by Becca Pugh
Does accountability cancel out love? I have to ask this question because sometimes I think that we can equate criticism or accountability with hatred and not love. But when we love someone we want to see them at their best and living up to the values they proclaim. We want them to thrive, and we want them to live in light of whom God has created and called them to be, which can often mean holding them accountable to the principles and standards they have professed or proclaimed a desire to uphold.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” – Proverbs 27:5-6
Can I say that I love Jewish and Israeli people and thatI disagree with how the Israeli military is occupying Palestinian land? Can I say that I love Palestinian people and want them to have freedom and peace but strongly disagree with some of their thinking regarding Jewish people? Absolutely, and I believe we must do this. There can be no truth, no justice, no freedom, and no peace without regarding and confronting the things that work against peace and make this conflict worse (on all sides).
Right now there is a bill (H.R. 2407) from a Minnesota Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, that would require that U.S. aid to Israel is not used to detain Palestinian children. The Israeli military detains around 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year. While I was serving with the Ecumenical Accompaniment program in Palestine and Israel, I met with three such minors in a village in the West Bank.
These three Palestinian children were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night without being given a reason. One was 15 years old, one 16 years old, and one 17 years old at the time of their arrests. One of them was placed in an unknown location with a cloth sack over his head for several hours without any communication. Each one was held in an Israeli prison for at least 6 months. Each was put on a kind of trial in an Israeli military court, but none of them received a sentence before being imprisoned. Even at the time of their release from prison, there were no conclusions to their trials in the military court. Some of the difficulties that these young men have faced since being released from prison include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, causing them to struggle in school and at home with their families. We were able to meet with these three young men because they have been attending a weekly support and rehabilitation group at the local municipality with a Palestinian therapist.
The cycle of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perpetuated when Palestinian minors like these are wrongfully imprisoned without a fair trial and then traumatized from their experiences. According to Congress, children like these are entitled under International Humanitarian and Human Rights laws to special protections and due process, regardless of guilt or innocence, or the gravity of an alleged offense.
Israel has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child yet continues with such systematic abuses against Palestinian minors. As Betty McCollum’s bill points out, this behavior undermines efforts by the U.S. and the international community to work towards a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.
So, how exactly would Betty McCollum’s H.R. 2407 help?
- In general, the bill would require that U.S. funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
- It would amend the Leahy Law to prevent foreign assistance from being used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of children in any country (not only the Occupied Palestinian Territories), as well as abusive practices against children by military courts (see Section 6 of the bill).
- It would authorize at least $19 million annually to be made available to NGOs from the U.S., Israel, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the purpose of monitoring human rights abuses related to Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children, and to provide physical, psychological, and emotional health treatment for such victims of military detention, abuse, and torture.
While this legislation will not create peace or end injustice in the Holy Land altogether, it is a practical way that we can contribute to protecting children’s rights and thus contribute to peace and justice for everyone involved.