On Wednesday, December 6, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel flaunting international law and ignoring UN Security Council resolutions 194, 181, 252, 476 and 478.
Israeli forces have since escalated their violent attempts to suppress a now reenergized popular resistance movement. Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that Israeli forces killed 11, injured 3,000, and arrested over 350 Palestinians in the two weeks following Trump’s announcement.
One photo taken during the initial Palestinian protests in the West Bank city of Hebron quickly became iconic for its striking depiction of the power imbalance at the heart of Israeli occupation.
In the photo shot by Abdulhafiz al-Hashlamoun, over a dozen armed and uniformed Israeli soldiers march a single blindfolded Palestinian child down a street, pulling his arms behind his back.
The boy in the photo is 16-year-old Fawzi al-Juneidi. The child reported to his lawyer that he was beaten during the arrest and has not been able to speak with his family. He continues to be held at Ofer Prison.
An Israeli military prosecutor accuses al-Juneidi of throwing stones during a protest against Trump’s declaration. Al-Juneidi and his family maintain that he was not protesting, but going to get groceries for his ill mother and injured father.
Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes hundreds of children like al-Juneidi in military courts each year. The conviction rate in these courts stands at 99.7 percent.
Since the Jerusalem uprising in October 2015, Israeli forces have arrested over 4,000 Palestinian children, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported. About 300 of these children remain in Israeli detention, mostly as pre-trail detainees facing charges for throwing rocks.
Once arrests are made, Israeli forces have been shown to systemically violate the rights of Palestinian children including by inflicting torture.
A 2016 study released by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) found that 97 percent of arrested Palestinian children report being interrogated without a lawyer or a family member present. Seventy-five percent report being subject to physical violence.
Israeli authorities also revived the practice of placing Palestinian minors in prison under administrative detention in 2015. Administrative detention orders are issued without charges and renewed indefinitely based on alleged secret evidence provided to military courts by Israeli intelligence.
Israeli forces held two minors in administrative detention in 2017. In 2016, there were 14 child administrative detainees, whereas in 2015 there were six.
FIRST CONGRESS BILL ON PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
As the president of the U.S. fortifies the Israeli occupation and its indiscriminate violations of Palestinian rights, some members of Congress aim to end U.S. support for Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian children.
On November 14, 2017, Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) brought the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act” to Congress with nine co-sponsors. Ten additional representatives have signed onto the bill since it was introduced.
The proposed act is the first in Congress to address the issue of Palestinian rights.
If approved, the bill would require the Secretary of State to certify that no US funds “obligated or expended” in the previous year to Israel were used to support the military detention of Palestinian children, which is a violation of international law.
The rationale for the act stems from the fact that Israel receives $3.8 billion from American taxpayers each year, which amounts to about 25 percent of the US defense budget, Representative McCollum explained.
Behind the uncertain and frightening reality Palestinians face as a result of Trump’s effacement of their historic connection to their land, McCollum’s bill appears as a silver lining. It suggests that the loss of the executive branch’s fictitious neutrality on Palestine could make space for political action in favor of Palestinian rights from within the US government – Israel’s staunchest ally.
The photo of al-Juneidi shows that connecting the issue of support for Israel to the issue of Palestinian children’s rights is an appropriate first step in dismantling the US’ bankrolling of the occupation. Congress must formally approve (or disapprove) the disbursal of aid to Israel each year.
But the overall problem is still grave. While McCollum’s recent bill brings attention to the numerous unlawful detentions of Palestinian children by Israel, it cannot be overlooked that Israeli forces also kill Palestinian children. In 2016, Israeli forces killed 35 Palestinian children. When Israel attacks Gaza the numbers climb much higher: in 2014, Israeli forces killed over 550 Palestinian children in the besieged coastal enclave.