Democrat Betty McCollum drafts legislation to make US Israeli aid conditional on protecting Palestinian lives

Democrat Betty McCollum drafts legislation to make US Israeli aid conditional on protecting Palestinian lives
A US Democrat is drafting legislation to block aid from going to Israel over fears it will be used in the country's campaign to demolish Palestinian homes.
3 min read
15 April, 2021
US Democrat Betty McCollum seeks to put conditions on US aid to Israel [Getty]

A US Democrat who has a long history of criticising Israeli violence against Palestinians, including children, is introducing legislation this week that seeks to put conditions on Washington's aid to Israel.

Minnesota Democrat Representative Betty McCollum revealed on Thursday that she will put forward the 'Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act' bill to protect the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.

"It's time that Congress stand up and defend the human rights of the Palestinian people," McCollum said.

This move is aimed at safeguarding the rights of Palestinian children by applying pressure on Israel via US aid.

"There is nothing out of the ordinary about conditioning aid… All taxpayer funds provided by Congress to foreign governments in the form of aid are subject to conditions in a myriad of generally applicable laws, yet the $3.8 billion provided to Israel by the State Department has no country-specific conditions despite Israel's systemic violations of Palestinian human rights," McCollum told The Intercept.

According to a draft of the bill seen by several publications, McCollum is calling for more oversight of the $3.8 billion aid the US sends annually to Israel.

The text also pushes for explicit assurances that the funds will not contribute to Israeli activities in the occupied West Bank.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has come out in opposition to the proposed legislation, which McCollum has countered.

"AIPAC wants US taxpayer dollars to Israel to be spent on abusing Palestinian human rights? Imprisoning children? Demolishing homes? Annexing Palestinian land? Apparently they do," she said.

This isn't the first piece of legislation McCollum has pushed for that aims at protecting Palestinian civilian lives.

In 2019 she introduced legislation which would amend a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act - known as the 'Leahy Law - to prohibit US funding going toward the detention of children, including with Israel.

Congressional support?

US President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated he does not support conditioning military aid to Israel and has called attempts to do so "irresponsible" and "outrageous".

Although, a recent Gallup poll has found that a majority of Democrat respondents believe more pressure should be applied on Israel than on Palestine, there has been little impact on US foreign policy.

There is little appetite in US Congress among Republicans to confront Israel through curbing aid in any meaningful way, and a mixed front when it comes to the Democrats. 

McCollum's 2019 bill failed to advance out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and support for Israel in Congress remains high.

Israel’s targeting of Palestinian children

Israel has a recorded history of targeting children in raids, and impacting on them via the destruction of Palestinian family homes in the West Bank.

A report released earlier this month by the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) revealed that Israeli forces have detained 230 Palestinian children since January, with the majority of the arrests happening in Jerusalem.

Palestinian children are often detained during the almost daily raids that occur across the occupied West Bank on the pretext of searching for "wanted" Palestinians.

More than 4,000 Palestinians, most of them political detainees, are currently held in Israeli prisons, according to official data.

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