A first-of-its-kind bill introduced this week focusing on the rights of Palestinian children could pave the way for greater transparency and accountability in America’s dealings with Israel.
Members of Congress on Tuesday introduced a bill requiring the U.S. Secretary of State to certify that funds bound for Israel “do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” The proposed legislation, put forward by Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum, had ten co-sponsors when it was announced.
Although that number may seem small, especially when measured against the 268 current co-sponsors of the so-called Israel Anti-Boycott Act, the “Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act” is further evidence that the Palestinian rights movement in the U.S. is gaining unprecedented ground.
“As the first-ever bill on Palestinian human rights introduced in Congress, we see [this] as a direct challenge to the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces,” said Brad Parker, an attorney with Defense for Children International-Palestine, which has been working to support McCollum and other members of Congress through its No Way to Treat a Child campaign.
According to a statement issued yesterday by DCI-Palestine, in the West Bank alone, some 10,000 Palestinian children — defined as those between the ages of 12 and 17 — have been “subject to arrest, detention, interrogation, and/or imprisonment under the jurisdiction of Israeli military courts since 2000.” And during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, 535 Palestinian children were killed “as a direct result of Israeli attacks,” according to a report posted on the organization’s website.
That all of this has done little to moderate Congressional exuberance over Israel’s policies is no secret. But behind the scenes, a group of activists has been patiently engaging with members willing to question the status quo on Israel. McCollum is one of those members.
Her bill caps a three-year advocacy campaign, spearheaded by DCI-Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee, to expose Israeli abuses against Palestinian children. Although the proposed legislation stands little chance of passing into law, Jennifer Bing, program director of AFSC’s Palestine Israel Program, says the effort behind it has helped build awareness on Capitol Hill about Palestinian rights.
“Three years ago, when we started this campaign with DCI-Palestine, few people in Congress knew about the systematic detention of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system,” says Bing. “Today we have ten champions in Congress who are speaking up for the rights of Palestinian children and asking for accountability. We expect more to join them and for the issue...Read More