Democratic lawmakers want US to pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinian activist

(JTA) — 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. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. — urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure Israel to drop charges against Issa Amro.

Amro, who advocates non-violent resistance against Israel’s occupation 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 Haaretz. 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.

“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.

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 U.N. 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 U.N., Nikki Haley,” Kontorovich told Jewish Insider.

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