Five years ago, I received my rabbinic ordination. Last month, I started work as JVP's Government Affairs Liaison, working to advance our movement for justice and equality in Washington DC.
As I see it, my job is to try to bring the best of Jewish values to the debate around Israel and Palestine. One of the most important? Kavod Habriyot, or Human Dignity. It teaches us that each and every human being has infinite value and worth, and must be treated with dignity and respect. And when it comes to children, all of us have a special responsibility to protect that dignity.
But in Israel, the dignity of Palestinians is not respected. Every year, hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested by the Israeli military, held in inhumane conditions, and denied their fundamental rights to due process. Representative Betty McCollum has initiated a sign-on letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on him to make the protecting of Palestinian children a priority in the U.S. - Israel relationship. If we get 10 members of Congress to join this letter, there's no way the State Department will be able to ignore us -- but we can't get 10 members of Congress without you.
Palestinian children need protection, not persecution. Email your Representative, and tell them to join our sign-on letter.
But despite these values which are so fundamental to our tradition, and Israel's purported commitment to them, 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12-17 experience the Israeli military court system every year. Seventy-five percent of them fall victim to physical violence at the hands of Israeli forces during arrest, transfer, interrogation, or detention.
Let me give you one example: last year, Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year-old Palestinian-American was savagely beaten by Israeli police whilst visiting. And although the abuse was caught on camera, none of the officers involved have been brought to justice.
The international community is already speaking out about the horror of detention -- UNICEF has condemned the abuse as "widespread, systemic, and institutionalized." But the U.S. has done nothing. We need to change that, and that's why we're proud to be part of the No Way to Treat a Child coalition that's spearheading this campaign.
Tell your Representative to lend their name to the sign-on letter protecting Palestinian children.
Here's the thing about a sign-on letter: it doesn't need a majority vote, like a bill or an amendment. So even though the deck is still stacked against us in Congress, with a sign-on letter, it only takes a few brave Representatives to speak up and make the State Department pay attention. And even if they won't speak out for Palestinian children, every email they receive tells them that their constituents care about human rights, and moves the needle just a bit.
Secretary of State John Kerry needs to hear our message loud and clear: protecting Palestinian children must become a priority in the U.S. - Israel relationship.
Ask your Representative to join Rep. Betty McCullom's sign-on letter.
For Tariq Abu Khdeir. For the hundreds of children whose names we'll never learn. For our future.
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Government Affairs Liaison