Two dozen Christian leaders are calling on the US Congress to support a bill to curb Israeli torture of Palestinian children.
This comes as progressive lawmakers are being challenged over their failure to uphold Palestinian rights. In Chicago, activists occupied the office of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to demand she back the bill.
In a letter to US lawmakers, the faith leaders say that thousands of Palestinian children have been “prosecuted and incarcerated” by the Israeli army in recent years.
“Often dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by armed soldiers, they suffer physical and emotional violence and frequently face verbal abuse, humiliation and intimidation,” the letter states.
“These children are interrogated, usually without family or lawyers present, and often sign confessions in Hebrew, a language many do not understand.”
Introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, HR 2407 would prohibit US funding to Israeli military units found to be involved in abuses of Palestinian children. It also allocates millions of dollars to investigate such abuses.
Signatories of the letter urging lawmakers to back the bill include Reverend Michael B. Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Reverend Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jim Winkler, president of the National Council of Churches, and Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi USA.
McCollum will be holding a briefing on Capitol Hill this week to urge more lawmakers to support HR 2407.
Progressive except for Palestine
Last week in Chicago, activists staged a sit-in at the district office of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to demand she co-sponsor the McCollum bill.
Schakowsky, who has represented the city’s North Side and northern suburbs since 1999, has a reputation as a progressive – except on the issue of Palestine.
The activists from the US Palestinian Community Network, the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee held signs saying “Protect Palestinian children” as they occupied Schakowsky’s office.
Jewish Voice for Peace is circulating a petition demanding that Schakowsky support the bill or at least stop thwarting it.
“For years, local activists and constituents have been urging her to take concrete action to put an end to the arrest, detention and abuse of Palestinian children by the Israeli military in the West Bank,” the petition states.
“We have been asking her to ensure the annual $3.8 billion in military funding the Israeli government receives from the US isn’t being used for human rights abuses against Palestinian children.”
Yet Schakowsky has “consistently refused to do so,” according to the petition.
Now, the petition states, the congresswoman is “refusing to join 22 of her progressive colleagues in cosponsoring HR 2407. Even worse, she appears to have begun misleading constituents as to the current situation on the ground facing children to undermine support for the bill.”
Activists ended the sit-in after being promised a private meeting with Schakowsky in coming weeks.
According to the US Palestinian Community Network, activists plan to use the meeting to discuss HR 2407 and “express our disappointment in the unconditional support she has for Israel and its war crimes.”
“The worst dodge I’ve ever seen”
Last week, Democratic hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren came under renewed scrutiny for her failure to support Palestinian rights.
The journalists shared the video apparently under the impression that Warren’s comments were fresh.
In fact, the question was asked by journalist Sam Husseini at a press conference in Washington last year.
Husseini had also asked the senator if she would cut the bloated US military budget to pay for basic needs of the American people.
But Warren failed to directly answer either question.
Last week, influential progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski slammed Warren’s response as “the worst dodge I’ve ever seen.”
“The question was so straightforward and so simple, and she couldn’t answer it in a plain way,” Kulinski said.
“If you are in favor of cutting military spending, and are in favor of protecting the rights of Palestinian children, here’s how you answer,” Kulinski added: “Yes, I’m in favor of that bill and I’ll co-sponsor it, and yes I’m going to cut military spending. That’s it. That’s all you gotta do.”
In recent weeks, Warren has indicated she may use US military aid as leverage to curb Israeli abuses. But her most detailed policy statement to date on the question of Palestine still contains no commitment to support McCollum’s legislation or introduce it in the Senate.
Warren has a consistently poor record when it comes to Palestinian rights.
Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that a press conference by Elizabeth Warren occurred last week. In fact it took place more than a year ago. Last week several journalists shared and commented on a video of the press conference apparently under the mistaken impression that it was new. The Electronic Intifada failed to independently check the date of the press conference and only learned of the error after publication. The article and headline have been updated to reflect the correct date of the press conference.