19 House Democrats signed a letter urging the Obama administration to make Israelâs treatment of imprisoned Palestinian minors a priority in the US-Israeli relationship.The letter, initiated by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., cites a 2013 UNICEF report on Palestinian children in military detention and notes that Israel has addressed some of the cases in that report. âThis is a positive step and a clear acknowledgement that legitimate human rights concerns exist,â said the letter sent June 19 and made public on Monday.
âProgress to ensure Palestinian childrenâs rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian people,â the letter said. âWe urge the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with Israel.â The letter quotes UNICEF as saying that Israelâs military courts do not guarantee the rights of children who come before its judges.
âUNICEF initiated their report in response to concerns regarding the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment of Palestinian children while in the Israeli military detention system,â the letter said. Israel, a past member of the UNICEF board, said after the release of the initial 2013 report that it âvalues and respectsâ the organization and would work to implement the reportâs recommendations.
Amnesty International, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and two Quaker organizations, the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, advocated in support of the congressional letter.
The groups estimate that Israelâs military detains 700 youths each year.