How grassroots efforts moved Congress to action on the abuse of Palestinian children in military detention

People take part in a demonstration of Palestinians living in Greece to mark the Palestinian Prisoners Day, in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Apr 21, 2017. (photo: Grigoris Siamidis / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The No Way to Treat a Child movement bears legislative fruit.

By Jennifer Bing | Truthout | Nov 15, 2017

The bill [introduced in] Congress this week is a significant step forward for all those who want to align our values with the actions — and aid monies — of our government. Now we need the rest of Congress to act by swiftly passing this breakthrough legislation. Looking at what has been accomplished since a small group of us sat at my kitchen table three years ago, agonizing over how to end these abuses, I know this vital change is possible.

Imagine you are a child between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. The army comes to your home in the middle of the night, wakes you from your bed, blindfolds you and ties your hands with plastic cuffs.

Your parents’ pleas do not stop the soldiers from roughly taking you and throwing you in their Jeep, never telling you or your parents what you are charged with or where you are going.

You arrive at a detention cell in an Israeli settlement where you are interrogated without a lawyer or family member present, and you are pressured to confess to throwing stones so you can go back home to your family. Once you sign the confession, written in a language you can’t read, you then face a military court hearing where a military judge sentences you to prison for three months, in a detention center in Israel where your family members are likely unable to visit.

This week, Congresswoman Betty McCollum and nine other members of Congress introduced a bill to ensure that US taxpayer funds do not go toward these types of abuses, which are commonplace for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.

For a decade, US State Department annual country reports on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory have included documentation of these conditions for Palestinian children, yet no one in Congress or the White House took action to stop these practices or hold Israeli officials accountable. In fact, the US government increased its military aid to Israel to record levels of $3.8 billion a year.

Twenty-five years of documentation by Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), UNICEF, the Israeli human rights group B’tselem and Human Rights Watch show that ill treatment is “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized,” as UNICEF concluded in a 2013 report. Yet, this child abuse remains invisible to the very US public whose tax dollars are paying for it.

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