According to statistics from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies, Israeli forces arrested 450 Palestinians in August including 69 children. The numbers were posted on the Facebook page of Riad Al-Ashqar, a spokesperson for the group. In addition to the 69 children, 13 women and 2 photojournalists, and a disabled man were also arrested last month.
The United States Congress is currently on recess, but the House and Senate gavel back in next week. There’s a number of proposed bills connected to Israel/Palestine that lawmakers are hoping to move forward and one of them is H.R. 2407–the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. The legislation, which was introduced by Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum in April, would amend the Foreign Assistance Act to block funding for the military detention of children in other countries, including Israel.
McCollum’s bill currently has 21 co-sponsors, all Democrats:
Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1]
Rep. Beyer, Donald S., Jr. [D-VA-8]
Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large]
Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]
Rep. Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [D-GA-4]
Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1]
Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30]
Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9]
Rep. Tlaib, Rashida [D-MI-13]
Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]
Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]
Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. “Chuy” [D-IL-4]
Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria [D-NY-14]
Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7]
Rep. Dingell, Debbie [D-MI-12]
Rep. Evans, Dwight [D-PA-3]
Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12]
Rep. Bass, Karen [D-CA-37]
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was also signed onto the bill for a time, but ended up withdrawing her support and claiming that she added as a sponsor without her approval.
Rep. McCollum introduced a similar version of the bill back in 2017, H.R. 4391. While it aimed to achieve the same goal, that legislation didn’t actually propose altering the Foreign Assistance Act. Rather, it required the Secretary of State to annually certify that no U.S. funds had been used to detain Palestinian children.
At a recent town hall in Braintree, Massachusetts, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) was asked about the bill by a member of the local Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) chapter. The questioner connected Lynch’s criticism of the Trump administration’s border policy with Israel. “You said separating families does not protect U.S. security,” he said, “Well, we’re not the only country in the world that separates kids from their families. That is also true in Israel at this moment and it’s our money that is paying for the Israeli military in very high amounts.”
In response, Lynch said that the bill sounded important and indicated that he’d be willing to support it. It remains to be seen whether Lynch will actually follow through on this statements, but there’s a number of other lawmakers that activists will presumably be paying attention to in the coming months:
Earl Blumenauer represents Oregon’s 3rd district. He was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391, but he’s yet to sign onto H.R. 2407. Blumenauer has been better on the subject of Palestine than most lawmakers in Washington. Not only was he one of the only congress members to vote against H.Res.246 (a resolution that condemned the BDS movement), he’s also a co-sponsor of H.Res.496, the bill Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently introduced to affirm Americans’ right to boycott foreign countries. Notably, Blumenauer is also facing a political challenge from his left. Albert Lee is the dean of Portland Community College’s Business and Computing division. He’s also a DSA-backed primary candidate hoping to unseat Blumenauer. Lee is a vocal critic of the Israeli occupation and a proponent of the BDS movement. “I think quite frankly that my entering into this race as a legitimate challenger has shifted him to the left on a lot of issues,” Lee told Mondoweiss last month.
Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th district and the national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Khanna has distinguished himself as a bold progressive on foreign policy in the House. In addition to spearheading the fight to end U.S. involvement in the war against Yemen, he has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, and introduced an amendment that would prohibit funds from being used in a war on Iran. Khanna was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391, but he has yet to back McCollum’s new bill. In July, Khanna’s office told Mondoweiss that he was still evaluating whether or not to support the bill based on the fact that it has changed since its last incarnation.
Jim McGovern represents Massachusetts’ 2nd district. He was a co-sponsor of H.R. 4391 and in May he led a congressional group that called on the Israeli government to reconsider their decision to deport Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir on the grounds that he supported the BDS movement. However, McGovern still hasn’t signed onto the new bill and has yet to make any indication that he plans to do so.
Tulsi Gabbard represents Hawaii’s 2nd congressional and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Gabbard has positioned herself as a critic of American foreign policy during her campaign, but her positions on Palestine have seemingly varied. While she’s one of the only lawmakers that criticized Israel for killing unarmed civilians during 2018’s Great March of Return protests, she wasn’t one of the sixty Democrats who boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 address to congress. She has also previously spoken at a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference and accepted an award from the controversial pro-Israel Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. A photo from the event shows Gabbard smiling next to Boteach and Miriam Adelson, wife of the pro-Israel megadonor. While Gabbard did not co-sponsor H.R. 4391, she once again sent mixed messages to some by voting for the aforementioned anti-BDS resolution shortly before becoming co-sponsor of Ilhan Omar’s aforementioned boycott bill.
Seth Moulton represents Massachusetts’ 6th district. He’s criticized anti-BDS legislation in the past, opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and spoke about the need to stand up to Netanyahu. However, his positions have seemingly shifted on the issue. In June, he was one of just 12 Democrats to support a farcical right-wing attempt at amending the U.S. tax code in order to punish BDS supporters. A co-sponsor of the previous McCollum bill in 2017, Moulton now claims that the current version of the bill threatens the United States’ overall aid to Israel. “Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and is under daily threat of invasion and attack, so we must help maintain the country’s qualitative military edge over its adversaries,” Moulton said in a statement, “Having fought in the Middle East myself, I know how important it is to support your allies, however imperfect they may be, and I understand the critical role American aid to our various Middle Eastern allies plays for regional security.”
It’s worth pointing out that Moulton was technically running for President when he put out this statement about H.R. 2407.
McCollum’s bill also lacks companion legislation in the Senate despite the fact that she’s reportedly asked progressive presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to introduce such a bill.