19 Reps Speak out for Palestinian Children Behind Bars

Jun 22, 2015

Update: The Jewish Telegraphic Agency picked up FCNL's press release below, and this story was subsequently reported in The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. Separately, The Hill reported on Rep. Betty McCollum's press release and FCNL's Kate Gould wrote a blog about the letter and the "No Way to Treat a Child Campaign" for Mondoweiss.

Kate Gould


Washington, DC--June 20, 2015 –News Release– Nineteen members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging the Department of State to prioritize Israel's treatment of Palestinian children in the U.S. bilateral relationship with Israel.

This unprecedented show of concern about Israel's systemic military detention of Palestinian youth was led by Rep. Betty McCollum (MN). The letter emphasizes that "progress to ensure Palestinian children's rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian people."

"This letter marks a significant step forward on Capitol Hill to advance the oft-forgotten human rights of Palestinian children," said Kate Gould, who directs the lobbying on Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. "When lawmakers urge the Department of State to prioritize the treatment of children in its bilateral relationship with Israel, they are echoing calls from people of conscience and all faith traditions that we must prioritize the treatment of children anywhere and everywhere in the world."

"Given that Israel is the top recipient of U.S. military aid, lawmakers have a particular responsibility to speak out against Israel's systematic detention and widespread abuse of Palestinian youth, as reported by UNICEF and other international human rights groups," Gould noted.

The letter's signatories include both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members from the Armed Services Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Appropriations Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee.

Earlier this month, FCNL joined the American Friends Service Committee and other faith-based and human rights organizations to help organize an interfaith vigil on June 1, the International Day for Protection of Children, to launch the "No Way to Treat a Child" campaign. Jewish Voice for Peace, Amnesty International, and other organizations have advocated in support of the letter.

The full text of the letter and signers follows below, and click here for the official letter.

The Hon. John Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a profoundly disturbing report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations” in response to the estimated seven thousand Palestinian children, ages 12 to 17, from the Occupied West Bank who during the previous decade were subjected to arrest, detention, interrogation, and/or imprisonment by Israeli army, police, and security agents. UNICEF initiated their report in response to concerns regarding the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment of Palestinian children while in the Israeli military detention system.

Israel’s military detention system targeting children is an anomaly in the world. In fact, UNICEF states, “It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

Based on international law and treaties, the UNICEF report makes 38 recommendations for action by Israeli officials while offering the following conclusion:

“The ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systemic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until a child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

The security interests of Israel are clearly a national security priority of the United States and the American people. There could be no more clear demonstration of American commitment to Israel than the more than $3 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds which are invested annually to ensure the security of the Israeli people. Nonetheless, respecting and defending the human rights of children, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality, is a fundamental American value, as well as a priority for all Americans.

In 2014, Israel arrested a Palestinian American child who suffered physical violence and ill treatment while in an Israeli detention center. This incident only highlights our belief that the state sponsored abuse of children cannot be tolerated.

Earlier this year UNICEF issued a follow­ up report outlining areas where Israel has adapted, modified, or discussed changes to its system of military detention of Palestinian children. This is a positive step and a clear acknowledgement that legitimate human rights concerns exist. Progress to ensure Palestinian children’s rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian people. We urge the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with Israel. Furthermore, we fully expect the State Department’s annual human rights report to address the status of Israel’s military detention system and treatment of Palestinian children.



Betty McCollum (MN-4)
Blumenauer, Earl (OR-3)
Beyer, Don (VA-8)
Carson, André (IN-7)
Conyers, John (MI-13)
Davis, Danny (IL-7)
DeFazio, Peter (OR-4)
Ellison, Keith (MN-5)
Eshoo, Anna G. (CA-18)
Grijalva, Raúl M. (AZ-3)
Johnson, Eddie Bernice (TX-30)
Johnson, Hank (GA-4)
Lee, Barbara (CA-13)
McDermott, Jim (WA-7)
McGovern, James P. (MA-2)
Norton, Eleanor Holmes (DC)
Pingree, Chellie (ME-1)
Rush, Bobby (IL-1)
Waters, Maxine (CA-43)

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