Top Senators, Including Bernie Sanders, Urge Tillerson to Monitor Case of Palestinian Activist Indicted by IDF

State Department says U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and U.S. General Consulate in Jerusalem have been in touch with the activist, Issa Amro

File photo: Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron.
File photo: Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron. Olivier Fitoussi

WASHINGTON - Four U.S. Senators, including Bernie Sanders, urged U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to monitor the case of Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian activist from Hebron who was indicted by Israeli army prosecutors for a range of offenses, most of which occurred three years ago.

Amro claims the charges against him are motivated by his political activism and that the Israeli police closed the cases being brought against him by the military court system in the West Bank years ago. 

His case was mentioned in the State Department's 2016 human rights report, in the section covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The four Senators – Bernie Sanders, an Independant from Vermont, Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, Patrick Lehay, a Democrat from Vermont and Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois – urged Tillerson in a letter in May to follow the case. Their letter was first reported by Jewish Insider on Wednedsay. A different letter advocating for Amro and raising concern about his trial was released earlier this year by a group of more than thirty Democratic members of Congress. 

Haaretz has learned that the State Department responded to the letter by saying that Amro's case is indeed being monitored and that both the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. General Consulate in Jerusalem have been in touch with Amro and with relevant authorities. The level of involvement by members of Congress in Amro's case is unusual and signals a growing concern within the Democratic party over some Israeli policies in the West Bank. 

The indictment against Amro includes spitting at a settler, obstructing soldiers and insulting them, and entering closed military zones. Most of the charges involve alleged offenses committed in 2013. The two charges dropped by the police — including the obstruction charge — were closed because they were deemed not in the public interest.