Congress Members Ask Obama to Protect Palestinian Children

President asked to appoint 'special envoy for Palestinian youth' to monitor Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s human rights.

Palestinian girls in ballet course, run by Al-Qattan Center for Children, Gaza City, November 25, 2015.
Reuters/Suhaib Salem

Twenty members of the United States Congress have called on President Barack Obama to take action to protect the rights of Palestinian children, according to a report on the Salon website.

In a letter sent to the president on Monday, the lawmakers urged him to appoint a “special envoy for Palestinian youth,” as a means of monitoring Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s human rights.

The children, the letter said, “are growing up under military occupation with very few opportunities to improve their lives." They live in “an unimaginably difficult and at times hopeless environment under the constant fear of arrest, detention and violence at the hands of the Israeli military."

The letter raised concerns about Israel’s frequent imprisonment of Palestinian children as young as 12, sometimes without charge or trial.

The letter was initiated by Democratic Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota. Among the other signatories were Reps. Keith Ellison, Barbara Lee and Luis Gutiérrez. Together, they represent states around the country.

“Military prisons for 12-year-old Palestinian children is inhuman," McCollum told Salon. "It totally dehumanizes them and it’s an abuse of Palestinian human rights. That needs to stop."

"I want the Israeli people to have peace and security, but I also want Palestinian children and their parents to have security, dignity, justice and equality,” she added.

McCollum said she and her colleagues imagine that the role of the special envoy for Palestinian youth would be to “shine a bright light on how Palestinian children are held in military in detention, sometimes in solitary confinement, on how they don’t have access to their parents, let alone an attorney.”

In the letter, the members of congress also called on the U.S. State Department to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in its negotiations.