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Congresswoman introduces bill to bar Israel from using US aid to abuse children

Israel detains between 500 to 700 Palestinian children annually, prosecuting them in military courts
Palestinian children walk to school in occupied West Bank town of Hebron in February (AFP)

A congresswoman has introduced a bill that would prohibit US aid to Israel from being used to "support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment" of Palestinian children.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, said it was "outrageous" that US tax dollars are helping sustain human rights violations against Palestinian children.

Israel's system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorise Palestinian children

- Congresswoman Betty McCollum

"Israel's system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorise Palestinian children and their families," McCollum said in a statement accompanying the proposed legislation on Wednesday.

The congresswoman first introduced a similar bill in 2017, but it failed to advance in the House of Representatives, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

The new measure comes at a time when Democrats are becoming increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, as public opinion polls show.

Israel detains between 500 to 700 children annually, prosecuting them in military courts that lack "fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards," the bill says.

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The proposal also cites a 2018 Human Rights Watch report that documented Israeli soldiers' use of force against detained children, questioning them without the presence of adult relatives and making them sign confessions in Hebrew - a language they do not understand.

Washington provides $3.1bn yearly in assistance to Israel.

"Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation," McCollum said.

"I strongly believe there is a growing consensus among the American people that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination."