U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum joined the international chorus of condemnation of Israeli troops shown in a video roughly arresting a group of Palestinian children near an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.
"This is another example of the absolute disregard on the part of Israeli authorities and forces on the ground to the well-being and rights of Palestinians, no matter how young or vulnerable."
—Amit Gilutz, B'Tselem
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem this week published video footage of the five children, ages 8 to 13, being dragged off and detained by heavily armed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers near the Israeli settler colony of Havat Maon in the southern Hebron Hills.
McCollum (D-Minn.), who has been one of Congress' leading advocates for Palestinian human rights, told Middle East Eye that "using Israeli soldiers to capture little boys who were reportedly gathering wild vegetables in occupied Palestinian land is wrong."
"Seeing the images of heavily armed Israeli soldiers manhandling and detaining these five preteen Palestinian children is extremely disturbing," she added.
Al Jazeera reports the children were gathering wild vegetables when masked settlers approached them. The video shows IDF troops arriving on the scene and then pushing and dragging the boys to a nearby vehicle.
Video footage of the moments preceding the arrest of the 5 children yesterday: The children gathered Akkoub (a type of wild Artichoke) near the settlement Havat Maon, 2 masked settlers approached them, scared them away and took the buckets and plants they left behind. pic.twitter.com/y0zvtt7AFk
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) March 11, 2021
Gaby Lasky, an Israeli human rights lawyer representing the boys, said they were held for about five hours at a police station in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba.
The video of the incident sparked international outrage and condemnation.
"This is another example of the absolute disregard on the part of Israeli authorities and forces on the ground to the well-being and rights of Palestinians, no matter how young or vulnerable," B'Tselem spokesperson Amit Gilutz told Al Jazeera.
These are the five boys who were detained by Israeli forces for a few hours on Wednesday. They were picking akoub, a vegetable similar to artichoke, in a field in the South Hebron Hills.
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Yaseen, Omar, Zaid, Jaber and Saqer Humaidat.
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) March 12, 2021
In addition to regularly killing Palestinian children and teenagers with near-impunity, Israeli authorities also imprison hundreds of minors, some of whom have been tortured in custody, according to the United Nations. Earlier this year, B'Tselem reported 157 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli prisons and administrative detention.
Palestinian children also face the sometimes deadly danger of Israeli colonists who, while in the process of settling on stolen Palestinian land and ethnically cleansing the indigenous population to make room for Jewish settlers, often initiate violence or carry out "price tag" attacks in response to Israeli government action against illegal settlement activity.
Common Dreams reported Friday that a dozen progressive U.S. lawmakers including McCollum sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to "ground its engagement on Palestine and Israel in international law and human rights."
The US should oppose unilateral annexations & demolitions.
Israel should vaccinate all Palestinians.@RepRashida & I are urging @SecBlinken to center international human rights & law when engaging with Palestine and Israel.
We can reverse the harm caused by the Trump admin. https://t.co/IpGcwZ31y5
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 12, 2021
"I intend to continue to work as hard as I can to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars provided as military aid to Israel are not being used in any way that violates the rights of any Palestinian, especially children," McCollum told Middle East Eye.
In 2019, McCollum introduced a bill that would have prohibited Israel from using any of the approximately $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid it receives to "support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment" of Palestinian children. The bill failed to advance out of committee.