Historic US bill would outlaw Israel aid used to abuse children

Israeli occupation forces try to arrest a Palestinian boy during a demonstration against Israel’s wall in the West Bank village of al-Maasara, 9 November 2012.   Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Ten members of Congress are cosponsoring a bill to bar the US from financially supporting human rights abuses of Palestinian children by the Israeli military.

The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, introduced on Tuesday, is the first ever bill to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children as a condition for US support, according to campaigners.

The bill requires the Secretary of State to annually certify that no US funds allocated to Israel will have been used to “support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.”

The legislation would block funds used by Israel to inflict “torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment,” “physical violence, including restraint in stress positions,” “hooding, sensory deprivation, death threats or other forms of psychological abuse.”

It would also target solitary confinement, administrative detention, denial of access to parents or lawyers during interrogations and “confessions obtained by force or coercion.”

“It’s an unprecedented bill,” said Jennifer Bing, an advocate for Palestinian children’s rights who directs the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East program.

“There’s never been a piece of legislation in Congress that says we need to hold Israel accountable for the aid dollars it receives from US taxpayers,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

Bing said that this is a critical opportunity for constituents to advocate for their representatives to support the bill.

Standing in defense of children’s human rights will help steer the conversation away from the status quo and the dead-end “peace process,” she said, “which has been an excuse to allow the abuse and detention of children to continue.”

By blocking financial complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinian children, this bill “aligns US policy toward Israel with international law,” added Brad Parker, an attorney with Defense for Children International - Palestine.

The bill sends a clear message to Israeli officials “that widespread ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees must end and is a direct challenge to the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Parker told The Electronic Intifada.

Documentation of abuse

The bill draws on the US State Department’s own reports on Israeli abuses. One of those reports noted in 2013 that Israeli occupation forces “continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions.”

It also highlights similar reports from UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, and points to Human Rights Watch’s documentation of Israel’s “use of chokeholds, beatings and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15 years.”

The bill condemns Israel’s prosecutions of Palestinian children in military courts that lack “basic and fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards.”

And it explicitly highlights Israel’s legal apartheid system, in which military law is imposed on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank while Israeli settlers in the same territory live under civilian laws.

The American Friends Service Committee and Defense for Children International - Palestine lead the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which aims to end Israel’s military detention and abuse of some 700 children annually.

In June, the campaign hosted a standing-room only Capitol Hill briefing outlining Israel’s violations of Palestinian childrens’ rights.

Grassroots organizing

Human rights organizations have documented such abuses for decades, Bing noted, but grassroots organizing in faith communities, universities and community groups is what encouraged US lawmakers to sign onto this bill.

The No Way to Treat a Child campaign started three years ago with activists and lawyers sharing information with lawmakers and introducing them to Palestinians who had been detained.

“Every time, the reception from members of Congress was that they didn’t know it was happening, or wanted to know what they could to do to make a difference, knowing that no child should be treated this way,” Bing said.

Campaigners worked hard “to build champions in Congress” to speak out on behalf of Palestinian human rights, specifically for children, Bing added.

The congressional bill was brought to the floor by Minnesota representative Betty McCollum, who has broken with the vast majority of her colleagues who refuse to challenge Israeli policy.

In February, McCollum publicly condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies harming Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system.

In June 2015, the Democrat authored a letter, co-signed by 18 other members of Congress, demanding that the Obama adminstration push Israel to end its abuses of Palestinian children.

Two months later, the lawmaker called for sanctions on the Israeli Border Police unit responsible for the cold-blooded killing of Palestinian teenagers Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir on 15 May 2014.

McCollum initiated another push in June 2016 urging Obama to appoint a special envoy to protect the rights of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation.

Along with McCollum, the bill’s cosponsors include the chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – representatives Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin – as well as representatives Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio of Oregon, John Conyers of Michigan, Chellie Pingree of Maine, André Carson of Indiana and Luis Gutierrez and Danny Davis of Illinois.

It is endorsed by 15 national faith-based and human rights organizations, including the Presbyterian Church USA, several Methodist organizations, the Mennonite Central Committee, United Church of Christ, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Like his predecessor, the current US president remains committed to providing Israel with billions of dollars in aid every year while social services, education funds and climate justice initiatives are slashed.

Last year, the Obama administration signed an agreement to boost US aid to Israel to $3.8 billion annually beginning in 2019.

As the Congressional Research Service notes, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II.” As of 2016, that aid had totalled $127.4 billion.




Foreign “assistance” and foreign “aid” are not the same thing, but you use the terms interchangeably.

Assistance denotes an element of reciprocity
Aid is a freebie.



Zionist cheerleaders and enablers seem to pick on the most irrelevant points and in the process ignore the most glaring issues at the heart of any subject that support human rights for Palestinians. Israel receives a tremendous help, support, aid, and security guarantees from the world's only superpower to the point that they are virtually untouchable internationally. They flaunt this power carelessly and in front of the eyes of the whole world because they have the USA watching their back and wielding their power unquestionably to protect this unnatural and terrorist entity. Any other country would've been long boycotted and completely dismantled if it did a fraction of the crimes that Israel does, YET, you seem to pick on semantics that doesn't change the reality or the substance of the article.


Your comments notwithstanding, American support for Israel is strong, but it is not “aid”. The Israeli-American relationship is reciprocal, whereas the American-Jordanian or American-Egyptian relationship is such-that neither of the recipient countries has any responsibility to the donor.

A distintiction between “aid” and “assistance” based on what differentiates the two is not “semantics” - it’s actually the opposite. This is important because, in the event that an indictment is ever handed down to Israel (or anyone else) it must be predicated on facts and facts alone - thereby not allowing for interpretation, because the moment semantics are introduced, that is how one begins to disprove the allegations.


Strauss, Aid and assistance are used interchangeably by government, legal and reference sources. .........Meanwhile your attempt to deflect what is a serious situation regarding non-Jewish children in historic Palestine is amusing but not substantive.


The terms are used interchangeably on a colloquial level, but not in official references or documents. For the purpose of this discussion, "official" refers to anything legal, or that which pertains to government bills and/or orders. Colloquial references are more accessible for the majority, but that doesn't necessitate an in-depth understanding of their meaning.

For instance, within the broader Middle East, the words "Israeli" and "Jew" are used interchangeably to describe Zionists, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora. However, and as this web-site is steadfast to point-out, Jew and Zionist are not the same thing, and one can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic. Does that make sense? Another colloquial example commonly referenced is the term "Historic Palestine". The technical name for the area in question was "The British Mandate for Palestine and The Land of Israel", shortened to Palestine, similar to how the "Islamic Republic of Iran" is just Iran. Prior to the British Mandate, it was "Ottoman Palestine", and one can continue to go back further until time immemorial, with the name "Israel" also having a colloquial reference to the territory throughout history.

Although this may all seem like histrionics, the reality is that a specific legal-framework predicates the authority of both the written article and the proposed legislation, necessitating clear titles and definitions. If the terminology cannot be agreed-upon, resolution and finalization are both impossible, rendering us all to a perpetual state of"might" inevitably equalling "right", as is the present case.


And who are the other nine members of congress?

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).