A number of lawmakers have come out in support of legislation that seeks to end Israel’s military detention practices against Palestinian children, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.
H.R.2407 – the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, was introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) in April. The legislation would amend a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to block funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel. In a statement regarding the legislation Rep. McCollum wrote, “Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families. It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”
The bill is being cosponsored by a number of Representatives including California’s Barbara Lee, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Massachusetts’ Ayanna Presley, Washington’s Pramila Jayapal. After Omar said she believed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would back the bill on Twitter, the New York Congresswoman indicated that she is excited to also support it. She is now also a cosponsor.
McCollum has been advocating on this issue for years. In 2015, she sent a letter to former Secretary of State John Kerry asking the Obama administration to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children, which was signed by 18 of her colleagues In 2016, she sent a letter to former President Barack Obama asking him to appoint a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth, which was signed by 19 of her colleagues. In 2017 she introduced H.R. 4391, an earlier version of the current bill that featured 30 cosponsors. Many of the bill’s original supporters have signed on again and some of that version’s more notable backers are no longer in Congress. However, at the time this piece was published the new bill still didn’t have public support from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), or Rep. (and presidential candidate) Seth Moulton (D-MA), all of whom cosponsored the bill two years ago. H.R. 4391 died at the end of that congressional session, thus requiring its reintroduction.
Last October at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference, McCollum referred to Israel state practices as “apartheid.”
H.R. 2407 is supported by a number of organizations including Amnesty International USA, the Arab American Institute, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Defense for Children International-Palestine, American Friends Service Committee, and Jewish Voice for Peace is organizing a letter from Jewish leaders in support of the legislation, which has already been signed by such figures as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, and Eve Ensler.