Rep. Luis Gutierrez: “We cannot profess to be progressives… as long as children are being treated the way they are in the Occupied Territories”
CHICAGO, IL—(ENEWSPF)—March 13, 2018
By: Michael Deheeger
Last night, Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL 4) spoke to a packed church in Chicago about the importance of standing up for human rights by ensuring U.S. funding to Israel is not used for the military detention of Palestinian children.
“We cannot profess to be progressives in Chicago, or Illinois, or the United States as long as children are being treated in the way they are in the Occupied Territories,” said Representative Gutiérrez. “And we cannot profess to be dedicated to peace in the Middle East, and expect the adults in the Palestinian Territories to take our words and our actions seriously, if – when children are arrested, jailed, interrogated, and even tortured – we say nothing.
Talking to the large crowd gathered at Lincoln Methodist Church in Chicago, Rep. Gutierrez called on Members of Congress to join him as cosponsors to H.R. 4391, a recently introduced bill that would make sure taxpayer funds are not used to support human rights violations against children.
“Like all children, Palestinian children must be treated with dignity and respect,” said Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4), the bill’s original sponsor, in a video message screened during the rally. “Hundreds of Palestinian children are suffering in Israeli military detention right now, and they should be released immediately. Together, let’s continue to send a strong message that human rights matter to the lives of children in Palestine and all around the world.”
Israel’s arrests and abuse of Palestinian children is well documented. Each year, Israel detains and prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children. Since 2012, the Israeli military has held an average of 204 Palestinian children in custody each month, with three-quarters of them enduring some sort of physical violence following arrest.
“We are here to make sure our tax dollars aren’t paying for human rights abuses,” said Ahlam Jbara, a well-known member of Chicago’s Palestinian community who MC’d during the rally. “It is wrong for the Israeli military to separate Palestinian children from their families, detain them in military prisons, and subject them to torture.”
For years, organizations such as UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Defense for Children International – Palestine and others have documented the widespread, systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
During the rally, organizers spoke about why they’ve committed to ending Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.
“Palestinian children share the same hopes and dreams as children all over the world – for too long, these have been shattered by cruel and systematic mistreatment at the hands of Israel’s military,” said Mariam Aldisi of American Muslims for Palestine-Chicago. “H.R. 4391 would ensure that our U.S. taxpayer dollars are not enabling these policies to continue.”
Support for Palestinian rights is growing steadily among progressives across the US.“I’m an American Jew and I’m proud to support H.R. 4391, a bill which would bring us one step closer to ending Israeli military detention of Palestinian children,” said Jessica Kursman, a member of the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, adding, “Israel is currently the only country in the world to systematically prosecute children in military courts. Coming from a family of Jewish refugees, my upbringing has instilled in me a great tradition of honoring every person’s inherent dignity and worth.”
Just last month, over 25 African American civil rights icons and cultural figures signed a solidarity statement calling on all members of congress to endorse the bill. Signatories included Danny Glover, Rosario Dawson, Jesse Williams, NFL star Michael Bennett, civil rights icons such as Angela Davis, Cornell West, Michelle Alexander and Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza.
“No child should be snatched from their bed in the middle of the night, be blindfolded and have their hands tied, and then be taken from their parents to interrogation without legal representation,” said Jennifer Bing, Director of the Palestine-Israel program at the American Friends Service Committee.
As he closed his remarks Rep. Gutierrez received a standing ovation from community members holding signs with messages of support for the bill.
“So when I go back to Washington, you can count on me to stand up and be heard. And more importantly, the young man or woman in Ramallah, or Bethlehem, or Tel Aviv, or Ciudad Juarez or Little Village – they are going to know that I’m going to continue to fight for them and that they are not alone.”
JVP-Chicago is the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org), a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.