Congressional bill would prevent US funding for Israel’s detention of Palestinian children

Nov 14, 2017

Betty McCollum at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2014. (Larry French)

(JTA) — A Minnesota congresswoman has introduced a bill that seeks to prevent the United States from funding Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children.

The legislation introduced Tuesday by Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat, has at least nine co-sponsors. It would require the secretary of state to certify annually that U.S. assistance to Israel has not been used in the previous year to militarily detain, interrogate or abuse Palestinian children.

“The purpose of this act is to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian children and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds shall not be used to support the military detention of Palestinian children,” the bill reads.

Among the bill’s backers are the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

McCollum said the bill “highlights Israel’s system of military detention of Palestinian children” and ensures the United States does not support human rights violations.

“Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation,” she said on her website.

A number of progressive and religious organizations have endorsed the legislation, including Churches for Middle East Peace and Jewish Voices for Peace. The latter and some of the other supporting groups back the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“Jewish tradition teaches that each and every single person has inherent dignity and worth and must be treated accordingly,” JVP said in a statement. “This legislation recognizes and acts upon the inherent dignity and worth of Palestinian children and sends the message that the United States is committed to a future with freedom, safety, and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Israel processes Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens through a military court system. A 2017 report by the Military Court Watch nonprofit that monitored the treatment of more than 450 minors in Israeli military detention between 2013 and 2016 found that last year, 60 percent of the minors arrested reported experiencing physical violence at the hands of their detainers and 43 percent reported verbal violence.

Just 5 percent were allowed to see their parents during interrogation, and 10 percent were allowed to see a lawyer.

However, the children were treated more leniently than in 2013.

In response to the report, the Israeli army said it has dealt in recent years with a growing phenomenon of minors involved in West Bank offenses, including security offenses, and takes their age into consideration when enforcing the law.