At a town hall in Santa Barbara last week, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) was asked about H.R. 2407, the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. Despite pressure from local constituents, Carbajal has not signed on to cosponsor Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) historic bill. The legislation would prohibit U.S. aid from being used to detain children in any foreign country, including Israel.
“Since 2000, more than 10,000 Palestinian children have been subject to the Israeli military court system,”McCollum’s bill explains, “Israeli security forces detain children under the age of 12 for interrogation for extended periods of time even though prosecution of children under 12 is prohibited by Israeli military law.”
During the Q&A, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) commended Carbajal for opposing Trump’s family separation policy at the border and called on him to show the same kind of leadership toward Palestinian children:
There are other vulnerable people who also need your support and about whom we have spoken with you. These are the Palestinian children who regularly suffer abuse by Israeli security forces. These children in the West Bank face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights. They’re often [forced to give] confessions after verbal abuse, threats, physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture. Remember these are children. Teenagers. How can protecting these children not be decent and the right thing to do? The decent and right thing for you to do is support H.R. 2407, introduced by Congresswoman McCollum and supported by many of your colleagues. This bill would protect not only children in Palestine, by amending the Leahy Law, but children around the world. We’ve met with you in person. We’ve responded in writing to your questions and concerns and we’ve submitted over 150 postcards from your constituents in support of H.R.2407 and yet we’ve still received no substantial response. Will you tonight commit to supporting H.R. 2407….?
This week, JVP Action leaders in Santa Barbara asked @RepCarbajal why he is not supporting @BettyMcCollum04‘s bill to protect Palestinian children from Israeli military abuse and detention. #nowaytotreatachild @jvplive pic.twitter.com/Slk685jm88
— JVP Action (@JvpAction) January 24, 2020
Carbajal’s response focused mainly on the ages of the children being apprehended by Israeli security forces:
Whether it’s in our country or any other country around the world, due process and due rights and protection of children is paramount and one my highest priorities. So, you have gotten my attention on this issue…and I will continue to consider it…I’m trying to look at the complexity of this issue and let me explain to you what I mean by that. There’s been concerns that I offered that…children in general…a number of individuals that have been caught up in the skirmishes between Israel and Palestine….some, not all, are older youth….let me just share with you that I’m trying to work through the complexity of those issues. Maybe the bill could look at a younger group of children….If in this country you had skirmishes between any group, all of a sudden you would begin looking at the issue more critically. I’m trying wade through the human right issues that you’re raising and I know are around in your passion….let me just say that I am continuing to consider it, thank you for raising it and I will continue to look at it.
JVP Action, the political advocacy wing of JVP, tweeted out a video of Carbajal’s answer. “Rep. Carbajal responded that he wants to differentiate between younger children & ‘older youth’,” it reads, “This is unacceptable. No child under 18 should be arrested in the middle of the night, interrogated without parents & lawyers, or subjected to abuse. This is #nowaytotreatachild.”
McCollum’s bill currently has 23 cosponsors.