In 2018, Americans were horrified to learn that migrant children were being cruelly separated from their families at the U.S. border and imprisoned in intolerable conditions.
Many U.S. lawmakers – on both sides of the aisle – joined the national outcry to say this is an UNACCEPTABLE practice for the United States.
Yet – under Israel’s military occupation that is generously subsidized by Congress with U.S. tax dollars – abusing and imprisoning Palestinian children has been ACCEPTABLE and standard practice for many years. These children are subjected to abuse that has never even been considered in the United States.
It is time for U.S. legislators to oppose the abuse of Palestinian children by the Israeli military.
These kids’ stories of abuse are terrifying and heartbreaking – often taken from their families in the middle of the night, put in choke holds, blindfolded and handcuffed, thrown into jeeps, traumatized and coerced into confessions during interrogations where no parent or advocate is present, strip searched, beaten, and tortured. They are tried in military courts that lack the basic standards for a fair trial and the conviction rate is over 99%.
Roughly 10,000 Palestinian children have suffered such abuse since the year 2000.
EVERY lawmaker should be appalled at this treatment of children by the Israeli military, which the U.S. gives $3.8 billion each year. The U.S. MUST STOP FUNDING these egregious violations of children’s essential human rights.
The historic bill H.R. 2407 seeks to ensure just that. The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act can put a stop to U.S. tax dollars funding such abuse.
Also called the "McCollum Bill," it was recently brought to Congress by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN). Now H.R. 2407 needs co-sponsors!
TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO STOP U.S. FUNDING FOR MILITARY ABUSE OF CHILDREN!
Mark Harrison [far left], Director of Peace with Justice at the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), with Rep. Betty McCollum [center front row] and other supporters of H.R. 2407. Both GBCS and UMKR are ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS of this bill.
We are witnessing a new thing emerging in the United States. A few years ago, no one in Congress would have stood up for Palestinians’ human rights. Last year, the first version of the McCollum Bill had 30 co-sponsors in Congress!
There is a growing conviction among the American public, and even starting in Congress, that U.S. policy on Israel/Palestine can and should hold Israel accountable for human rights violations.
THAT’S WHAT H.R. 2407 WILL DO:
The "Leahy Law" is part of the Foreign Assistance Act; it is supposed to ensure U.S. aid does not go to military units that violate human rights. It has not been applied to Israel. A good way to start is focusing now on the treatment of children.
So this new bill will amend the Leahy Law to prohibit U.S. military aid from funding the military detention or abuse of children in violation of international humanitarian law.
This bill would apply to children globally, wherever U.S. military aid is received; any person of conscience should be able to support it!
Send your Representative a message: US funding for abuse of Palestinian children must stop. Click below and you will review the message before sending it:
A growing number of Palestinians want a ‘one state, equal rights’ model and think Trump may unwittingly pave the way for it.
Palestinian youths climb a section of Israel’s wall near the West Bank. | Abbas Momani/Getty Images
Some prominent Palestinian activists and politicians are quietly rooting for Jared Kushner as he prepares to unveil the first part of his Middle East peace plan next month.
That’s not because they think the plan will resolve their decadeslong conflict with Israel. It’s because they hope it will hasten the onset of a “one-state” solution they are coming to support.
The push for one state with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis has gained steam in recent years as the Trump administration has been preparing its peace plan, which Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is expected to unveil at a June conference in Bahrain. Kushner has signaled that his plan abandons America’s decadeslong official support for a “two-state solution,” in which the Palestinians are given a sovereign nation of their own.
Many Palestinian supporters of a single state — whose ranks now include Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian-American — wouldn’t necessarily mind seeing the creation of two independent, full-fledged states in the region. But they don’t consider that outcome realistic, nor do they believe that the international community ever truly backed the idea.
Some argue that due to Israeli actions on the ground, including the construction of settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians already live in a de facto single state, but one in which they lack the same rights as Israeli Jews. Many liken the situation to apartheid South Africa and say Trump’s policies are simply exposing that reality.
“Trump is now not only burying the two-state solution, which was not viable anyway, but he’s gladly dancing on its grave, thus forcing people to end their denial,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “It’s important for us to respond very clearly that we need equal rights in one state.”
Surrendering the fight for two states could mean short-term pain for Palestinians, one-staters admit. But they hope to draw the world’s attention over time to the implications of one Israeli state in which Palestinians lack full voting and freedom-of-movement rights, bolstering their demands for one state with equal rights for all citizens.
The push for one state with equal rights is also fueled by a series of other strongly pro-Israel actions by Trump, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite its contested status. If the Palestinians are not given sovereignty, an Israel that absorbs millions of them indefinitely may ultimately be forced to choose between its democratic character and its Jewish identity — especially if demographic growth favors Palestinians.
“I don’t think it’s the intention of Mr. Trump to help Palestinians, but indirectly I think it is [helping]," said Hamada Jaber of the One State Foundation, an organization that launched last year to argue that a single state is actually in the Palestinians’ interest. “There is no two-state solution. It’s pushing us as Palestinians to think about an alternative.”
The growing calls among far left Palestinians and other advocates for “one state, equal rights” comes as Israeli and Palestinian officials acknowledge that the decadeslong efforts at achieving a political solution has stalled, and that the two sides’ respective positions on issues like borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees may be irreconcilable.
Even so, many close observers of the conflict say, a one state, equal rights approach may prove an even more impractical goal.
“It’s not a real-world solution,” insisted Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of J Street, the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group that supports the two-state model. “It may sound nice in an academic hall. In a real world, this is not going to become one democratic state with equal rights.”
‘Economic workshop’ will launch Trump’s Middle East peace plan, BIANCA QUILANTAN and NAHAL TOOSI, 5/19/2019
Israeli politicians won’t stand for an outcome in which they could lose political power, critics of the one-state idea say. Then there’s the fact that Palestinian leaders still say they want two separate states. Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis run so deep, some two-staters argue, that they could not coexist peacefully under one government.
Israeli leaders have long blamed the lack of progress in past peace talks on Palestinians, saying they’ve repeatedly refused generous offers that would have helped them create their own state while supporting violence against Israel. The militant group Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip — from which it launches attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians — hasn’t helped inspire Israeli confidence in a potential peace deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered only tepid support for the creation of a Palestinian state. | Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP
According to Amnesty International, over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights,. (Photo: via MEMO)
An in-depth report released in Hebrew by Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter provides a damning picture of Israeli arms exports to countries that violate human rights. This report provides solid evidence that over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights:
- Azerbaijan – which has persecuted government critics and LGBTQ people – received Israeli battleships, anti-tank missiles, attack drones, military vehicles, and radar systems
- Cameroon – implicated in kidnappings, torture, and murder – received Israeli military training and armored vehicles
- Mexico – undergoing a severe human rights crisis and forced disappearances – received Israeli spyware software that targeted journalists, human rights lawyers, and anti-corruption activists
- Myanmar – which has engaged in ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity – received armored vehicles and naval ammunition
- Philippines – which carried out mass extrajudicial executions – received Israeli assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank guided missiles
- South Sudan – implicated in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – received Israeli surveillance technology and assault rifles
- Sri Lanka – which was engaged in a brutal civil war – received Israeli drones and battleships
- United Arab Emirates – which has imprisoned government critics and human rights activists – received Israeli spyware software, including the infamous “Pegasus” spyware (just days ago, NSO, the Israeli company behind Pegasus, was linked to a security exploit targeting WhatsApp that allowed Pegasus to be installed)
What is worse is that some of these countries were under international sanctions and weapons sales embargoes, yet Israel continued to sell arms to them.
For example, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan due to its acts of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even using mass rape as a method of war. Yet South Sudan still ended up acquiring Israeli-made assault rifles. Part of this is due to the fact that Israeli weapons reach such countries after a chain of transactions, which helps to avoid international monitoring and decrease transparency.
Israeli authorities claim that they “carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons,” but the fact that Israeli weapons made it to the countries mentioned above proves that this statement is far from the truth.
But this information is neither new nor shocking. As Jonathan Cook wrote in 2013, “despite having a population smaller than New York City, Israel has emerged in the last few years as one of the world’s largest exporters of weapons.”
At the time, analysts placed Israel as the sixth top producer of weapons, ahead of China and Italy. When accounting for covert weapons deals, Israel was even considered to be the fourth top producer, ahead of Britain and Germany.
Of course, much of these military sales were made possible at the expense and lives of Palestinians. A significant reason why Israeli weapons are so marketable is because they are presented as “battle-proven.” In other words, they were tested on Palestinians.
As Miko Peled wrote last year, an Israeli weapons manufacturer marketed its unmanned armored personnel carrier as “combat-proven” at the “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” conference, since the 2014 war on Gaza was the first time that such a remote-controlled carrier had been successfully deployed.
And as Rania Khalek has mentioned, “Palestine has long served as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning ‘homeland security’ industry to test and perfect weapons of domination and control, with disenfranchised and stateless Palestinians serving as their lab rats.”
And as Bloomberg noted, the price of stock of Elbit Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of Israeli military technology, surged to its highest level since 2010 during the 2014 war on Gaza. This was surely no coincidence. It is also uncoincidental that the 2010 high peak of Elbit’s stock was not long after the end of the 2009 war on Gaza.
Clearly, waging war on Palestinians is a huge money-maker for the state of Israel, its corporations, and even its citizens (Cook cites data that around 6,800 Israelis are actively engaged in exporting arms, and former defense minister Ehud Barak admitted that 150,000 Israeli households – around 10 percent of the population – depend on the weapons industry).
One can look no further than to the comments of Avner Benzaken, who was head of the “Technology and Logistics Branch” of the Israeli “Defense” Forces:
“If I develop a product and want to test it in the field, I only have to go five or 10 kilometers from my base and I can look and see what is happening with the equipment. I get feedback, so it makes the development process faster and much more efficient. “
Alternative Memorial Day, a binational tradition since 2005, is a sign that we are capable of taking down the walls of fear.
Mourners and supporters at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Israel on May 7, 2019. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)
Mourning is a personal matter. When it comes to mourning victims of war, terror, and state-sponsored suppression, mourning is also a political matter—especially in Israel and Palestine. We, a Palestinian man from the West Bank who served 10 years in an Israeli prison and an Israeli woman who served in the Israeli army, are not supposed to care about each other’s dead. We are taught this constantly. But, out of a commitment that is both concretely political and inherently human, we have decided to reject this logic and fight for a public space in which we can feel pain for the dead on all sides.
This year, as every year for the past 14, the organizations Combatants for Peace (CFP), in which both of us writing this article are active (S.K. as a founder and A.C. as an organizer), and the Parents Circle–Families Forum held an Alternative Memorial Day ceremony on Israeli Memorial Day. Proud to take part in this practice, we stood with over 9,000 people who came to support families in mourning from (Green Line) Israel, the West Bank and—over video conference—from Gaza. Each loss is different. Some mourn IDF soldiers killed in battle; others, Palestinians who died at the hands of Israeli forces. But our message is shared: We refuse to allow our bereavement to be manipulated for nationalistic purposes and we insist that, despite all complications of asymmetry and power gaps, we have a right to recognize one another’s losses.
As someone who grew up in the Israeli school system, I, Avigail, have always experienced our national Memorial Day as the annual pinnacle of militaristic culture, an aggressive indoctrination into the idea that we must live by the sword and maintain control over another people in order to survive. Over the years, more and more Israelis have come to share this alienation that I feel. In 2005 one bereaved father named Boma Inbar, who lost his son Yotam in the first Lebanon War, decided to initiate a ceremony in which bereaved parents from both sides would come together. Everything about typical Israeli memorial ceremonies—the music, the choreography, the speeches—serves to entrench the notion of “divide and conquer” into our very emotional anatomy. It was this practice that Inbar wished to oppose, not merely through verbal criticism, but by replacing it with a new ritual practice that Israelis and Palestinians would build together. The first time it took place, the ceremony was small, almost negligible, attracting only 200 participants, but it has grown every year since.
As a Palestinian, I, Sulaiman, have never had a state-sponsored Memorial Day, since I am not a citizen of any state. I do not reject the mourning practices that we do have within our community—martyrs’ funerals, for example. Still, I seek rituals beyond them, ones that help me connect to a larger human story and that have potential to save lives in the future. Having been attracted to violent resistance as a youth, it was not easy for me to join the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony, which my organization CFP did in 2005. Thus, I can empathize with the objections that other Palestinians voice in response to our binational ceremony. Nonetheless, without erasing the difference between occupier and occupied, this binational ceremony is the place where I feel that I am truly honoring the great number of close friends and family members that I lost to the occupation, and where I see that I am being heard.
Israeli author and bereaved father David Grossman at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in 2018. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)
• In Gaza, the Bombs Have Stopped, but Our Suffering Continues, Ahmed Abu Artema
• The Palestine Marathon, Jen Marlowe
Beyond an opportunity for authentic bereavement, we both believe in the political power of this ceremony. There is no greater testament to its potency than the scale of government opposition that it has come to provoke—mostly among Israelis, who sometimes compare the ceremony to mourning Holocaust victims alongside dead Nazi soldiers, but also among Palestinians, who accuse us of normalizing relations with an oppressive government. We know that our choice is difficult for some members of both groups to accept and we recognize that there is risk involved. But, as just about anyone who has been to the ceremony can say, it is a transformative experience, one that changes people’s minds about what is possible in this region. It is a way of seizing the tremendous power of public rituals away from self-serving, manipulative government leaders and putting this power into the hands of everyday people, the victims of conflict.
The group that is most vehemently—obsessively—opposed to our ceremony is the Israeli right wing. A few days before the ceremony this year, as happens every year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to shut down the ceremony completely, using any means at his disposal. He personally demanded that the roughly 180 Palestinians from the West Bank planning to take part in the ceremony, most of them mourning personal losses, be denied entry into Israel. Thankfully, the Supreme Court overturned Netanyahu’s orders and allowed 100 Palestinian participants to join us. Yet our troubles didn’t end there. The Netanyahu populist base went into a frenzy, threatening us on social media. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, had especially choice words to share: “The bereaved parents who participated in the Alternative Memorial Ceremony are psychologically disturbed.” Sadly, Netanyahu’s incitement succeeded in bringing some to the streets, as it does every year. Several hundred right-wing activists showed up at the ceremony to hurl insults at us, and sometimes even rocks.
Despite all of these efforts at suppression, and crass calls for violence around us, on Tuesday, May 7, the ceremony came together and we witnessed that same source of light that carries us from year to year. That evening, we heard 14-year-old Mohammed Darwish, from the ‘Ayda refugee camp in Bethlehem, remember his close friend Abed Elrahaman Shadi Abdallah, who was killed by a stray bullet during a conflict with Israeli forces in the camp. At the time, Abdallah was only 12 years old. At the ceremony, Darwish recalled the details of finding his young friend lying dead on the ground, covered in blood, and said, “My friend, Abed Elrahaman, I know that you know where I am right now and that I am talking about you, and that I am telling the story of your death to thousands of people who believe in humanity. So, you should know, your death will not be meaningless. My young friend, one bullet ended 12 years of friendship, laughter and play…. I choose to eternalize your memory by working for peace.” At another moment in the ceremony, we heard from Yuval Rachamim, whose father, Avraham, was killed in the war of 1967: “Gradually [at Israeli Memorial Day ceremonies], I came to understand that I am a prop in someone else’s play. The combative, self-victimizing rhetoric reinforces and sanctifies a struggle that will never end. Every year, politicians…turn our searing pain into an election campaign and recruitment session for the next unnecessary war.”
The singer Miriam Toukan at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in 2018. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)
It is worth asking: Why does the prime minister need to personally intervene with military orders, and his followers with violence, in an attempt to prevent these words from being heard on the same stage? Perhaps Netanyahu feels so threatened by our ceremony because he knows what we know: Binational mourning is a sign that Palestinians and Israelis are capable of taking down the walls of fear that he works so hard to erect and maintain, and that we are able to find our own, independent moral compass, even in dark times. We know that the moral insight born of our ceremony is not enough, on its own, to change reality here; but we also know that no real change can happen without it.
As we look across the seas and watch Muslims and Jews being killed—albeit under very different circumstances—by white-supremacist terror in Christchurch, New Zealand, in Poway, California, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we invite mourners to join in our practice. It is imperative to remember the dead. It is transformative when we remember them together.
Avigail Corry is a BA student in Hebrew language studies at Ben Gurion University in the Negev and, beginning in the fall, will teach at a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic elementary school in Jaffa. She is an activist in Combatants for Peace as well as the movement Standing Together, where she focuses on issues of racial equality within Israel.
Sulaiman Khatib was born in Hizma, near Jerusalem, and currently lives in Ramallah. At the age of 14, Khatib was imprisoned for participating in the stabbing of Israeli soldiers. When he emerged from prison at the age of 24, Khatib and his friends, also former prisoners, met with Israeli soldiers who had made a parallel decision to renounce violence. Together, they founded the organization Combatants for Peace in 2006. He is currently writing a book about his experiences and his vision.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights. Children within the Israeli military system commonly report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest, and coercion and threats during interrogations.
— No Way To Treat A Child
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) today announced support from national and international religious and human rights organizations in support of H.R. 2407, the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, introduced May 1, 2019.
Congresswoman McCollum released the following statement:
“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “These organizations are committed to human rights and are working to support another generation of Palestinian children facing cruel and dehumanizing detention at the hands of Mr. Netanyahu’s military. This strong show of support is part of a growing consensus that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination. It is also a signal that none of the billions of taxpayer dollars in American foreign aid to Israel should be spent on inhumanely locking up Palestinian children in Israeli military detention facilities.”
The following is a list of organizations in support of H.R. 2407:
Adalah Justice Project
American Friends Service Committee
American Muslims for Palestine
Amnesty International USA
Arab American Institute
Center for Constitutional Rights
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Churches for Middle East Peace
Defense for Children International – Palestine
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)
Indiana Center for Middle East Peace
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Quaker Palestine Israel Network
The Episcopal Church
Tree of Life Educational Fund
United Church of Christ
United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR)
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights