Members of Congress Sign Letter Highlighting Israeli Military Detention and Abuse of Palestinian Children
Earlier this week, in a powerful letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 19 members of Congress urged the State Department to prioritize the rights of Palestinian children in the United States’ relationship with Israel.
The letter, which many are considering an unprecedented show of Congressional support for Palestinian human rights, was led by Rep. Betty McCollum (MN) and references reports by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), citing the 2013 report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations.”
“UNICEF initiated their report in response to concerns regarding the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment of Palestinian children while in the Israeli military detention system,” and concluded that “The ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systemic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until a child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing,” the letter states.
The letter also alludes to the arrest and abuse of Palestinian-American teen Tariq Abukhdeir, who recently recounted his assault in a congressional briefing as part of a series of advocacy events organized by the Defense for Children International-Palestine, the American Friends Service Committee, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to raise awareness of the mistreatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention.
Rep. Betty McCollum makes it clear that “while dialogue is a positive step,” the letter is calling for immediate diplomatic action from the State Department to end the mentioned abuses. McCollum and her fellow members of Congress remind Kerry that “respecting and defending the human rights of children, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality, is a fundamental American value.”
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker Lobbying group, was among a group of several human rights and faith groups, including Amnesty International and Jewish Voice for Peace, who advocated in support of the letter.
In a news release, FCNL representative Kate Gould stated that, “[the] letter marks a significant step forward on Capitol Hill to advance the oft-forgotten human rights of Palestinian children.”
In addition to Rep. McCollum, the following 18 members of Congress, including both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members from the Armed Services Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Appropriations Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee, also signed the letter:
Blumenauer, Earl (OR-3)
Beyer, Don (VA-8)
Carson, André (IN-7)
Conyers, John (MI-13)
Davis, Danny (IL-7)
DeFazio, Peter (OR-4)
Ellison, Keith (MN-5)
Eshoo, Anna G. (CA-18)
Grijalva, Raúl M. (AZ-3)
Johnson, Eddie Bernice (TX-30)
Johnson, Hank (GA-4)
Lee, Barbara (CA-13)
McDermott, Jim (WA-7)
McGovern, James P. (MA-2)
Norton, Eleanor Holmes (DC)
Pingree, Chellie (ME-1)
Rush, Bobby (IL-1)
Waters, Maxine (CA-43)