By J. Taylor Basker
Long time peace activist, Frank Romano, was released from prison in Jerusalem last year, where he was held on two felony charges: one interfering with Israeli government activity, and another for pushing a policeman. In prison he suffered physical as well as psychological injuries. He was expelled from Israel/Palestine and forbidden to return for ten years. Upon his return home he completed the fifth edition of his best-selling book, Love and Terror in the Middle East, adding a new chapter (Epilogue 1) to describe this experience. He held a book signing at Barnes & Nobles in Union Square and will conduct more around the country. He stays in the West Village when in New York City and has presented many events here in the past years.
He was first arrested while defending the endangered Bedouin Village, Khan al Amer, where I visited last summer. Israel was planning to destroy it in order to expand an illegal settlement adjacent to it. He stood blocking the bulldozers in Sept. 2018 and was arrested. Many Israeli peace activists came to his aid, including the famous activist lawyer, Gaby Lasky, whose brilliant defense got him freed by the Israeli judge, who was furious at the military’s legal violations trying to deport him before his trial. For over fifteen years he led non-violent peace marches in Jerusalem, at checkpoints (such as the notorious Qalandiya), in cities like Tel Aviv and Hebron and refugee camps such as Jenin. He advocates peace and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. He also conducts events here in the US including panels at the Left Forum. He has many Israeli friends who oppose the occupation and participate with him, including ex-IDF soldiers from the group “Breaking the Silence,” as well as Palestinians. His book is riveting. Romano decided to go underground in Ramallah after his release when he was told to leave the country. At the time, Romano was also helping Palestine prepare a brief for the International Criminal Court, accusing Israel of human rights violations. He wanted to continue working with them. However, after a few months he was set up for arrest by the IDF. Someone posing as the famous journalist Olivier Pironet of Le Monde, offered Romano an interview at Khan al Amer, had him cross the highway to the settlement side, and when he got into the car he was arrested, jailed, tortured and expelled. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Israeli peace activist working with the Bedouins, later told Romano it was not Pironet, but an imposter, which infuriated Le Monde.
Romano is an American, from Oregon, with dual US-French citizenship. An international lawyer, he has taught law, economics and philosophy for over twenty years in a university in Paris. He is passionately dedicated to Palestinian rights. After his expulsion from Israel and Palestine he moved to Lebanon where he worked in Palestinian refugee camps. Fortunately, he was in France when the explosions occurred last month, since the cafes he often frequents were caught in the fires. He has the fearless guts of the frontiersmen from the American West, dedicated to a vision of peace in the Middle East. He wants a genuine peace, not the fake Trump peace deal with the UAE and Bahrain—which is not peace between Israel & Palestine, but just a chance for these Arab countries to obtain financial benefits and more weapons to keep their repressive regimes in power, help support war in Yemen and a possible one with Iran.
His name, Romano, is an ancient Jewish family name that has a street in Hebron named after it. In the face of the murders of his activist friends in Israel and Palestine, and the Paris and Nice massacres, he continues to believe in the possibility of a durable peace in the Middle East and is willing to put his life on the line for it. He plans to picket the Israeli Consulate, 800 2nd Ave. off 43rd Street on the morning of Friday, Nov. 13 from 9-11 AM, in case anyone wants to join. Since the “Peace Deal,” Israel has been relentlessly bombing Gaza.