The U.S. human rights group Jewish Voice for Peace Action on Thursday endorsed a bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum that would place conditions on the billions of dollars in annual military aid given to Israel in a bid to stop its government from using the funds to kill, torture, imprison, displace, or otherwise harm Palestinian children and families.
"It could not be clearer: Congress needs to stop funding the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians."
McCollum's (D-Minn.) bill (pdf) would prohibit Israel from using U.S. taxpayer dollars to "support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law."
Additionally, it would require the U.S. secretary of state to certify to Congress that U.S. funds are not being used for these illegal purposes.
Beth Miller, senior government affairs manager at JVP Action, said in a statement that the bill "could not come at a more critical moment. The pandemic has exposed and intensified brutal systemic injustices around the world—and Israel is no exception."
"The Israeli military has continued to imprison Palestinian children and, horrifyingly, at a time when we are all asked to stay at home, the Israeli government has actually increased the rate at which it is demolishing Palestinian homes," she added. "It could not be clearer: Congress needs to stop funding the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians."
Israel currently receives about $3.8 billion in annual unconditional military aid from the United States.
Proud to introduce new legislation: Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. It's time for Congress to support peace & justice for Palestinians and Israelis.
Read my full statement here: https://t.co/mi5XfQ18Jj
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) April 15, 2021
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"U.S. assistance intended for Israel's security must never be used to violate the human rights of Palestinian children, demolish the homes of Palestinian families, or to permanently annex Palestinian lands," McCollum said in a statement introducing the bill. "Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children, and this includes the U.S. taking responsibility for how taxpayer-funded aid is used by recipient countries, Israel included."
"Congress must stop ignoring the unjust and blatantly cruel mistreatment of Palestinian children and families living under Israeli military occupation," McCollum continued. "I strongly believe there is a growing consensus among the American people that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination."
"The unprecedented endorsement of this bill by human rights organizations as well as Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations is indicative of an energized movement in support of human rights for Palestinians," she added. "It is time for Americans, especially Members of Congress, to stand with Palestinians and Israelis who seek a future of peace and justice."
Thank you, Betty McCollum, for being a tireless advocate for Palestinian rights. We hope that your support for Palestinian justice, freedom, and equality will inspire other members of Congress to speak truth to power about Israeli occupation and apartheid. #FreePalestine https://t.co/NKU5xdRimB
— CODEPINK (@codepink) April 15, 2021
Co-sponsoring McCollum's bill are Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Andre Carson (Ind.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Jesús "Chuy" García (Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Marie Newman (Ill.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Bobby L. Rush (Ill.), and Rasida Tlaib (Mich.)—the first Palestinian American elected to Congress.
The bill comes days after a 14-year-old Palestinian boy lost an eye after he was shot in the face by Israeli occupation forces in the illegally occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
According to the rights group Defense for Children International–Palestine, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinian minors in 2020, while the Israeli human rights defenders B'Tselem said 157 Palestinian minors were imprisoned by Israeli authorities as of the end of last September.