Last November, the Israeli government charged nonviolent Palestinian activist Issa Amro, founder of Youth Against Settlements, with 18 offences from the previous six years. Issa, who has been called ‘the Palestinian Gandhi’, has been charged, among other things, with organising an ‘illegal demonstration’ in August 2010, insulting a soldier in March 2013 and entering a ‘closed military zone’ (a deserted private Palestinian house) in February 2016.

Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Magdalena Mughrabi, responded: ‘The deluge of charges against Issa Amro does not stand up to any scrutiny. In their determination to silence him and stifle his human rights work, the Israeli authorities have apparently even reopened a closed case file.’

Amnesty said that if he is convicted, ‘we will consider Issa Amro a prisoner of conscience.’

In January 2016, Issa told US radio network NPR he had studied the international history of nonviolence, from Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mohandas Gandhi to Gene Sharp: since 2002, ‘I’m working hard to educate more and more Palestinians about how to have a massive nonviolence revolution in Palestine and reach civil disobedience against the occupation’.

In April 2016, Amnesty called on the Israeli government to end its ‘escalating’ intimidation of Palestinian human rights defenders. The human rights group pointed out that the Israeli minister of transport, intelligence and atomic energy, Yisrael Katz, had called on Israel to engage in ‘targeted civil eliminations’ of BDS leaders.