Congressional Briefing Packs the House!
Watch the briefing here.
On June 2, the No Way to Treat a Child Campaign held a Congressional Briefing in the North Congressional Meeting room at the Capitol Visitor’s Center. US Representative Keith Ellison provided the welcome to the standing-room-only event for 130 people, including staffers from over 30 Congressional offices.
The event was organized primarily by the American Friends Service Committee, working with Defense for Children International Palestine and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
“Israel is the only nation in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts,” said Bradley Parker, human rights lawyer, with Defense for Children International Palestine, an organization that provides legal services and monitors the treatment of children in detention.
Speaking to the hushed audience, Parker pointed out that an Israeli settler living in the West Bank, is technically subject to the same military laws as a Palestinian, but in practice, is given the benefit of civilian law.
The problem is more widespread than the initial figures indicate. In addition to the 700 children arrested and detained annually, there are an additional 300- 400 children every year who are detained and released the same day, and do not get recorded, Parker noted.
“These courts are not about justice. You don’t arrest kids in the middle of the night from their home, physically abuse 3 out of 4 children if you’re interested in justice”, Parker said.
Palestinian American teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir also testified about the ordeal that he endured while visiting family in East Jerusalem last summer. Video taken by a bystander showed Tariq being brutally beaten by Israeli police while he was observing a protest over the murder of his cousin Muhammed Abu Khdeir at the hands of three Israelis.
“I was treated like an animal,” Tariq related. And though the visible scars have healed, “I feel like I can’t be normal,” he said. Thus far, the officers who beat and arrested Tariq have not been charged, or even investigated. “I know that for me to be able to put this behind me, these soldiers have to be held accountable.” [Actually one police officer was charged, but the family is not clear he or others involved in the assault have been held accountable – NYT article of 9/10/14]
The briefing also included clips from the new video “Detaining Dreams” that includes testimonies from four children who have been through the Israeli Military Court System. The children related how they were arrested without warrant, taken away to an undisclosed location and physically and emotionally abused during a long and cruel interrogation, all without a lawyer present.
In follow up to the briefing, US Representative Betty McCollum (D, Minn) has drafted a Dear Colleague letter asking her fellow legislators to sign on to a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to raise this issue with Israeli officials. The deadline for signing the letter is June 18.
The briefing was part of 3-days of advocacy in DC that kicked off with an interfaith vigil marking the International Day for the Protection of the Child. Following the briefing on June 2, the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign screened a new short documentary film, “Detaining Dreams” about Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. The film was produced by Defense for Children International Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). On June 3, volunteers from the “No Way” campaign participated in congressional office visits on Capitol Hill highlighting the widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.