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A new report says Israel arrested 69 Palestinian children last month, how many more Dems will sign onto a bill that promotes their human rights?

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According to statistics from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies, Israeli forces arrested 450 Palestinians in August including 69 children. The numbers were posted on the Facebook page of Riad Al-Ashqar, a spokesperson for the group. In addition to the 69 children, 13 women and 2 photojournalists, and a disabled man were also arrested last month.

The United States Congress is currently on recess, but the House and Senate gavel back in next week. There’s a number of proposed bills connected to Israel/Palestine that lawmakers are hoping to move forward and one of them is H.R. 2407–the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. The legislation, which was introduced by Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum in April, would amend the Foreign Assistance Act to block funding for the military detention of children in other countries, including Israel.

McCollum’s bill currently has 21 co-sponsors, all Democrats:
Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1]
Rep. Beyer, Donald S., Jr. [D-VA-8]
Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large]
Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]
Rep. Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [D-GA-4]
Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1]
Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30]
Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9]
Rep. Tlaib, Rashida [D-MI-13]
Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]
Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]
Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. “Chuy” [D-IL-4]
Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria [D-NY-14]
Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7]
Rep. Dingell, Debbie [D-MI-12]
Rep. Evans, Dwight [D-PA-3]
Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12]
Rep. Bass, Karen [D-CA-37]

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was also signed onto the bill for a time, but ended up withdrawing her support and claiming that she added as a sponsor without her approval.

Rep. McCollum introduced a similar version of the bill back in 2017, H.R. 4391. While it aimed to achieve the same goal, that legislation didn’t actually propose altering the Foreign Assistance Act. Rather, it required the Secretary of State to annually certify that no U.S. funds had been used to detain Palestinian children.

At a recent town hall in Braintree, Massachusetts, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) was asked about the bill by a member of the local Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) chapter. The questioner connected Lynch’s criticism of the Trump administration’s border policy with Israel. “You said separating families does not protect U.S. security,” he said, “Well, we’re not the only country in the world that separates kids from their families. That is also true in Israel at this moment and it’s our money that is paying for the Israeli military in very high amounts.”

In response, Lynch said that the bill sounded important and indicated that he’d be willing to support it. It remains to be seen whether Lynch will actually follow through on this statements, but there’s a number of other lawmakers that activists will presumably be paying attention to in the coming months:

Earl Blumenauer represents Oregon’s 3rd district. He was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391, but he’s yet to sign onto H.R. 2407. Blumenauer has been better on the subject of Palestine than most lawmakers in Washington. Not only was he one of the only congress members to vote against H.Res.246 (a resolution that condemned the BDS movement), he’s also a co-sponsor of H.Res.496, the bill Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently introduced to affirm Americans’ right to boycott foreign countries. Notably, Blumenauer is also facing a political challenge from his left. Albert Lee is the dean of Portland Community College’s Business and Computing division. He’s also a DSA-backed primary candidate hoping to unseat Blumenauer. Lee is a vocal critic of the Israeli occupation and a proponent of the BDS movement. “I think quite frankly that my entering into this race as a legitimate challenger has shifted him to the left on a lot of issues,” Lee told Mondoweiss last month.

Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th district and the national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Khanna has distinguished himself as a bold progressive on foreign policy in the House. In addition to spearheading the fight to end U.S. involvement in the war against Yemen, he has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, and introduced an amendment that would prohibit funds from being used in a war on Iran. Khanna was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391, but he has yet to back McCollum’s new bill. In July, Khanna’s office told Mondoweiss that he was still evaluating whether or not to support the bill based on the fact that it has changed since its last incarnation.

Jim McGovern represents Massachusetts’ 2nd district. He was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391 and in May he led a congressional group that called on the Israeli government to reconsider their decision to deport Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir on the grounds that he supported the BDS movement. However, McGovern still hasn’t signed onto the new bill and has yet to make any indication that he plans to do so.

Tulsi Gabbard represents Hawaii’s 2nd congressional and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Gabbard has positioned herself as a critic of American foreign policy during her campaign, but her positions on Palestine have seemingly varied. While she’s one of the only lawmakers that criticized Israel for killing unarmed civilians during 2018’s Great March of Return protests, she wasn’t one of the sixty Democrats who boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 address to congress. She has also previously spoken at a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference and accepted an award from the controversial pro-Israel Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. A photo from the event shows Gabbard smiling next to Boteach and Miriam Adelson, wife of the pro-Israel megadonor. While Gabbard did not co-sponsor H.R. 4391, she once again sent mixed messages to some by voting for the aforementioned anti-BDS resolution shortly before becoming co-sponsor of Ilhan Omar’s aforementioned boycott bill.

Seth Moulton represents Massachusetts’ 6th district. He’s criticized anti-BDS legislation in the past, opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and spoke about the need to stand up to Netanyahu. However, his positions have seemingly shifted on the issue. In June, he was one of just 12 Democrats to support a farcical right-wing attempt at amending the U.S. tax code in order to punish BDS supporters. A co-sponsor of the previous McCollum bill in 2017, Moulton now claims that the current version of the bill threatens the United States’ overall aid to Israel. “Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and is under daily threat of invasion and attack, so we must help maintain the country’s qualitative military edge over its adversaries,” Moulton said in a statement, “Having fought in the Middle East myself, I know how important it is to support your allies, however imperfect they may be, and I understand the critical role American aid to our various Middle Eastern allies plays for regional security.”

It’s worth pointing out that Moulton was technically running for President when he put out this statement about H.R. 2407.

McCollum’s bill also lacks companion legislation in the Senate despite the fact that she’s reportedly asked progressive presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to introduce such a bill.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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9 Responses

  1. Boomer on September 5, 2019, 1:41 pm

    At least someone is trying.

    • Abern on September 7, 2019, 1:54 am

      If they are trying to have an actual effect on Israel’s detention of Palestinian children their bill is useless. The reason their efforts are useless in that regard is money is fungible. Israel can simply shift some of its domestic military spending to covering the cost of detaining children and use US military welfare to replace it.

      Cutting all military welfare is the only policy which could be effective.

  2. Rob Roy on September 5, 2019, 5:13 pm

    Wonder where Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are? I always wonder why people who disapprove of Israeli’s actions keep quiet. It’s easy to stand up for Palestinians and their children, yet people who think they are fair-minded don’t. It is puzzling to those of us who have stood for right all our lives without fear. I just don’t get cowardice.

  3. pabelmont on September 5, 2019, 8:01 pm

    If they arrest kids and it costs money to do so then (as money is “fungible”) it is arguably money supplied by USA. Therefore the bill uses bad language — ALL money to Israel should cease to flow if ANY action by Israel contravenes ANY USA policy — especially a policy enacted by statute.

    • RoHa on September 5, 2019, 10:57 pm

      I find it difficult to avoid bad language when talking about Israel.

      • lonely rico on September 6, 2019, 9:35 pm

        RoHa

        I find it difficult to avoid bad language when talking about Israel.

        I find it increasingly difficult to avoid bad thoughts when thinking about Israel –

        “Does such a fount of cruelty and suffering deserve to exist?”

        Answer: Certainly not in it’s current form.

  4. Elizabeth Block on September 6, 2019, 9:07 am

    I’ve tried to send emails of support to these members of congress, but their websites only let you send a message if you live in their state. Too bad. Lots of us outside their state, or outside the States (I’m an ex-pat) support them.
    I wish my own congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney, would join them. Senators? Gillibrand. And Schumer – forget him. Not gonna vote for him ever again.

    • Marnie on September 6, 2019, 1:08 pm

      @Elizbeth Block –

      Call their offices in DC and leave a message. I even called Mitch McConnell’s office in his home state and left a doozie (at least to me).

  5. Misterioso on September 6, 2019, 9:37 am

    Related article:

    https://www.juancole.com/2019/08/displacement-demographic-obsession.html

    “Displacement in Gaza and Israel’s demographic obsession” by Nasser Nasser, Middle East Monitor, August 25/19

    “The statements made by a senior Israeli political source, which is likely to be Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, published in Israeli media, including Haaretz on 20 August regarding Israel taking practical steps to displace Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, reminds us of what Israel calls the demographic threat. This involves ensuring a Jewish majority in the country, which has been a concern since the establishment of the Zionist colonial settlement project. Why displace Gazans? Why now? Is there a real possibility for its implementation?

    “Israel has used all forms of displacement, including ethnic cleansing, in order to reduce the number of Palestinians in Palestine as much as possible and achieve Zionism’s top goal, i.e. imposing a Jewish majority in Palestine, where its indigenous people have been living for many years. This method on its own did not achieve the desired results, so Israel attracted tens of thousands of Arab and non-Arab Jews in order to successfully establish the state of Israel on the ruins of the Palestinian people in 1948. However, the demographic danger continued to pose a threat to Israel after occupying and controlling the Palestinians in 1967.

    “According to the mentality of the new settlers, the racist demographic threat is posed by the Palestinians’ persistence and commitment to their land, despite the soft and harsh methods of displacement they are subject to. This is especially the case after many parities, including a senior military official in the army was quoted by Haaretz on 26 March 2018 saying that army figures indicate that the number of Arabs living in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is larger than the number of Jews. This poses an on-going dilemma for settler Zionism.

    “How will they maintain their artificial Jewish majority? Will this be done by agreeing to a two-state solution to get rid of as many Palestinians, as suggested by the centre and left-wing parties in Israel? Or will the continuously creeping military occupation, i.e. Apartheid, situation remain the status quo? Or will they annex the areas occupied in 1967, while denying its people their political rights, thus sacrificing democratic principles and numeric majority in exchange for another Zionist settler principle: controlling all of Palestine, as suggested by the radical right in Israel?

    “The statements of the senior political source, most likely Netanyahu, were made specifically at this time to express his powerlessness and failure in the face of the steadfastness of Palestinians in Gaza and other areas in Palestine. It also exposes an additional attempt by Netanyahu to gain more sympathy from right-wing voters in Israel, who dream of expelling the Palestinians by any means necessary.

    “The fact that a very small and limited number of Palestinians emigrate outside of Palestine either for acceptable, likely, or unacceptable reasons, does not mean that the Israeli plans to expel the Palestinians has succeeded. Instead, it means that Israel has failed, despite all of its efforts, attempts and capabilities dedicated to achieving its goal, including besieging and oppression of the Palestinians. It also means that the Palestinians’ determination, perseverance and awareness is growing and that Israel’s growing sense of the demographic danger and threat is evidence of this.”

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