A new US congressional bill would prevent taxpayer funds from being used by Israel to violate Palestinian rights and international law.
The measure, HR 2590, was introduced this week by Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum, who called on Congress to “stop ignoring the unjust and blatantly cruel mistreatment of Palestinian children and families living under Israeli military occupation.”McCollum’s bill would prohibit US funds from aiding Israel’s crimes of military detention and the abuse and torture of detained Palestinian children, the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes, and the ongoing theft of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem. The bill would also require the US government to certify that Israel is or is not breaking the prohibition of using US funds to violate human rights – an unprecedented order.
“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children, and this includes the US taking responsibility for how taxpayer-funded aid is used by recipient countries, Israel included,” McCollum stated on Thursday.
“Palestinian youth have had their futures stifled and suppressed by systemic discrimination, constant settlement expansion, and an Israeli military occupation with no end in sight,” Brad Parker of Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) told The Electronic Intifada.
McCollum’s measure “recognizes the human experience and impact of occupation and unapologetically demands basic conditions on US taxpayer funding to Israel,” he explained.
The bill highlights DCIP’s data on the systematic abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, along with research from the United Nations and Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and HaMoked.
HR 2590 sends a message to the Biden administration “that members of Congress continue to show concern for Palestinian rights and want to establish measures of accountability for US aid to Israel,” Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee told The Electronic Intifada.
Supporters of the campaign have been eager to engage with their representatives across the country on this issue, Bing said.To this end, McCollum’s bill is being sponsored by more than a dozen members of Congress, including Illinois’ Bobby Rush, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Danny Davis and Marie Newman, Indiana’s André Carson, Wisconsin’s Mark Pocan, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, and members of the progressive “squad”: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Missouri’s Cori Bush and New York’s Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. More than 80 civil and human rights organizations from Palestine to the US have endorsed McCollum’s measure, including Al-Haq, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Movement for Black Lives, Palestine Legal and numerous faith-based groups and coalitions. Notably, liberal Zionist groups J Street and Americans for Peace Now also endorsed the bill as a nominal stance against Israel’s overt annexation plans.
Addressing Israel’s systematic home demolitions
McCollum’s “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” builds on previous measures she has introduced over the past few years.
Last August, McCollum introduced the Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act, which prohibits US recognition of or funding for Israel’s potential annexation of additional Palestinian land in the West Bank.
In 2017 and in 2019, McCollum introduced similar bills that sought to ensure the rights of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention and called for accountability over how Israel spends its US military aid.
This new bill also addresses Israel’s unlawful seizure, appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property in the West Bank “with specific reference to home demolitions and evictions that have increased in the past year,” Bing said.
The year 2020 “saw an increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, even during the [COVID-19] pandemic, and [we] have noted that this cruel collective punishment measure has a devastating impact on families and children,” she added.
Israel’s restrictive and discriminatory planning regime “is specifically noted in the bill for undermining rights and forcing Palestinians to leave their communities and lands,” Bing said.
Israel lobby group AIPAC has already condemned McCollum’s bill.
McCollum struck back, clarifying AIPAC’s motives.
“AIPAC wants US taxpayer dollars to Israel to be spent on abusing Palestinian human rights? Imprisoning children? Demolishing homes? Annexing Palestinian land? Apparently they do,” she tweeted on Wednesday.The lawmaker is not a stranger to AIPAC’s vitriol, nor has she cowered from it. Last year, she labeled the lobby organization a “hate group” and accused it of incitement.
Bing told The Electronic Intifada that with the recent election of additional representatives who have pledged their support for Palestinian rights, an increase in the number of congressional supporters of McCollum’s bill is expected.
“Last year, several members of Congress who didn’t support the McCollum bill on child detention did offer public support on the issue of home demolitions and the threats of further land annexation and settlement colony expansion,” she said, adding that they hope those offices support this measure.
“We know that all supporters of the previous bills we have worked on through the No Way Campaign were re-elected to Congress, thus dispelling the myth that speaking out for Palestinian rights ends your career in politics,” Bing asserted.
Campaigners want to see companion legislation in the US Senate, which has yet to introduce any measures that address the rights of Palestinian children.
“The recognition of the systemic impunity and injustice inherent in Israeli military occupation for Palestinian children and families is long overdue,” Brad Parker said.