Military court sends leading Palestinian nonviolent activist to prison

Munther Amirah is the chairman of the Palestinian Popular Committees in the West Bank. The terms of his sentence will make it impossible for him to continue organizing non-violent protests against the occupation.

By Yael Marom

Israeli forces arrest Munther Amira during a demonstration in support of Nariman and Ahed Tamimi. Bethlehem, West Bank, December 27, 2017.
Israeli forces arrest Munther Amira during a demonstration in support of Nariman and Ahed Tamimi. Bethlehem, West Bank, December 27, 2017.

An Israeli military court sentenced Munther Amirah, one of the leading figures in the Palestinian popular struggle in the West Bank, to six months in prison on Wednesday. Amira was arrested in Bethlehem on December 27, 2017, during a demonstration against Trump’s declaration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and in support of Ahed Tamimi.

Like Tamimi, Amirah was denied bail and has been imprisoned since his arrest. He was indicted on over 10 counts of participating in illegal protests, throwing stones, and throwing a “flammable object” — a tear gas canister fired at him by Israeli soldiers — back at the soldiers. A plea bargain left him only with charges for organizing unauthorized marches and disturbing the peace.

Amirah is the chairman of the Palestinian Popular Committees in the West Bank and has organized countless nonviolent protests against the occupation alongside many other activists.

The terms of his sentence, however, will make it difficult for him to continue his role as a non-violent organizer even after he his released from prison.

In addition to prison time, the military court gave Amirah a three-month suspended sentence for participating in an illegal demonstration, and another six-month suspended sentence for unspecified violent crimes. His attorney, Gaby Lasky, said that as a person who does not believe in violence, Amirah is not worried about his suspended sentences, although it is unlikely he will be able to participate in demonstrations.

“This is Israel’s way of preventing a figure like Munther from leading protests, which is the most prominent form of nonviolent struggle in the occupied territories,” Lasky said. “Israel is able to fight back against nonviolent struggle in one way only — by marking, jailing, and removing its leaders from the demonstrations.”

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.