Protect the Children of Palestine

July 27, 2022

From recent articles like Politico’s “No Place for a Child” about the migrants being held in border patrol facilities to conversations about concerns related to women and children during President Biden’s recent trip to the Middle East, care and concern for children must be a top priority. The issues addressed by Politico and the Washington Post, including mistreatment and horrible conditions for children, are unacceptable. My request? Please also remember the children in other parts of the world experiencing similar harrowing mistreatment. Palestinian children living in the occupied Palestinian territories have a common — and equally unacceptable — story to tell. Detention — at the U.S. border or in Palestine — is “no place for a child.”

Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank do not have the same protections under the law as Israeli children living in the same geographical space. Granted to them as citizens of the State of Israel, civil rights protect Israeli children. However, Palestinian children who live in Jerusalem and Palestinian residents of the West Bank live under different realities. Palestinians live under military law in the West Bank and do not have the same protections as Israeli settlers living next door. Perhaps this is why international human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem have identified these realities as apartheid? Regardless of if one agrees with that identification, we cannot ignore the treatment of Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

As President Biden just began his Middle East travels, he must take the opportunity to raise human rights concerns facing Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. These include injustices against children.

An estimated 13,000 Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza have been detained since 2000 by the state of Israel. Military courts prosecute Palestinian children suspected of stone-throwing or other charges. Detained children often suffer psychological and physical abuse while in detention. According to Save the Children International, “Palestine children suffer inhuman treatment” in Israeli-run prisons and are “treated like animals.” Palestinian children are traumatized by arrests, detention, and mistreatment, often creating long-term repercussions such as post-traumatic stress, bedwetting, increased violent behaviors, and other long-term psychological effects. With the economic assistance given to Israel by the United States, we must ensure our taxpayer dollars are not funding these types of injustices.

We must promote peace and stability, children’s rights, and justice. Funding from the United States for Israeli security should not be used to detain or mistreat children. Our economic assistance must correspond with American principles. A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R. 2590), would prohibit Israel from using U.S. taxpayer dollars in the West Bank to detain and abuse Palestinian children. We should do all we again to protect Palestinian children, all children in the Middle East, and children everywhere. We must protect children at the U.S. border, in Palestine, and wherever they experience injustice.

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Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She has her PhD in U.S. History and a DMin in Spiritual Formation.