WASHINGTON - Senator Bernie Sanders met on Wednesday with Issa Amro, a leading Palestinian activist from the West Bank, who is facing trial in Israel and was also recently arrested by the Palestinian Authority for criticizing its leadership.
The meeting at Sanders' office in Washington focused on "discussing the current situation on the ground and what can be done to change it," said Amro, who spoke with Haaretz on Thursday.
Amro met with a number of members of Congress, all of whom signed a letter earlier this year calling on the State Department to examine his trial, which he claims is political persecution aimed to silence his activism.
Sanders was one of four Senators who signed the letter. "I thanked him and all the lawmakers who supported me," Amro explained. At the time, the State Department replied that it was indeed monitoring Amro's court case, but did not provide any specific conclusions.
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Meeting Sanders was especially important for Amro. He called the Vermont Senator and former Presidential candidate "my hero."
"I said to him that if I was an American, I would campaign for him to win the presidency. I was following him during the election and was especially impressed by how he was talking to the younger generation," Amro said.
Amro felt that Sanders' message to young Americans was somewhat similar to his own educational work with Palestinian youth in the Hebron area.
"I talked to him about the situation in Hebron - how the Israeli government is expanding the settlements and the segregation policy, and killing any possibility for a future Palestinian state. I told all the members of Congress I met that the American Congress should act against settlement expansion," said Amro.
He added that he encouraged Sanders and other lawmakers to come visit the West Bank, and more specifically the city of Hebron, in order to "talk to Palestinians and and see it with their own eyes."
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.
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.
Earlier this month, Amro was arrested by the Palestinian Authority's security forces after accusing the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank of making political arrests. During his visit to Washington, however, Amro met with the Palestinians' top diplomatic representative in the United States, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, and tweeted a picture of himself shaking hands with Zomlot in his office.