Tag Archives: Betty McCollum

Meeting with Representative Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

On Monday I’m meeting with my Congresswoman from New Mexico, Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM). This is quite an honor, and I’m especially thankful to be meeting her now because of her very busy schedule campaigning for Governor.

In April 2014, just a few months before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza, Representative Lujan-Grisham met with friends of mine from Gaza who were on a book tour in the US at the time.  Israel killed Refaat’s brother in its military assault soon after our meeting.

RefaatandRawan

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

Representative Lujan-Grisham and her staff have always been accessible, and I appreciate that because I’ve heard that some other members of Congress are not so easy to connect with, especially on the issue that is important to me: Israel-Palestine.

I have three simple “asks” when I meet with her on Monday.

#1    Please cosponsor Rep. Betty McCollum’s H.R. 4391 (Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act).

#2    Please support UNRWA and pushback against H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act).

#3    Please do not support any future Anti-BDS legislation if it comes to her desk as Governor.

McCollum’s H.R. 4391 addresses a serious human rights problem. 

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15.

In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys. The United States Department of State and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have also raised serious concerns about the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military custody.

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

In December 2017, Rep. McCollum wrote in The Nation:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has persisted for decades, including 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands. To help sustain the occupation, Israel’s military and police forces have arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned thousands of Palestinian children, mostly for throwing stones. Israel’s military court and detention system is unique in the world in its systematic incarceration of children, in this case Palestinian children. It is a system that denies basic due-process rights and is cruel, inhumane, and degrading.

It should not require tremendous moral courage to stand up for the human rights of children. Sadly, the exception appears to be when those children are Palestinian. I firmly believe that Palestinian children deserve to be treated with the same humanity, dignity, and human rights as any child anywhere, including children in the United States or Israel.

For Israel, this means honoring its international commitments and ending the widespread and systematic cruel and inhumane treatment of Palestinian children. For the United States, it means prohibiting American funds from being used to support Israel’s abusive military detention of children and requiring the State Department to certify Israel’s compliance.

Rep. McCollum’s entire op-ed is here.  And she’s not alone in recognizing the damaging impacts that Israel’s military detention has on Palestinian children.

Representative McCollum provided a short explanation of H.R. 4391 in July 2018 on the Floor of the House.  See here.  As of September 2018, there are 29 cosponsors to H.R. 4391. I hope Rep. Lujan-Grisham will be #30.

UNRWA must be supported!

Trump’s assault on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is despicable and short-sighted. I wrote earlier about Trump’s decision to stop funding UNRWA here.  The New York Times’ Editorial Board agrees, noting that the “Trump administration’s decision to eliminate funding for the United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees is shortsighted.”

The Guardian noted that the impact [of Trump’s decision] will potentially be serious – and rapid – for the millions who rely on the agency. “Such a decision aims at closing schools, clinics, hospitals and starving people,” said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator.

He said any vacuum in services could be exploited by extremists, and said the Palestinian Authority has been helping UNRWA fund camps in Syria and Lebanon for several years.

That spending, he said, was “in order not to allow terrorist organisations such as Isis to recruit our people there because of their needs. Now, with this cut, what does this mean? … Those elements that want to achieve peace based on a peaceful, two state solution, are being destroyed”.

I hope Representative Lujan-Grisham will voice her support for UNRWA by joining with her colleagues in the House who are pushing back against the Administration’s decision, and also oppose H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act) which, like many bills in Congress, is cynically misnamed. H.R. 6451 purports to change the internationally-recognized definition of Palestinian refugee in order to magically erase millions of people who are refugees under international law and entitled to return to their homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed in 1948.

I’m also going to ask her to support my #Gaza5K campaign to raise funds for UNRWA to provide critical mental health services to Palestinians in Gaza.  Tax deductible donations can be made online here.

Anti-BDS Legislation in the States is Bad News!

Twenty-five states have passed some form of anti-BDS legislation. New Mexico has not and I’m going to ask Rep. Lujan-Grisham to pledge that she will oppose any attempts to pass similar legislation when she is Governor.

These bills don’t directly prevent Americans from boycotting Israel, but they are just as sinister because they usually include one of the following three components:

1)      Blacklists. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws require the creation of blacklists of activists, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that are engaged in boycotts of Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”). It’s 21st century McCarthyism.

2)      Prohibition on government contracts. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws aim to punish individuals, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that support BDS by prohibiting the state or local government from entering into contracts with them. So, for example, under some anti-BDS bills, the United Church of Christ or the Presbyterian Church (USA) could be prohibited from contracting with the state to run social services like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or youth programs because of actions they have taken in support of BDS.

3)      Pension fund divestment. Many of the anti-BDS bills/laws require state pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”).

Esther Koontz Kansas teacher

Esther Koontz, Kansas teacher, credit to ACLU

These anti-BDS bills/laws are unconstitutional. The ACLU is challenging the Kansas anti-BDS law in federal court on behalf of a teacher who was denied employment when she refused to certify that she would not boycott Israel. I wrote about it here.

I hope Lujan-Grisham agrees that New Mexico must not pass one of these anti-BDS bills.

 

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Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

The Artful Dodge in Politics

Betty McCollum

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)

A brave Congresswoman from Minnesota (Betty McCollum) has introduced a bill to end the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.  I wrote about H.R. 4391 here.

In January 2018, I delivered copies of a book (Dreaming of Freedom) about Palestinian children in Israel’s military detention to Representative McCollum and each member of Congress who has cosponsored her legislation. I also gave a copy to my Congresswoman, though she hasn’t cosponsored H.R. 4391. I asked her to sign on.  (I also gave copies to my two U.S. Senators with a cover letter but have never received a response.)

dreaming-of-freedom

I’m pleased that two additional members of Congress have signed on to the H.R. 4391. Beyer, Donald [D-VA8] (joined Jan 16, 2018) and Johnson, Henry “Hank” [D-GA4] (joined Jan 22, 2018).

Yesterday, I received Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s response. She didn’t acknowledge the book, and the letter is the most artful dodge I’ve received in many months. She is going to “monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.” This letter should win an award for the most polite, congenial, non-answer answer in Congressional history. Her staff has learned their trade-craft well.

March 15, 2018

Dear Ms. Lucero,
Thank you for contacting me with your views on the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act (H.R. 4391). The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is highly complex and there are many strong opinions on both sides, so I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

     I am troubled by reports that approximately 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted since 2000, and that these children have been subject to abusive conditions. H.R. 4391 would prohibit U.S. assistance to Israel from being used to support the military detention, interrogation, and mistreatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law. Specifically, the bill would require the Secretary of State to certify that American funds provided to Israel are not used to support these practices.

It is important for the United States to promote human rights across the globe. I am committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for successful peace negotiations. Having travelled to this region, I understand how important it is to work toward a long-term plan that will ensure sustained peace and stability. I will keep your thoughts in mind, and will monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.

It is my honor to serve the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico. Your thoughts and comments on this and other issues are important to my work in Congress. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with me. I encourage you to visit my website, www.lujangrisham.house.gov, where you can find updates on my work in Congress and sign up for my e-newsletter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you in any way.

Sincerely,

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Member of Congress

Rep. Lujan-Grisham is leaving her Congressional seat to run for Governor of New Mexico. I suspect her talented staff-writers will be following her to Santa Fe if she succeeds.  New Mexicans can expect more artful dodging.

I hope the next Congressperson representing New Mexico’s CD-1 will hire and train staff-writers to provide direct tough answers to constituents’ questions. Constituents deserve respect and deserve to know (Yes or No) how their elected representatives feel about the issues.

Change Things

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Palestinian child prisoners – H.R. 4391

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

A brave Congresswoman from Minnesota (Betty McCollum) recently introduced a bill to end the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.  H.R. 4391

GovTrack predicts it has less than a 5% chance of passing. So why would she subject herself to the inevitable vitriol from Zionists and ardent supporters of Israel with those odds?  Because real leaders don’t do what’s expedient, they do what’s right.

 

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?

Expediency asks the question – is it politic?

Vanity asks the question – is it popular?

But conscience asks the question – is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Twelve other members of Congress acting from a place of conscience have cosponsored the bill as of this date. I’m going to ask my Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham to sign on.

Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Carson, André [D-IN7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Conyers, John [D-MI13] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Davis, Danny [D-IL7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
DeFazio, Peter [D-OR4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Grijalva, Raúl [D-AZ3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Gutiérrez, Luis [D-IL4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pingree, Chellie [D-ME1] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pocan, Mark [D-WI2] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA7] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Johnson, Eddie [D-TX30] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Khanna, Ro [D-CA17] (joined Nov 15, 2017)

In a world where the Rights of the Child should not be controversial, and protecting those rights should be as easy as protecting Grandma’s apple pie, the U.S. Congress will be avoiding H.R. 4391 like a hot potato.

The bill is short and reads like a homework assignment in human rights.  Share it with your member of Congress and ask where they fall on Martin Luther King, Jr’s spectrum. Are they a coward or a person of conscience?

A BILL

To require the Secretary of State to certify that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.

Findings

Congress finds the following:(1) Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 3, 1991, which states—

(A) in article 37(a), that no child shall be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(B) in article 37(b), that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(C) in article 37(c), that every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age; and

(D) in article 37(d), that [e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

(2) In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, there are two separate legal systems, with Israeli military law imposed on Palestinians and Israeli civilian law applied to Israeli settlers.

(3) The Israeli military detains around 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year and prosecutes them before a military court system that lacks basic and fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards.

(4) Approximately 2,700,000 Palestinians live in the West Bank, of which around 47 percent are children under the age of 18, who live under military occupation, the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence by the Israeli military, and the threat of recruitment by armed groups.

(5) Since 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.

(6) Children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted in Israeli military courts. However, Israeli military forces detain children under the age of 12 and question them, for several hours, before releasing them to their families or to Palestinian authorities.

(7) Human Rights Watch documented, in a July 2015 report titled Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children, that such detentions also included the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15 years.

(8) The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) concluded, in a February 2013 report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention,that the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized through­out the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.

(9) The 2013 UNICEF report further determines that the Israeli system of military detention of Palestinian children profoundly deviates from international norms, stating that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.

(10) UNICEF also released reports in October 2013 and February 2015 noting that Israeli authorities have, since March 2013, issued new military orders and taken steps to reinforce existing military and police standard operating procedures relating to the detention of Palestinian children. However, the reports still found continued and persistent evidence of ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces.

(11) In 2013, the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (Annual Report) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.

(12) The 2013 Annual Report also stated that signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read, continued to be used as evidence against them in Israeli military courts.

(13) The 2016 Annual Report noted a significant increase in detentions of minors in 2016, and that Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew. It also highlighted the renewed use of administrative detention against Palestinians, including children, a practice in which a detainee may be held indefinitely, without charge or trial, by the order of a military commander or other government official.

(14) The nongovernmental organization Defense for Children International Palestine collected affidavits from 429 West Bank children who were detained between 2012 and 2015, and concluded that—

(A) three-quarters of the children endured physical violence following arrest;

(B) under Israeli military law, children do not have the right to a lawyer during interrogation;

(C) 97 percent of the children did not have a parent present during their interrogation;

(D) 84 percent of the children were not properly informed of their rights by Israeli police;

(E) interrogators used stress positions, threats of violence, and isolation to coerce confessions from detained children; and

(F) 66 children were held in pre-trial, pre-charge isolation for interrogation purposes for an average period of 13 days.

(15) Amendments to Israeli military law concerning the detention of Palestinian children have had little to no impact on the treatment of children during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest, when the majority of their ill-treatment occurs.

(16) In 2002, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reviewed Israel’s compliance with the Convention and expressed serious concern regarding allegations and complaints of inhuman or degrading practices and of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children during arrest, interrogation, and detention.

(17) In 2013, the Committee declared that Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces continue to be systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture and that Israel had fully disregarded the previous recommendations of the Committee to comply with international law.

Purpose

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.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that the detention and prosecution of Palestinian children in a military court system by the Government of Israel—

(1) violates international law and internationally recognized standards of human rights;
(2) is contrary to the values of the American people and the efforts of the United States to support equality, human rights, and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis;
(3) undermines efforts by the United States to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians; and
(4) should be terminated and replaced with a juvenile justice system in which Israeli authorities do not discriminate between the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children and that adheres to internationally recognized standards of human rights and obligations.

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the United States not to support the military detention of Palestinian children, a practice that results in widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian child detainees and is inconsistent with the values of the United States.

Prohibition on United States funds to support military detention of Palestinian children

(a) Prohibition

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds authorized to be appropriated for assistance to Israel may be used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law or to support the use against Palestinian children of any of the following practices:

(1) Torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
(2) Physical violence, including restraint in stress positions.
(3) Hooding, sensory deprivation, death threats, or other forms of psychological abuse.
(4) Incommunicado detention or solitary confinement.
(5) Administrative detention, as described in section 2(13).
(6) Denial of access to parents or legal counsel during interrogations.
(7) Confessions obtained by force or coercion.
(b) Certification

Not later than October 15, 2018, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate—

(1) a certification that none of the funds obligated or expended in the previous fiscal year for assistance to the Government of Israel have been used by such Government to support personnel, training, lethal materials, equipment, facilities, logistics, transportation or any other activity that supports or is associated with any of the activities prohibited under subsection (a); or
(2) if the Secretary cannot make such a certification, a report describing in detail the amount of such funds used by the Government of Israel in violation of subsection (a) and each activity supported by such funds.
(c) Additional matter in existing reports

The Secretary of State shall include, in each report required under section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n), a description of the nature and extent of detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli military forces or police in violation of international humanitarian law.

Olive harvest and children

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Dreaming of Freedom

dreaming-of-freedom

Dear Representative McCollum,

Thank you for sponsoring H.R. 4391, Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.  I want to help educate your colleagues in Congress about the serious abuses perpetrated upon Palestinian children by Israel, including military detention and torture.

Your legislation requires that the Secretary of State certify that American funds do not support Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children. This measure should be a no-brainer, but I know that the Israeli lobby will fight tooth and nail to obfuscate the issues.

I highly recommend a book on this subject “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak” (June 2016).  I hope the testimonies of Palestinian child prisoners who have been subjected to Israeli detention and torture will be part of the public record.

I will ask my member of Congress from New Mexico to cosponsor your bill. If there’s anything further I can do to help, please let me know.

Sincerely,

 

 

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