We have exciting news. Today, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced a bill in Congress calling for an end to Israel’s separate-and-unequal military court system for Palestinian children living under occupation. This legislation is historic, and moves us closer than ever to our vision of freedom, justice, and equality for Palestinians.
“One of them [an Israeli soldier] pushed me and I slammed my head against the ladder of the truck. Another one threw me inside the truck and kept me on the metal floor. They blindfolded me and beat me.”
Those are the words of Ahmad, a 16-year-old boy who lives in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. In a statement to Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), Ahmad recounted how Israeli soldiers broke into his house at 3:30 AM to arrest him.
Ahmad then was taken to an Israeli military detention center where he was verbally insulted, strip searched, placed in solitary confinement, and interrogated while shackled to a chair – all without access to his parents or lawyers. After three days of interrogation, Ahmad confessed to the charges against him because “I no longer could live in harsh conditions in the cell. I had the flu and I wanted the interrogation to end.”
His experience is not unique: 75 percent of Palestinian children endure physical violence after being arrested by Israeli forces and 97 percent of children do not have a parent present during their interrogations.
The bill just introduced in Congress, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, would prohibit Israel from using US aid to detain, interrogate, abuse, and prosecute Palestinian children in military courts, in violation of international law. For decades, the US has provided Israel with more than $100 billion of assistance with virtually no strings attached. This bill is a huge step toward demanding transparency and accountability for how this aid is used by Israel.
Israel is the only country in the world to systematically detain and prosecute children in military courts lacking basic due process guarantees, according to DCIP. And Palestinian children face systematic abuse from the moment of their arrest, in some cases amounting to torture, during detention by Israeli forces. This bill would ensure that we, as US taxpayers, would not be complicit in these Israeli human rights abuses of Palestinian children.
Rep. McCollum introduced this bill with nine additional original cosponsors: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), André Carson (D-IN), John Conyers (D-MI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Mark Pocan (D-WI).
Thank you for taking action to ask your representative to add their names to this list, and ensure that the United States is promoting the human rights of Palestinian children.
PS: After you’ve taken action, please check out our new website section on this bill. There you’ll find a video, talking points, the full text of the bill, infographics, and social media posts to help build support for this important Congressional initiative. And be sure to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.