Why a leading Palestinian activist doesn’t care about a Palestinian state


 "The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war."
    Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha'aretz, 19 March 1972.

In Washington, a generation of diplomats, politicos and wonks see the prospect of peace between Israelis and Palestinians entirely in the context of the "two-state solution," a scenario in which an independent Palestinian state emerges alongside Israel. It has been an article of faith for successive American administrations, even the current oneBut on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, the two-state solution is a mirage.

The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu includes a number of politicians who emphatically reject the notion of an independent Palestine. Israeli settlers continue to expand across the West Bank, no matter the timid censure of the international community. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finds himself tethered to a process that has no real future, while his support dwindles among the Palestinian public.

"We are not in the time to talk about solutions," said Issa Amro, a leading Palestinian activist who spoke to Today's WorldView while on a visit to Washington this week. "We are in the time to protect ourselves from settlements, from settler violence, from attacks on our cities and villages."

Amro, 38, has risen to prominence as a nonviolent dissident. Amro's organization, Youth Against Settlements, stages civil disobedience actions and monitors human rights violations in the West Bank. He comes from a generation of Palestinians who have grown up in the era that followed the 1993 Oslo peace accords and yet see no end to the military occupation that has defined their lives. That's perhaps especially true in the West Bank city of Hebron, Amro's hometown, where civic life is dominated by Israeli settlements.

"It's every day — house demolitions, land confiscation, building more and more settlements," he said. "If you tell a Palestinian, 'two-state' or 'one-state,' he'll say 'What are you talking about? They are burning my house, they are arresting my children.'"

For his pains, Amro has been detained numerous times by the Israeli military while staging nonviolent protests. This summer, he appeared in an Israeli military court on a series of charges mostly dating back more than three years, including supposedly spitting at a settler and "obstructing" soldiers. The trial is set to resume later this month.

"The right-wing government is pushing the Israeli military to take me down for being an activist who is opposing the settlement project in my own city peacefully," said Amro, who refers to the segregation enforced in Hebron as open "apartheid."

"If he is convicted, we will consider Issa Amro a prisoner of conscience," a spokeswoman from Amnesty International told Israeli media earlier this year, saying that the charges against Amro "don't stand up to scrutiny."

Adding to the chorus are a number of U.S. senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who penned a letter in August to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising concerns about Amro's trial and urging the State Department to keep tabs on it. Amro called on Sanders while in Washington. Israeli military courts, though, have a 99 percent conviction rate in cases such as this.

Amro, who was born in Hebron and turned to activism as a college student, is one of the more well-known dissidents in the West Bank. He liaises with left-wing Jewish organizations, both in Israel and overseas, while his work has been highlighted by U.N. rapporteurs and defended by European diplomats.

Amro sees the struggle before him in stark and simple terms. He is not invested in notions of Palestinian statehood or independence, but in winning for the close to 5 million Palestinians living under occupation the same basic freedoms afforded to Israelis.

"We want Israelis to talk about our rights as equal human beings. But we see that they only talk about themselves and they just ignore this," he said. "Nobody cares about me waiting at a checkpoint for three hours for no reason. Nobody cares about a child being detained by Israeli occupation forces."

The repeated refrain from Netanyahu and other Israeli officials is that the main obstacle to peace is Palestinian violence. But that argument falls short with people like Amro, whose tactics include sit-ins and the monitoring of settlers and Israeli security forces with video cameras. "They see us as the main enemy," he told me. "They don't know how to deal with nonviolence."
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Jerusalem is the capital. Palestine, currently under occupation, is located on the East coast of the Mediterranean Sea, West of Jordan and to the south of Lebanon. The territory of Palestine covers around 10,435 square miles.

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