Palestinian American teen recounts Israeli assault to packed room on Capitol Hill

“If there wasn’t a video of me, I would be in jail and no one would believe what they did to me,” Palestinian American Tariq Abukhdeir, 16, stated during a US congressional briefing in Washington, DC on 2 June.

In July 2014, Abukhdeir was beaten unconscious by Israeli police in Shufat, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. The vicious assault was captured on video.

After attacking him, Israeli forces arrested and detained Abukhdeir and five other youths without charge. Police prevented Abukhdeir from receiving medical treatment for five hours. Abukhdeir’s cousin, Muhammad Abu Khudair, 16, was kidnapped and burned alive by Israeli extremists just days before.

“Where are these soldiers now? Are they doing this to another Palestinian child? I want to go back this summer and be with my family and put this behind me,” the teenager told a packed room in the US capitol nearly a year after he was beaten. ”But I know that for me to put this behind me, these soldiers have to be held accountable.”

Abukhdeir’s testimony at the congressional briefing was part of a three-day series of advocacy events in early June organized by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), the American Friends Service Committee and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to raise awareness of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian children in military detention. More than 100 people, including staff from 36 congressional offices, attended the briefing.

Visibly upset

Brad Parker, attorney and advocacy officer with DCI-Palestine, accompanied Abukhdeir and his family to the congressional briefing along with Jennifer Bing, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East Program in Chicago. The rights groups are part of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which includes a broad coalition of groups.

Abukhdeir’s highly visible case helped bring attention to the plight of countless other Palestinian children in Israeli military detention who aren’t afforded access to the US State Department, which helped procure the Florida teen’s release from Israeli detention last summer.

The campaign aims to “target our own members of Congress, raise the issue, make it local and get people involved in demanding respect for Palestinian children’s rights,” Parker said.

Many government staffers were shocked to hear the specifics of Israel’s violations of children’s rights.

“You could see them visibly becoming upset,” Bing said, “as Brad [Parker] in particular was able to share with them the process of what happens during night raids, the kind of interrogations, the impact that it has on families.”

Part of a video series of the briefing is below, featuring Brad Parker, Tariq Abukhdeir and his mother Suha Abukhdeir.

Thousands of children arrested

DCI-Palestine states that “Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.”

Last summer, more than 550 children were killed during Israel’s 51-day attack on the Gaza Strip.

Yet, as The Electronic Intifada reported this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon caved in to pressure from Israel and the US and removed the Israeli military from its list of serious violators of children’s rights in an annual report on children in armed conflict.

DCI-Palestine’s Parker said that he sees opportunities for further discussions between Palestinian children’s advocates and Washington policymakers.

“We’re embarking on an incremental approach to engaging on an issue with specific policymakers who aren’t necessarily predisposed to being sympathetic to the issue, or regularly interested in actually pursuing anything related to the issue,” he said.

Following the congressional briefing, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota wrote a “dear colleague” letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on him to make the “human rights of Palestinian children a priority in our bilateral relationship with the State of Israel.”

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has launched an online drive to urge other members of congress to sign McCollum’s letter.

Listen to the interview with Parker and Bing via the media player above.




Chaka Fatah is my local Congressman. Bob Casey is my Senator. Both reply to my emails that the US and Israel's safety are intertwined. However, I am naming them here, in an international forum, so that their arrogance does not go unnoticed.

Of course I respond with the stats on Israel's Human Rights abuse cases and my plea for my legislators to stand on the right side of history. I'm ignored, but like others, refuse to stop fighting.

I have very little faith in my country to do the right thing.

Thanks for this publication,
Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island


Please stop the massacres that are going on. They are murdering children and jailing them and torturing them. We cannot let this continue. It is inhuman to let this continue. We are just as guilty as the zionists that are committing these crimes if we don't stop sending them aid and if we continue to look the other way. This makes me physically ill. It makes me sick that my country is a part of this.


I posted in another thread, my disgust as well as embarrassment for being part of this Evil Empire. It's common knowledge, that our entire history and wealth was built on stolen land off the backs of stolen people. I call my legislators everyday about Palestinian rights. I refuse to give up.

You are not alone in your feelings. You might experience what I have for expressing my opinions about this country but through this important publication, found others like me. Humans of all nationalities coming together for The Palestinian People.


Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island


The human rights abuses by the Netanyahu government are reason enough for congress to stop providing military aid to Israel. It is "not in my name". That money should be redirected to rebuilding the schools,hospitals, and infrastructure and thousands of home obliterated by the Israeli military in Gaza.


Yes! We are obviously all coming out and posting our real names and feelings.

It's a freeing experience, to look injustices in the face and say, "Not in my name".

Join me, in posting the names of your U.S. legislators, who refuse to do the right thing. Out them here. Out them on social media. They work for us, and remind them every day. If they refuse, keep trying. Our brothers and sisters in humanity are suffering with the help of our government.

Peace and Power to All People!

Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island


Hi Jane, (I'm a little late reading this, but)
I just want to echo your call to action. I continually send emails to Senator, Sherrod Brown on all issues pertaining to the occupation...and all I receive back is an automated letter stating that he forwarded my request(s) to the 'foreign policy' person(s), whom we all pretty much know now who 'they' are. It sickens me. I do not vote anymore...since 9/11...but I am HOLDING ACCOUNTABLE all US legislators to face this horrendous injustice of the hijacking of the American Government by a foreign dual citizenship despot illegal Israel, and the rivers of blood that is on their hands. Let us not allow them to be excused but to be held accountable.



I am ashamed of my country. I am ashamed of it's racist and genocide past. I have and will say again how sorry I am to be a citizen under this curse and to bring relief and some kind of justice to all who have been wronged. To bring the US Government to repent for all of it's wars and arrogance across the world...and to want peace.


To be ashamed of being American. I guess we've had "USA #1" jammed down our necks 4 so long. I almost voted 4 Bernie Sanders, until he dropped the socialist part of his party affiliation. Crazy thought - was gonna uproot me and the cat, to claim my Jewish dual Israel citizenship, then move into Gaza, just to really show my support of my brothers and sisters in humanity. Guess what our "democratic " free speech of a country did to me - pulled my dual citizenship, apparently placed me on an unofficial no fly list AND blocked my Western Union account after sending $ last July to someone in Gaza, so they could buy water. Oh, and I have been filmed by Philly PD counter-terrorism unit, at peaceful protests. Anyone out there in ei land, willing to help me move to Denmark or anywhere that will be ok with my "terrorism"? Ok, rant over. Power to All people and Free Palestine
Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island


Hi Jane I am so impressed by your very compelling post. I am an Australian and our government is almost lock-step with yours re. Israel so I understand your anger.

I wish you well . . .

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).