In an unprecedented step on Tuesday, Minnesotan Democrat, Betty McCollum, and nine co-sponsors introduced a bill which aims to advance Palestinian childrens’ rights while living under Israeli military occupation.
If passed, the bill (titled the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act) would necessitate the US State Department certifying each year that the US military aid is not being used to routinely abuse children in Palestine’s occupied West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem.
However, for the bill to become a law, it would have to be introduced and passed in the Senate after first passing the House of Representatives. While Al Jazeera states that this is “unlikely to happen”, supporters of the bill see its introduction as a promising attempt to alter the public opinion on Palestine and Israel.
Israel has long benefited from billions of dollars in military aid from the US each year, yet the bill cites the physical abuse and administrative detention of Palestinian children as “inconsistent with the values of the United States”, and also the reason behind the push for the new bill.
The bill’s purpose is to “promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian children and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds shall not be used to support the military detention of Palestinian children”.
Statistics of children imprisoned
Statistics from the Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) a human rights group in occupied West Bank, show that the Israeli military court system detains and prosecutes 500-700 Palestinian children (even as young as 12) each year. DCIP noted one of the most common charges is stone throwing, which is often punishable by detention or fines of up to USD$1,750.
International advocacy officer at DCIP, Brad Parker, stated that the bill is “an important step not only to raise awareness on grave violations against Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces, but also is a direct challenge to the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces”.
In 2005, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was launched as a campaign to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law, based upon the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
The BDS movement supports boycotting Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestine, permits Palestinian citizens to return to Palestine, and gives Palestinians in Israel equality.
Over a month ago, Wisconsin (among 24 other states) introduced an executive order banning companies which support the BDS movement from securing state contracts.
Both human rights activists and groups have denounced these legal measures.International Human Rights / Humanitarian Law, Middle East