"I Want American Workers to Be United to Make the Occupation Costly, to Make the Israeli Apartheid Costly."

Palestinian activist Issa Amro calls on U.S. workers to fight for for justice and an end to the occupation.

Maximillian Alvarez

Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro speaks during an interview in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank, on June 27, 2021. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

Read the full transcript below.

Every day, the Palestinian civilian death toll is rising dramatically as Israel continues its genocidal bombing and ground invasion of Gaza and settler and military violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank intensifies. 

It’s a closure, it’s a curfew, in many places in the West Bank,” says Issa Amro. It’s not normal life these days. Soldiers are everywhere, settlers are everywhere, people are afraid to leave their homes, they don’t go to work, they don’t go to school, they don’t go to universities.” 

After losing touch with Issa during the day because he was escaping from settlers who were chasing him in Hebron, we managed to reconnect over the phone and record a nine minute conversation about the hell working people in Palestine are going through right now and what their fellow workers in the United States and Canada can do to stop the slaughter. Issa is a Palestinian human rights defender living in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. He is the co-founder and former coordinator of the grassroots group Youth Against Settlements. Days prior to this recording, Issa was evicted from his home in Hebron and tortured by Israeli troops.

A note about the audio: After hours of silence and failed phone calls, Issa contacted Max to inform him that he was temporarily safe and had 10 minutes to speak over the phone. Dropping everything, Max quickly opened his computer, began a QuickTime recording, and called Issa on speakerphone. We apologize for the sub-par audio quality.

Transcript

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Maximillian Alvarez: This is Maximillian Alvarez, editor-in-chief of The Real News Network, host of the podcast Working People. I’m sitting here in Baltimore on Thursday, Nov. 2. It’s about 2:13 PM and I’m currently waiting to see if I can get on the phone with Issa Amro, a Palestinian man and human rights activist living in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. I don’t know if we’ll be able to connect with Issa, but I’m sitting here waiting and hoping, and hopefully the next thing you hear is our conversation.

Issa Amro: Hi.

Maximillian Alvarez: Hi, Issa?

Issa Amro: Yes, it’s Issa.

Maximillian Alvarez: Hi. Thank you so much. I’m so sorry to bother you at this time. I know you only have 10 minutes, so I am recording and I’ll let you go in 10 minutes from now.

Issa Amro: Okay, good. Thank you.

Maximillian Alvarez: Can you just start by introducing yourself, tell people who you are, where you are, and what is happening around you right now?

Issa Amro: I’m a Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, and I’m Issa Amro. I am an activist organizing non-violent activities [for] 20 years. Now, I am in my friend’s house because the Israeli military evicted me from my house on Oct. 20, and I was attacked and beaten and tortured on Oct. 7 by Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers in armed uniforms.

Maximillian Alvarez: Did you say you were abducted and tortured?

Issa Amro: Yes, to Oct. 7, Israeli settlers in army uniforms and Israeli soldiers kidnapped me from my house, the yard, and they handcuffed me, blindfolded my eyes, tied my mouth, and beat me, beat me, beat me, and I was put in very bad condition, spitting on me, taking selfies with me, celebrating, beating me up, and cursing and insulting me all for 10 hours. And that was so painful, to be tied with plastic cuffs for 10 hours continuously. Until now, I have back problems and back pain, and I have hand issues. I’m suffering from that. I’m not able to move my fingers well and I don’t feel well after the blood was not reaching my fingers for 10 hours. That was Oct. 7. Then settlers and soldiers attacked my house many times, raided my house, damaged my yard at the time, and then they evicted me by force from my house.

Maximillian Alvarez: My God, I’m so incredibly sorry this is happening, Issa. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now, and we are sending all of our love and solidarity to you and to everyone over there in Palestine. We are going to do everything we can to stop this. Can you just tell people here in the United States and Canada about what has been going on in the West Bank? What has been going on in Gaza since Oct. 7, since you were kidnapped?

Issa Amro: I can say that it’s not only me. Many, many, many Palestinians were beaten, attacked, killed in the last four weeks. Around 130 Palestinians were killed in West Bank by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians being tortured, beaten, and there is a TikTok challenge between Israeli soldiers who beats up Palestinians more. And settlers attacked Palestinian communities. [Many have] left their communities. So, many, many families left their houses, their villages. It’s a closure, it’s a curfew in many places in the West Bank. So it’s not normal life these days. Soldiers are everywhere, settlers are everywhere. People are afraid to leave their homes. They don’t go to work, they don’t go to school, they don’t go to universities. People [are] protesting in the street, angry about what’s going on in Gaza. So it’s not a normal life.

Maximillian Alvarez: Can you say more about that? Because on our show, we talked to workers around the United States, people who go to work for a living, and they’re listening to this right now. Can you talk about life for working Palestinians under Israeli occupation before Oct. 7?

Issa Amro: Yeah, Palestinian workers, they are really used for cheap labor. They are dehumanized. If anybody says anything politically that the Israeli military disagrees with, they don’t give them work permits. They barely earn a living. They have to go to the checkpoint, go to work around 3:00 AM to reach their work at 7:00 AM. Imagine that — you wake up in [the] very early morning to go to work. It’s not a life for the workers. Cheap labor without rights, without dignity, without being able to even confront or challenge the Israeli military or the Israeli apartheid system. Because it’s the conditions of the Palestinian workers. The Israeli workers, they have different conditions — with welfare, with insurance, with very good salaries. It’s the opposite of Palestinian workers.

Maximillian Alvarez: And Issa, I know I only have you for another two minutes, so I just wanted to ask, if you could talk directly to workers here in the United States, what would you tell them to do? What do you want to say to them before we let you go?

Issa Amro: I tell the American people that Palestinians, they love you. They respect you. They use you as an idol for freedom and justice and equality. They want them to see us as human beings who deserve freedom, justice, and equality, not animals who are seeking shelter and food. I want American workers to be united to make the occupation costly, to make the Israeli apartheid costly.

As Martin Luther King said, I have a dream. We, the Palestinians, we have dreams to be free, and that will not happen without American support to us as Palestinians, especially the American workers, to pressure the American administration to stop its blind support to Israel. Israel is using their tax money to embolden the occupation and make our life harder and harder. So the American administration is really participating in making our lives harder, instead of making it easier. So the workers can change that, they can be creative to make it costly with concrete, non-violent actions from them to their government and to anybody who is trying to offend other people. Thank you very much.

Maximillian Alvarez: Issa, thank you. Please stay safe.

Issa Amro: Okay. Thank you.

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Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InThe​se​Times​.com. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.

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