Last Monday, Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04) began circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter asking fellow representatives to sign on to her letter to Secretary John Kerry urging him to make the human rights of Palestinian children a priority in the US bilateral relationship with Israel.
Her letter cites the March 2013 UNICEF report Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendation and the update from earlier this year.
I think the letter undermines its central point when it celebrates the US's $3+ billion in annual military aid to Israel--the occupation that this aid sustains fundamentally violates the rights of Palestinian children (and Palestinians of all ages). It is also a misallocation of funds. I would rather see $3 billion spent on helping children than on arming an occupying power. However, the letter itself is still important, and you should call your representatives to urge them to sign on.
Here is the text of the letter Rep. McCollum intends to send to Secretary Kerry:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a profoundly disturbing report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations.” The report was in response to the estimated seven thousand children, ages 12 to 17, from the Occupied West Bank, who during the previous decade were subjected to arrest, detention, interrogation, and/or imprisonment by Israeli army, policy, and security agents. 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.
Israel’s military detention system targeting children is an anomaly in the world. In fact, UNICEF states, “It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”
Based on international law and treaties, the UNICEF report makes 38 recommendations for action by Israeli officials while offering the following conclusion:
“The ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systemic and institutionalized throughout the process, and from the moment of arrest until a child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”
The security interests of Israel are clearly a national security priority of the United States Congress and the American people. There could be no more clear demonstration of American commitment to Israel than the more than $3 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds which are invested annually to ensure the security of the Israeli people. However, respecting and defending the human rights of children, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality, is a fundamental American value, as well as a priority for all Americans, that cannot be ignored.
In 2014, Israel arrested a Palestinian-American child, a high school student from Tampa, Florida, who suffered physical violence and ill treatment while in an Israeli detention center. This incident highlights the fact that the state sponsored abuse of children cannot be tolerated and must be addressed.
Earlier this year UNICEF issued a follow-up report outlining areas where Israel has adapted, modified, or discussed changes to its system of military detention of Palestinian children. This is a positive step and a clear acknowledgement that legitimate human rights concerns exist. Progress to ensure Palestinian children’s rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian people.
Secretary Kerry, we urge the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with the Government of Israel. Furthermore, we fully expect the State Department to address the status of Israel’s military detention system’s treatment of Palestinian children in its annual human rights report.
Your leadership to advance the rights of children is deeply appreciated.
Member of Congress
About Congresswoman McCollum
Betty Louise McCollum is the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 4th congressional district, serving since 2001. She is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. McCollum's district centers on St. Paul, Minnesota's capital city. She is the second woman elected to Congress from Minnesota.
This was first published at Daily Kos.