As Alliance members may recall, at our last Annual Meeting we adopted a statement supporting federal legislation to stop the mistreatment of Palestinian children and youth by the Israeli military. Just briefly, each year the Israeli military arrests and detains from 500 to 700 Palestinian children and youth who live in the West Bank. This practice inflicts brutality and trauma on these young people in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In contrast, Israeli children and youth who live in the West Bank and commit violations are not detained by the military, but are subject to Israeli police.
In summary, the proposed legislation, H.R. 2407:
1) Notes research which establishes the trauma inflicted by the practice of military detention
2) Underscores the fact that Israel has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child “shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;” and,
3) Provides that no U.S. funds may be used to support the military detention or ill-treatment of children in violation of international humanitarian law.
Thus far, H.R. 2407 has 22 co-sponsors. On November 20, I was able to attend a briefing in the U.S. Capitol that featured this legislation. Representatives of the Alliance of Baptists and others in the U.S. faith community heard that our advocacy matters. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, the member of Congress who introduced the bill, told us that it was the faith community that brought this immoral practice to her attention. Besides thanking us for our advocacy, Rep. McCollum asked that we reach out to our communities and ask them to secure more co-sponsors.
Rep. McCollum explained that the Israeli practice is immoral and destructive. Along with other speakers, she also criticized the Trump administration practice of separating children from their families at our own southern border. But she stated clearly that it is wrong to remain silent when similar separations are occurring in the West Bank by the Israeli military.
Other speakers from faith communities called the military detention of children and youth immoral. One person said that she had visited Israel/Palestine with a delegation that included travelers from South Africa. After hearing from several families and youth about their experiences in military detention, one South African delegate said such experiences were even worse than those under apartheid in South Africa.
Alliance of Baptists members can feel righteous pride that one of the key handouts at this congressional briefing was a letter from faith leaders both supporting the legislation and criticizing the practices of the Israeli government. The letter was signed by our leadership team, Paula Clayton Dempsey and Carole Collins. In our support of this legislation, the Alliance stands united with dozens of other faith communities on this clear matter of justice.
In response, Alliance members are encouraged to respond to Rep. McCollum’s request: Please ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 2407!
Rick Goodman is a member of congregational partner Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., and the Community for Justice in Palestine/Israel.