Moulton Statement on HR 4391 of the 115th Congress and HR 2407 of the 116th CongressSummary
I have and will continue to support a strong U.S.–Israel relationship and Israel's efforts to provide security for its people. I am also a tireless advocate for human rights, especially the rights of children. America should set a high standard for doing both: providing security for our people and our allies while respecting human rights.
For these principled reasons, I cosponsored H.R. 4391, the version of Rep. McCollum’s bill introduced in the 115th Congress, but also do not support the new version of this bill, H.R. 2407 in the 116th Congress.
I will explain why in detail:
Support for H.R. 4391
An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by the Israeli military since 2000, many of whom have been prosecuted by the Israeli military court system. Reputable international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as Israeli human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, HaMoked, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, have researched and thoroughly documented hundreds of cases of mistreatment of Palestinian children while in Israeli military detention. The reports include the use of physical violence, solitary confinement, denial of parental or legal access, and coercive interrogation of children between the ages of 11 and 15.
The U.S. State Department has recognized the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the last 6 years, including under the Trump administration in the 2018 and 2017 reports.
H.R. 4391, the old version of Rep. McCollum’s bill introduced in the 115th Congress, required the State Department to certify that U.S. funds were not being used to support these inhumane practices, in violation of U.S. and international law, but it did not force a reduction in the amount of annual U.S. aid to Israel. If the State Department could not verify that the reports of such abuse are inaccurate, it would work with the Israeli government to encourage a change in detention practices to abide by international standards.
Declining to Support H.R. 2407
However, major changes were made to the new version of the bill (H.R. 2407) when it was reintroduced this year. As written, new language in the bill implies that ALL U.S. military aid to Israel enables child detention practices, and it has a much more expansive enforcement mechanism, thus threatening our aid to Israel in its entirety. This violates my principle of ensuring Israel’s national security and a continued strong, U.S.–Israel relationship.
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. 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.
Background and Context
Good friends tell each other hard truths. I have criticized violations of individual rights with any number of countries with whom we have strong relationships (e.g. I have supported legislation that condemns Hungary's movement toward a less free and democratic society). I have also strongly condemned the use of violence against Israelis by Palestinians, and am deeply concerned about the Palestinian group Hamas' abuse and mistreatment of civilians, including children, as human shields. That's why I co-authored the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act, which passed the House last Congress by a wide margin.
My concern for human rights, especially those of children, is also not limited to foreign governments. I have criticized our own administration for its abusive practices and poor treatment of children while in detention, and have been a fierce advocate for criminal justice reform here at home, even noting that the American criminal justice system is clearly "racist in its results, though that doesn’t mean every member of law enforcement is a racist" – a not uncontroversial criticism.
Americans deserve leaders who are not afraid to speak truth to power and call out injustice when we see it, even among our allies and certainly here at home. And the world deserves that level of moral leadership from America. Sometimes moral leadership is controversial, and I respect the concerns of those who may disagree with the nuances of my positions, but I make these decisions based on principle, not on politics, and will continue to do so.
U.S. Department of State – 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Israel
U.S. Department of State – 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Israel
U.S. Department of State – 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Israel
U.S. Department of State – 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Israel
(Other Department of State reports – 2014, 2013)
Human Rights Watch International: Separate but Unequal (2016 report)
Human Rights Watch Palestine: Israeli Police Abusing Detained Children (April 2016 report)
Amnesty International - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories "Detention" section (2017 report)
Haaretz 4/3/17 (Israeli newspaper): Most Palestinian Minors Arrested by Israel Claim Physical Violence During Detention
United Kingdom Delegation: Children in Military Custody (June 2012 report)
(Israeli org) Btselem, March 2018: Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts
B’Tselem report, 3 July 2018: Statistics on Palestinian minors in the custody of Israeli security forces
B’Tselem report, Statistics on Palestinian minors in IDF detention, 2001-2007
HaMoked 29 April 2018: Childhood in Chains - The Detention and Interrogation of Palestinian Teenagers in the West Bank
B’Tselem/HaMoked joint report, October 2017: Unprotected - Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem