Many Americans now know that Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—two members of “the squad” of far-left congresswomen so much in the news—were recently barred from traveling to Israel to agitate for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Fewer know all four members of “the squad,” including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, have co-sponsored a bill that accuses the Jewish state of torturing children. Fewer still know the claims made in the bill originate mostly from a group that could be described as the propaganda arm of a terrorist organization.
The so-called “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act“ was re-introduced in the House by Rep. Betty McCollum, whose congressional district neighbors Omar’s in Minnesota. Until recently, McCollum was considered a supporter of Israel, but a critic of its government.
In February, however, she condemned “[t]he right-wing, extremist government of Benjamin Netanyahu and its apartheid-like policies,” adding “there are now members of Congress who are not willing to ignore the Israeli government’s destructive actions because they are afraid of losing an election.”
McCollum’s invective prompted Mark Mellman of the Democratic Majority for Israel to respond that Netanyahu “came to office in a fair and democratic election in which every Arab citizen of Israel had the same right to vote as any Jewish citizen.” Mellman added that “by suggesting that Jews have disproportionate influence on U.S. elections, the Congresswoman exploits an anti-Semitic trope widely used by far right forces from Czarism to fascism.”
McCollum’s bill, while not directly exploiting the anti-Semitic trope of blood libel, trades on the accusation that Israel treats non-Jewish children cruelly and inhumanely. The bill claims Palestinian children detained by Israeli defense forces suffer torture and physical violence, are deprived of lawyers and parents, not informed of their legal rights, and so on.
It ultimately aims to prohibit “U.S. assistance to Israel from being used to support the military detention, interrogation, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law.” As federal law already bars U.S. aid to foreign security forces who commit gross human rights violations, the bill is an exercise in singling out the Jewish state.
The accusations presented as “findings” in the bill are cribbed—occasionally verbatim—from inaccurate claims made by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that lead BDS campaigns in the United States and abroad. The bill’s claims largely come from Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P). Historically, DCI-P officials, employees, and board members have had links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is considered to be a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, and Canada.
The PFLP has a long record of terror attacks, dating back to the Lod Airport massacre, which killed 28 people in 1968. The PFLP may be best known for the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane, which was ended by the Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport. In 1980, PFLP attacked a kibbutz, seizing a nursery and murdering a two-year-old. Since 2000, PFLP has executed more than a dozen suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings and even ax attacks, notably in the 2014 Jerusalem synagogue massacre that killed four and injured seven.
Shawan Jabarin, a member of DCI-P’s board from 2007-14, was convicted in 1985 for recruiting and arranging training for members for the PFLP. Mahmoud Jiddah, a DCI-P board member from 2012-16, was imprisoned for 17 years after launching grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in 1968; he is also alleged to be a member of PFLP. Mary Rock, elected to the board in 2014, was a PFLP candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006.
Nasser Ibrahim, a president of DCI-P’s General Assembly, was the former editor of the PFLP’s weekly news publication. Riyad Arar, a director of DCI-P’s Child Protection Program, addressed a December 2014 PFLP memorial event for a group member who was killed “while engaging in a demonstration confronting the occupation forces with stones and Molotov cocktails.” And this is far from a complete list of ties between DCI-P personnel and PFLP—ties that caused Citibank and Arab Bank PLC to stop accepting funds for donation to DCI-P.
NGO Monitor has published a point-by-point rebuttal to the claims made by DCI-P and other groups that are incorporated into McCollum’s bill. For example, the bill relies on claims of physical violence against minors collected by DCI-P, when “very few actual complaints are either submitted to the appropriate Israeli civilian or military authorities or raised in court, and even fewer are found to be justified. In practice, the claims are made based on anonymous complainants ‘interviewed’ by DCI-P staffers.” McCollum’s bill also attempts to pass off accusations made by DCI-P as findings of the U.S. State Department.
Missing from the bill, and the DCI-P propaganda on which it is based, is the history of Palestinian terror groups using children to carry out suicide bombings and stabbings, or paying teenagers to die in border riots. The omission is glaring in light of a DCI-P program director admitting on television that Palestinian minors commit terror attacks to enhance their societal status.
If the real concern were how Palestinian children are treated, DCI-P would not blame Israel for Hamas training Palestinan youth to kidnap soldiers, use weapons, and infiltrate Israel though tunnels. And members of Congress would not express concern for Palestinian children only as a cudgel against the Jewish state.
The discriminatory smears would be bad enough, but there’s more. McCollum’s bill also seeks to appropriate $19 million every year for “nongovernmental organizations from the United States, Israel, or the Occupied Palestinian Territory” to “monitor” these alleged abuses.
No wonder anti-Israel NGOs like DCI-P, the American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (the American umbrella group of the BDS movement) have endorsed the bill. It is almost as if they wrote it.
The good news is that the bill has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it will likely die over the objections of committee member Omar. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has withdrawn her co-sponsorship of the bill, which she claims was given by mistake.
DeLauro told The Intercept she opposes the bill because it “seeks to single out Israel for criticism, and seeks to appropriate money to investigate, document, and report only on Israeli abuses.” That McCollum’s bill retains the co-sponsorship of “the squad” is a reminder that the Corbynization of the Democratic Party continues, even after Congress overwhelmingly condemned the BDS movement.