Don’t let anyone tell you that one person can’t make a difference!
Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) is the embodiment of a one woman tidal wave washing over Congress.
For the past four years, she’s been raising the issue of the persistent and gross human rights violations perpetrated on Palestinian children by the Israeli military.
The arrest and detention of Palestinian children in Israeli jails has been well-documented by human rights organizations. Israel is the only country in the world that prosecutes children in military court, a stark example of its double standard and apartheid system of justice.
Children are taken from their beds and arrested in the middle of the night; they’re arrested on their way to school with their backpacks yanked from their shoulders; and they’re even pulled out of the arms of their teachers in classrooms. All of this has been documented and reported, thanks to Amnesty International and other Human Rights groups, but it hasn’t stopped Israel. An estimated 500-700 children are arrested, detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system each year, according to Defense of Children International – Palestine.
UNICEF’s 2013 report — Children in Israeli Military Detention, while somewhat dated still remains one of the most thorough reviews of the pattern and practice Israel employs against Palestinian children in detention.
No Way To Treat a Child — The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to challenge and end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. It is a joint project of Defense for Children International – Palestine and American Friends Service Committee.
And we even have the personal interviews of 24 Palestinian child prisoners held in Israeli jails compiled in a 2016 book “Dreaming of Freedom“, edited by Norma Hashim and translated by Yousef Aljamal. I delivered a copy of the book to Rep. McCollum in January 2018 as a ‘thank you’ for her unwavering support and advocacy on behalf of Palestinian child prisoners.
The United States has a big stick it could use to bring pressure to bear on Israel —- it’s annual $3.8 billion appropriation to the Israeli military. Representative McCollum doesn’t believe that U.S. taxpayers want their dollars supporting gross human rights violations of children.
In 2015, she wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State John Kerry which 19 of her Democratic colleagues signed, asking him to make this issue a top priority. But nothing came of it.
The following year she wrote a letter to President Obama which 20 of her colleagues signed, asking him to appoint a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth to collect “vital information necessary to actively promote human rights.” But again nothing happened.
So in 2017, she drafted a bill, H.R.4391, to prohibit any funds from being used by Israel to “support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” It also required the Department of State either to certify that funds were not used in this manner or report how Israel expended them to ill-treat Palestinian children.
In July 2018, Rep. McCollum explained why H.R. 4391 was necessary.
When it didn’t pass in the 2017-2018 session, Representative McCollum strengthened the bill and reintroduced it on April 30, 2019 where it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Check out the committee membership here, and if your representative is listed, consider calling and writing and telling him/her why you think H.R. 2407 is important and should have a hearing.
On May 1, her office issued a press release explaining the bill.
The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, H.R. 2407 — amends a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act known as the “Leahy Law” to prohibit funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.
The bill also establishes the “Human Rights Monitoring and Palestinian Child Victims of Israeli Military Detention Fund,” authorizing $19 million annually for non-governmental organization (NGO) monitoring of human rights abuses associated with Israel’s military detention of children. The Fund also authorizes qualified NGOs to provide physical, psychological, and emotional treatment and support for Palestinian child victims of Israeli military detention, abuse, and torture.
The full text of the bill can be found here. Additional resources can be found here.
“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”
More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained, abused, and prosecuted by Israeli security forces in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem have repeatedly documented that children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation. Just weeks ago, CNN broadcast video showing armed Israeli soldiers entering a primary school in Hebron to arrest a 9-year-old who was then “frog-marched away and taken to an army vehicle.”
“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.
“I strongly believe there is a growing consensus among the American people that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination. It is time to stand with Palestinians, Americans, Israelis, and people around the world to reject the destructive, dehumanizing, and anti-peace policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump.”
McCollum is front in center on one of the most important human rights issues facing our country —- how we treat children. I’m going to have her back, and help her as much as I can. Please write your member of Congress and ask him or her to cosponsor H.R. 2407.