US Congresswoman Pushes First Ever Bill On Palestinian Rights

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The first of its kind, this bill would force Congress to debate Palestinian human rights and our blind support for the military presence in occupied Palestine.

Palestinian teen leans against white van while being questioned by group of Israeli soldiers with guns

A new bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) could eventually help to pressure Israel to change its persecution of Palestinian children as it threatens United States' funding of Israeli military efforts.

The first of its kind, the bill would force the U.S. Congress to debate Palestinian human rights and how our support for Israel’s government funds apartheid. Yet it still doesn't go far enough as it simply hopes to establish some level of transparency regarding Israel's use of United States military aid.

The bill is meant to address concerns regarding the military detention of Palestinian children as well as their prosecution before the Israeli military court.

The legislation follows the release of a report by two Israeli rights groups, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and B’Tselem, that show the Israeli authorities are engaged in “systemic abuse” against Palestinian teenagers in detention in occupied East Jerusalem and that Israel “prosecutes children in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections.”

Titled "Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act," the bill has the support of 17 human rights groups, such as the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International USA, and Defence of Children International (DCI).

The bill is meant to remind Congress that certain provisions detailed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty that protect children from torture or “other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” aren’t being followed by Israeli forces.

Since Israel has both signed the treaty and ratified it into its law, the fact its military forces aren’t following the rules calls for a major change in policy.

While the bill doesn’t go far enough, it at least requests that U.S. funding won’t be used to torture, abuse, or keep children from having access to their parents. It also requests that the money isn’t used to put children in solitary confinement.

Unfortunately, the bill does not propose cutting the funding based on the reports of abuse and violence involving Palestinian children altogether; it simply establishes that the U.S. must trust Israel when it says it won't use the money to target children, making the piece of legislation toothless in the face of the serious threats these countless children suffer daily in occupied Palestine.

While this is a great first step as it pressures U.S. Congress to debate the immorality of funding another state that uses our taxpayer dollars to repress children and occupy the Palestinian territory, the bill doesn’t go as far as it could.

It is our hope that once Congress engages in this debate, we will be forced to review our blind support for Israel’s military operations targeting Palestinian children, and necessary reform will ensue. 

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Lorie Shaull

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