House bill would withhold military aid to Israel over detention of Palestinian children

Betty McCollum at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2014. Photo: Larry French

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would withhold funding from Israel over its detention of Palestinian children.

The bill is to “promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.”

It also establishes the Human Rights Monitoring and Palestinian Child Victims of Israeli Military Detention Fund, authorizing $19 million annually for nongovernmental organizations to monitor human rights abuses associated with Israel’s military detention of children.

“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” McCollum said in a statement. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”

More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained, abused and prosecuted by Israeli security forces in the Israeli military court system since 2000, McCollum’s statement said, citing monitoring groups such as Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem.

McCollum had introduced the bill in November 2017 with at least nine co-sponsors. It never came to a vote, in committee or on the House floor.

She has previously called for the withholding of military aid to Israel over its detention of minors, citing the so-called Leahy Law, which bars the State and Defense departments from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., last month praised McCollum for her efforts during an interview when she said that cutting military and economic aid to Israel “is certainly on the table.”