Palestinian children are regularly beaten, tortured, and imprisoned by Israel. Congress member Betty McCollum has introduced a bill to stop U.S. tax dollars from funding this, but so far only 22 Congress members have co-sponsored it. (None of the Democratic presidential candidates currently in Congress have introduced or signed onto the legislation.)
People who believe in protecting children need to make their wishes known – go here to contact your member of Congress.
by Kathryn Shihadah
From No Way To Treat a Child, report by Defense for Children International:
Each year the Israeli military detains and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children.
From the moment of arrest, Palestinian children encounter ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli forces.
Three out of four experience physical violence during arrest or interrogation.
Israel is the only country in the world to prosecute children in military courts that lack basic safeguards for a fair trial.
The Israeli government detains about 700 Palestinian children each year. This is an established fact.
Our own US State Department confirms that these Palestinian children routinely face “abuse, and in some cases torture.”
Yet somehow, because the perpetrator of these atrocities is Israel, and the victims are Palestinian, American legislators are turning their backs.
A bill before the House of Representatives, H.R.2407, promotes “human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require(s) that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.”
Only 5% of Congress members have been willing to cosponsor it, just 22 out of 435.
For example, H.R.1837, the US-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, garnered 292 cosponsors (67%) – this for a bill that creates cybersecurity sharing (even though Israel spies on the US) and unlimited assistance in the event of “imminent threat of military attack” at the President’s discretion.
Another bill, H.Res.246, Opposing Efforts to Delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel, got 351 (80%) – although it is widely considered unconstitutional.
What’s going on here, when our legislators rush to give aid to a country that spies on us, when they line up to jeopardize free speech, but they can’t stand up against the torture of children?
And what’s going on when two legislators do stand up against the torture of children – and then change their minds?
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT-3] and Rep. Debbie Dingell [D-MI-12] both cosponsored H.R.2407, but then withdrew their names – for two seemingly different reasons.
Rep. DeLauro – a supposed champion of the well-being of children – rescinded her sponsorship in June, claiming that her name had been added by mistake, and explaining that she opposed the bill because it “seeks to single out Israel for criticism, and seeks to appropriate money to investigate, document, and report only on Israeli abuses.”
Rep. Dingell withdrew her name last month. Why? She explained, “After talking with many in my community about this bill. … I felt H.R.2407 was ultimately counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
If the phrases “seeks to single out Israel” and “counterproductive to a two-state solution” sound familiar, they should.
Let’s talk about “singling out”
The fact is that Congressional bills on foreign policy frequently focus on the practices of one country (for example, H.R.4695, H.R.4754, and H.R.4644). This is standard operating procedure and basic common sense.
Several dozen pieces of legislation are in Congress right now that promote Israel – through aid ($38 billion over the next ten years), silencing free speech critical of Israel, applauding Middle Eastern countries that have normalized relations with Israel, and affirming support of Israel’s illegal annexation of part of Syria, to name just a few.
It is particularly ironic to find a Congress member complaining of ‘singling Israel out,’ given that Congress so frequently singles out Israel for special treatment and inordinate aid. Apparently, singling Israel out to receive on average 7,000 times more aid per capita than others around the world is ok, but a law that protects Palestinian children from abuse is somehow not permissible.
Let’s also remember that human rights defenders frequently focus on a specific issue to remediate. This is called focus. Most activists across the political spectrum have a particular cause they are working to address – the environment, LGBTQ rights, asylum seekers, taxpayers’ rights. That is how people work to bring changes they feel are necessary.
The United Nations has also faced accusations of “singling out Israel.” However, the fact is that the acceptance of Israel as a member state was a singling-out event: the UN trusted a state that had not fulfilled the requirements for membership. The Jewish State made promises regarding Palestinian refugees, borders, Jerusalem, and compliance with all UN resolutions.
This trust was misplaced. Israel’s submissive and humble demeanor quickly turned into obstinacy – toward the UN and the world. Perhaps that is why the UN has been relentless in its pursuit of justice for Palestinians. This is the context of the United Nations’ relentless pursuit of justice for Palestinians.
Another way to look at it, as described by the Guardian in earlier days of the “singling out” phenomenon:
But who’s actually doing the singling out? Israel’s advocates argue that its security situation and its role as a Jewish state are unique, and imply that it is therefore permitted to do things that are clearly prohibited to other states (land seizures, house demolitions, assassinations, mass detentions). Those who demand that Israel conform to international law and standards of human decency are challenging this kind of singling out, calling for an end to Israel’s special exemption.
The US singles out Israel for military and diplomatic support. Over the last 30 years it has been by far the largest recipient of US foreign aid. The US also regularly uses its security council veto to shield Israel from condemnation. And Israel is the only country in the region permitted by the US to possess nuclear weapons.
PEP: the flip side of “singling out”
A very real quirk in the political community (and just about every other community as well) is something called “PEP” – Progressive Except Palestine. It is a singling out of the Palestinian issue as somehow undeserving of a just solution.
When otherwise enlightened, compassionate people refuse to address the suffering of Palestinians, they relegate this group – who have endured 70+ years of dispossession, 50+ years of illegal occupation, and 12+ years of illegal blockade – to more of the same.
Bottom line: refusal to “single out Israel” for criticism is in essence singling out Palestinians for injustice and oppression.
Rep. DeLauro: “H.R.2407 singles out Israel”
The wording of the legislation that would protect Palestinian children does indeed mention Israel, and no other country, by name.
Again, context matters. The US gives $10 million every day in aid to Israel – that’s one third of the total American foreign-aid budget. Americans have a duty to see that it is used prudently – that’s just responsible philanthropy. The country receiving the most aid should come under the closest scrutiny. The Leahy Laws were created to safeguard aid money, but have not been applied to Israel.
(As an aside, Israel comprises just .001% of the world’s population, and ranks high in per capita income. One might well wonder whether $3.8 billion a year is a bit extravagant.)
So, is it reasonable to withdraw cosponsorship of H.R.2407 because it singles out Israel? Something to think about, Rep. DeLauro: rather than condemning people who call out injustice, consider calling out the country that is perpetrating the injustice (Israel) and the one that is complicit (US).
(Consider stopping right now for a moment and contacting Rep. DeLauro. Her DC phone number is (202) 225-3661, her district number is (203) 562-3718. If you are not one of her constituents, you may not be able to leave a comment, so also consider reaching out via Twitter (@rosadelauro) or Facebook.)
Let’s talk about “counterproductive to the two-state solution”
This accusation is a frequent pro-Israel talking point. For example:
In 2012, when the UN gave Palestine de facto recognition as a sovereign state, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labelled the vote “unfortunate and counterproductive.”
In 2013, when the UN issued remarks on the illegality of Israeli settlements under international law – a position that has been held by almost the entire world since the settlement enterprise began in 1967 – Israel’s foreign ministry condemned the report as “counterproductive.”
In 2015, when Palestine joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) – thus becoming eligible to pursue war crimes accusations against Israel – the US State Department called the move “counterproductive” and urged efforts toward a “two-state solution.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) legislative agenda states that “unilateral measures [like seeking UN recognition or ICC membership] are counterproductive…A negotiated two-state solution is the clearest path to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an Israel advocacy organization that fiercely promotes a two-state solution, has labelled both the BDS Movement and the internationally recognized right of Palestinians to return to their land “counterproductive.”
Even UNRWA, the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, has been called “counterproductive.” (Under international law and UN resolution, refugees should be allowed to return home; occupiers have an obligation to care for occupied peoples. UNRWA exists because Israel has done neither.)
(A side note on the two-state solution: most fully informed, committed supporters of Palestine recognize that the two-state solution is no longer a viable option, if it ever was. Because Israel has 650,000 settlers entrenched in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the possibility of dividing the land into two states is unlikely – if it were to happen, such a solution would cement the 1948 ethnic cleansing and merely prolong injustice in a different form. Israel has already indicated that any Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized, noncontiguous, and likely with much of its land, sea, and air under Israeli control. Palestinians would be at the mercy of their heavily armed neighbor.
While Palestinians themselves must ultimately decide what they want, advocates generally favor a single democratic state with equal rights for all. Read books by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Virginia Tilley, and Ali Abunimah for more on the one-state solution.
Whatever the proposal, using the “counterproductive” argument to withhold justice from Palestinians is disingenuous.)
Rep. Dingell: “H.R.2407 is counterproductive”
And now Rep. Debbie Dingell is repeating this talking point as an excuse to abandon children: “After talking with many in my community about this bill. … I felt H.R.2407 was ultimately counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” adding the dubious statement, “My heart has always been with the children of Palestine and I would never take action that would harm them. I believe we must act to protect them and that we must do better than this bill. I am working hard on a solution.”
It is not hard to guess where in her “community” Rep. Dingell this idea came from – certainly not from her district’s large Palestinian and Arab American population.
What is hard to guess is what the protection of children from torture has to do with a two-state solution (or any other solution). The same can be said of recognition of sovereignty, or BDS, or the right of return or UNRWA: what do these really have to do with a solution? Why are these concepts “counterproductive”? (The objection to Palestinian membership in the ICC is easy to understand: Israel does not want to be tried for war crimes.)
Executive director of the Arab American Institute Maya Berry explains that the idea of H.R.2407 as somehow counterproductive to achieving a two-state solution “is simply illogical.”
“This bill is about cutting US tax dollars funding brutality. U.S. taxpayers don’t want their money used this way,” Berry said. “We should reject the idea that pro-Israel means supporting the detainment of Palestinian children by the Israeli military.”
(Consider stopping right now for a moment and contacting Rep. Dingell. Her DC phone number is (202) 225-4071, her district numbers are (313) 278-2936 and (734) 481-1100. If you are not one of her constituents, you may not be able to leave a comment, so also consider reaching out via Twitter (@RepDebDingell) or Facebook.)
A page from the Global Language Dictionary
There is a reason for the uniformity of the pro-Israel message: it was created in a laboratory. The Israel Project (find out about some of its work in this video on the Israel lobby) created a secret – later, leaked – booklet for those “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel.” The result, the Global Language Dictionary, was based on detailed polling about which words and word combinations work best with American audiences “In the name of gaining credibility.”
The handbook recommends for example:
Identify the goal, and be authentic. Given the overwhelming American support for a two-state solution, it will make support much easier and faster if you if set the tone for all discussions by articulating Israel’s shared vision for the ultimate goal of two peoples, living side by side in a lasting and secure peace.
In the name of gaining credibility for why you might later say that a two-state solution isn’t achievable overnight, you should start with language…to signal how your goals align with the public’s. It conveys authenticity and will keep the listener tuned in to what else you have to say…
No matter what you are asked, bridge to a productive pro-Israel message. When asked a direct question, you don’t have to answer it directly. You are in control of what you say and how you say it. Remember, your goal in doing interviews is not only to answer questions—it is to bring persuadable members of the audience to Israel’s side in the conflict…
Persuadables won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show Empathy for BOTH sides!
On page 77, the handbook reveals that the best accusation to make against Palestinians (and presumably, their allies) is that they are “undermining the peace process”: “Americans believe no demand is so important that it should be allowed to derail the effort to achieve peace.”
Another word for “undermining” is “counterproductive.”
The book also recommends that, after convincing an audience that the two-state solution is best, “It is essential to lower expectations and reduce the pressure on Israel.” Partisans are instructed to explain “why a two-state solution isn’t realistic right now. First the rockets and the war need to stop.” This “sets up the perfect dynamic” for the speaker: “’Peace before political boundaries’ elevates the need to stop the rockets, stop the bombings, and create a ceasefire, while subtly downplaying the importance of a two-state solution.”
With low expectations on Israel and all of the pressure on the Palestinians, any move the Palestinians make toward statehood before they “stop the rockets,” looks like an attempt to sneak around the roadblocks to statehood. It undermines, or is counterproductive to the Holy Grail, the ever-elusive two-state solution.
With the blame squarely on the Palestinians, the handbook reiterates the need for Americans to believe that “‘Israel is working to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone involved.’ This suggests positive intent. This suggests progress. This suggests hope. And all three are important components of a successful communication effort.”
It’s all about perception
The Global Language Dictionary is required reading for Israel advocates, not because it teaches facts that they need to know, but because it teaches the strategies they need to overcome the opponent. Speakers are not trying to inform the public, but to gain “the public relations advantage.” It all boils down to messaging: “The side that appears to be advocating peace more strongly is the side that will win.”
It is a fair bet that Reps. DeLauro and Dingell had a conversation with well-trained Israel partisans – the fingerprints are clear. The Global Language Dictionary rhetoric worked in these cases (perhaps combined with campaign finance considerations, given the electoral influence of the numerous pro-Israel political action committees and pro-Israel billionaire campaign donors such as Haim Saban.)
Chances are that Israel partisans are visiting all of our Congress members. It is imperative that those who believe in human rights for all educate Congress about Israel’s contravention of international law, human rights violations against Palestinians, and misappropriation of our tax dollars.
22 said “Yes” to Palestinian children’s safety
As of today, the following Representatives (in alphabetical order) have cosponsored H.R.2407. Over 400 would rather pander to the pro-Israel establishment. There is literally no other explanation for failure to back this bill. Below this list is a link that you can use to contact your Congress member.
- Rep. Bass, Karen [D-CA-37]
- Rep. Beyer, Donald S., Jr. [D-VA-8]
- Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]
- Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9]
- Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]
- Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
- Rep. Evans, Dwight [D-PA-3]
- Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. “Chuy” [D-IL-4]
- Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]
- Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]
- Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30]
- Rep. Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [D-GA-4]
- Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
- Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large]
- Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria [D-NY-14]
- Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
- Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1]
- Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]
- Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7]
- Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1]
- Rep. Tlaib, Rashida [D-MI-13]
- Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12]
Go here to contact your Congress person and instruct her/him to cosponsor H.R.2407. (When you add your address, you will be directed to a “please cosponsor” or “thank you for cosponsoring” message.)
Make it clear that this bill protects children – and don’t let them get away with weak excuses like “counterproductive” and “singles out Israel.” Children deserve a childhood free from fear and torture. Full stop.
Kathryn Shihadah is staff writer for If Americans Knew. She blogs at Palestine Home.