Democrats want US to pressure Israel over treatment of Palestinian activist

Four Democratic lawmakers are circulating a letter calling for the United States to urge Israel to reconsider charges against a prominent Palestinian activist.

The letter — which is being circulated this week by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who serves as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, as well as Reps. Marc Pocan of Wisconsin, Betty McCollum, from Minnesota, and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon — urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure Israel to drop charges against Issa Amro.

Amro, who advocates non-violent resistance against Israeli control of the West Bank and co-founded the group Youth Against Settlements, was indicted last year by an Israeli military court on a number of charges, including entering closed military zones and obstructing soldiers, according to the Haaretz daily.

The congressional letter cites criticism of the indictment by Amnesty International, which called the charges “baseless,” and the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, unsuccessful candidate to run the Democratic National Committee, speaks during the general session of the DNC winter meeting in Atlanta, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

“As the United States seeks to assist in brokering a peace agreement between both sides, we should encourage our steadfast ally in the region to uphold our shared values and respect activists like Issa Amro: freedom of expression must be a foundation for a just and lasting peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people,” reads the letter, posted online by the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum. (US Congress/Wikimedia/public domain/Sillyputty87)

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University who opposes boycotts of Israel and the settlements, criticized the letter.

“The letter takes as holy writ the statements of the UN Human Rights Council, whose obsessive, biased and untruthful campaign against Israel is well-known, and has recently been denounced by America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley,” Kontorovich told Jewish Insider.

Law professor Eugene Kontorovich (photo credit: courtesy)

Kontorovich also said that the conviction rates of Israeli courts are in line with courts in other countries and are models of fairness.

The letter “tries to delegitimize the Israeli court system by pointing out it has a 99% conviction rate – the same, as it happens, as Japan’s, and just a bit higher than the federal rate of 93%,” he said. “Israel’s military courts are international models of fairness. Just as Israel does not seek to politicize the treatment of US security detainees, US congressmen should not meddle in this matter.”


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