The Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R. 2590), introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04), seeks to protect Palestinian human rights and ensure no U.S. taxpayer funds are used to support abusive practices in the occupied territories.
H.R. 2590 is an urgently needed step toward ending U.S. complicity in ongoing, systemic injustices inflicted on Palestinians.
The bill explicitly acknowledges and condemns the ill-treatment Palestinian children and families face, declaring these practices to be “contrary to the values of the American people” and efforts to promote dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis.
If passed, H.R. 2590 would prohibit any U.S. foreign assistance from being used to support:
The military detentions of children
American funds should not be used to support military detention of children anywhere – including the southern U.S. border. The Israeli military has violated the rights of Palestinian children for many years, and these violations have continued unabated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a call by the United Nations for Israel to release all children from custody and put a moratorium on new admissions into detention facilities due to COVID-19, Israel held at least 157 Palestinian children in detention as of September 2020, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
In its annual report for 2020, the rights group Defense for Children International documented widespread reports of physical abuse, mistreatment, and poor conditions for detained Palestinian children.
In the past year, Israel has further accelerated its longstanding and unlawful practice of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. According to the United Nations, the Israeli government has demolished the homes or properties of 7,563 Palestinian families since 2009, displacing an estimated 11,408 people. That includes 851 destroyed homes in 2020 - a 27 percent increase from 2019 - and 331 thus far in 2021.
In November 2020, the United Nations issued a staunch condemnation after the Israeli government razed an entire Palestinian community, turning 76 structures into rubble and leaving 73 people - including 41 children - homeless.
The unilateral annexation of any parts of the occupied territories constitutes a grave violation of international law and could irreparably damage the prospects for a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Following the May 2020 announcement of an Israeli government proposal to annex parts of the West Bank, FCNL expressed deep concerns that annexation would further deepen inequality, injustice, and conflict. Though that proposal has been put on halt, the Israeli government has continued to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, furthering the de facto annexation of Palestinian territory.
An Important Step
In addition to prohibiting U.S. funds from being used to support abusive practices against Palestinians, the bill enhances transparency and accountability by requiring the Department of State to either certify that no U.S. funds are being used for prohibited purposes or issue a report to Congress detailing any violations by the Israeli government. These reports could serve as an important foundation for future efforts to protect and promote the rights of Palestinians.
Congress should send a strong message that the military detention and mistreatment of children, the destruction of family homes, and further annexation of Palestinian land will not be supported by U.S. funds. By cosponsoring H.R. 2590, members of Congress can align U.S. assistance with American values and international law.