WASHINGTON, DC (April 16, 2021) Today, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced new legislation designed to hold Israel accountable for continued abuse against children held in Israeli military detention as well as the destruction of Palestinian property and annexation of land. The Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R.2590) would ensure that U.S. financial assistance provided to Israel is not used to support holding Palestinian children in Israeli military detention or prosecuting them in a military court. It also restricts aid use for the unlawful seizure, appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, as well as further Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.
“Detaining children in a military court system, destroying Palestinian property and expanding Israeli control over Palestinian lands should not be supported by U.S. taxpayers,” said Jennifer Bing, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Palestine Activism program. “Funding these abuses with our tax dollars is contrary to promoting human rights, dignity, and equality which are critical to achieving a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis.”
The bill’s introduction follows a similar piece of legislation introduced by Rep. McCollum last session, and comes after years of advocacy by the American Friends Service Committee, Defense for Children International - Palestine, and others. Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children each year in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian children have no right to a lawyer during interrogation, and frequently report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest. Since 2000, more than 10,000 Palestinian children have been subject to the Israeli military court system.
The bill’s advocates expressed particular concern that Palestinian children were subject to a different legal process than Israeli children. “Palestinian and Israeli children experience separate and unequal treatment under the law,” said Aura Kanegis, AFSC’s Director for Public Policy and Advocacy. “While Palestinian children are subjected to regular abuse in military detention, no Israeli children, including those who live in the West Bank, are tried in Israeli military courts.”
The inclusion of land annexation and property destruction in this version of the bill indicates growing support in Congress for upholding international law and protecting the rights of Palestinians. “This comes at a critically important time, as we continue to see the devastating destruction of Palestinian homes and land,” said Mike Merryman-Lotze, AFSC’s Middle East Program Director. “In the next few weeks alone, more than 100 homes are at risk of demolition, potentially displacing 2,000 people. We are calling on every single member of Congress to support this bill.”
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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.