In Hebron, A City Hit Hard By Violence, A Palestinian Preaches Nonviolence : Parallels Many Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis have come from the West Bank city of Hebron. One activist is urging his fellow Palestinians to find other ways to oppose Israel.
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In Hebron, A City Hit Hard By Violence, A Palestinian Preaches Nonviolence

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In Hebron, A City Hit Hard By Violence, A Palestinian Preaches Nonviolence

In Hebron, A City Hit Hard By Violence, A Palestinian Preaches Nonviolence

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The West Bank city of Hebron has long been a flashpoint in the conflict between Israeli forces and settlers and Palestinians. And in the ongoing wave of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis, often by teenagers with knives, about a third have been in Hebron. That's according to the Israeli army. Reporter Daniel Estrin now brings us the story of one Palestinian's attempt to break the cycle of violence.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Downtown Hebron is where Palestinians and Israeli settlers are located within yards of each other, separated by Israeli barricades and soldiers. It's here where many of the attacks have occurred and where Palestinian activist Issa Amro is trying to preach nonviolence.

ISSA AMRO: I studied all the international history of nonviolence - Mandela to Martin Luther King to Gandhi - all of them.

ESTRIN: His activism started in 2002, when Israeli troops closed his college campus. He organized a sit-in in protest that he says pressured them to reopen classes.

AMRO: From that time, I'm working hard to educate more and more Palestinians about how to have a massive nonviolence revolution in Palestine and reach civil disobedience against the occupation.

ESTRIN: He runs a youth center out of his home, organizes English and Hebrew courses, and even started a kindergarten nearby, where an Israeli teaches Palestinian kids yoga. But nonviolence is hard to promote these days. When young Palestinians open their Facebook accounts, they see praise for their peers who attempted attacks and were killed by Israeli soldiers. Political factions put posters of them on the streets. A few months ago, Amro got an urgent phone call from a neighbor. He said he found an 18-year-old Palestinian girl in a doorway, holding a knife, poised to stab the first Israeli who walked by. Amro went over to talk the girl out of it, saying she would just get killed.

AMRO: You know, I told her, why do you want to kill yourself first, you know? She said, this is the way I defend, I resist. Settlers are getting wild because nobody is make them accountable. I told her, listen, you know, we can make them accountable. We can work hard, you know. Come, we give you lessons and training about, you know, nonviolence resistance.

ESTRIN: He says after more than an hour, he convinced her not to go through with it. And Palestinian security officials took her into custody. Amro wouldn't provide the girl's name, but the neighbor backed up the story. And though Amro considers it a success, it's a story he hesitated to share. It would not be viewed favorably by many Palestinians.

SAMIRA HALAYKA: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: Samira Halayka, a Palestinian parliamentarian in Hebron, says she likes Amro's group but thinks people should focus on stopping the occupation, not stopping attacks. She says the attacks are, quote, "national acts with broad Palestinian support," something also found in a recent poll. Amro faces other obstacles from the Israelis. They see him as provocative for often rallying protesters in areas closed to Palestinians. He argues with soldiers and settlers. The army recently arrested him as he held a discussion group that included a teenage boy the Israelis accused of having thrown a knife at soldiers. Amro and the boy were released, but the army added his home to a restricted area where only residents are allowed to enter, keeping his youth out. Israel says it's to prevent attacks. Amro says all these restrictions will do the opposite.

AMRO: If they continue like that, violence will be 10 times more than what is it now.

ESTRIN: Now that his youth center is closed off, his activities are on hold. Amro says reaching out to the youth has gotten even tougher. For NPR News, I'm Daniel Estrin, Hebron.

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