ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The conflict between Israel and Palestine has caused countless deaths and displacements for both groups over the past hundred years. U.S. economic and foreign policy currently supports Israel in its battles with the Palestinian people despite the Israeli military’s violations of international law and human rights, notably those relating to child imprisonment. Congresswoman Betty McCollum is promoting rights for these children in the House of Representatives with a bill proposal that provides aid for children abused by the Israeli Military and cuts its funding from the U.S. so long as the abuses continue. H.R. 2407 represents a humanitarian effort to protect the rights of vulnerable Palestinian children in Israel.
Human Rights Violations
Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested each year by the Israeli Police for violations as small as throwing rocks. According to a UNICEF report, these children are often blindfolded, physically abused, intimidated, strip-searched and subject to solitary confinement. Arrested children are uninformed of their legal rights and are not afforded access to legal counsel. Furthermore, authorities do not always inform the childrens’ guardians or parents of the detainment.
These arrests violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Israel. UNICEF asserts that law enforcement and justice facilities must therefore treat children with respect and dignity. They must also afford children special protection.
The U.S. Government supplies the Israeli military with more than $3 billion each year. Part of the U.S. code known as Leahy Law prohibits the allocation of foreign aid to nations that have committed a “gross violation of human rights.”
H.R. 2407 titled the “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” includes two vital provisions:
- Amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to specify a Leahy Law provision where no funds allocated to aid another country “may be used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse or ill-treatment of children in violation of international humanitarian law” or to violate other rights of children, including due process.
- Authorizing $19 million per year for monitoring human rights abuses of Palestinian children by the Israeli military. In addition, the money will also fund NGOs that can provide physical and mental health treatment to Palestinian child victims of abuse and imprisonment.
On April 30, 2019, Rep. McCollum introduced the bill, stating that the bill illustrates the actions of the Israeli Government that constitute a violation of human rights with respect to the treatment of detained Palestinian children. She further says that it is a duty of the U.S. to protect the rights and dignity of Palestinian children because these are values the U.S. holds in high esteem.
Protecting Vulnerable Populations
McCollum is from Minnesota’s Fourth District which includes its capital, St. Paul. She is the co-chair of the Global Health Caucus and fights for fair treatment of the world’s impoverished people. McCollum and her colleagues also introduced the Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act, which prohibits the U.S. from officially recognizing or providing aid to an area of the occupied West Bank annexed by the Israeli Government.
Only 24 representatives have co-sponsored the bill. Putting an end to the abuses perpetrated by the Israeli Military will thus require greater awareness and political action among U.S. citizens and the nation’s congressional leaders. H.R. 2407, therefore, represents a U.S. commitment to protect the rights of vulnerable Palestinian children.
– Elise Brehob