On June 20, 2016, 20 members of Congress published an open letter to President Obama, requesting the appointment of a “Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth,” claiming that “trauma [is] being inflicted on millions of Palestinian children.” Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) spearheaded the letter.
This initiative (and a previous letter on similar themes) reflects the lobbying of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) leading the discriminatory anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns in the United States. Groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation have been calling for an end to U.S. military, financial, and diplomatic support for Israel, as well as a boycott of American corporations that do business in Israel. The demonization of Israel regarding alleged mistreatment of Palestinian children in this letter is part of this broader BDS agenda.
In addition, the letter is based on unverifiable claims from highly political NGOs, including Defense for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Often presented as credible sources of information, these groups have been shown, in fact, to base their claims on factual and legal distortions in their campaigns against Israel. In addition, the NGOs focus exclusively on and single-out Israel, without any attempt to examine the practice of other democratic countries in dealing with terrorism involving minors.
- Defense for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS), a pro-BDS organization, frequently publishes false and unverifiable information in its reports on Israeli activity. For instance, following the 2008-2009 military conflict in Gaza, DCI-PS alleged that Israel killed 352 “children.” In reviewing the list, however, it became clear that many were actually members of Hamas’ Qassam Brigades or Islamic Jihad. DCI-PS did not revise their claims, nor did it condemn the terror groups for enlisting child soldiers.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) displays a blatant anti-Israel bias and support for BDS. Its January 2016 publication, “Occupation Inc.,” a precursor for a formal call for discriminatory boycotts, not only demanded that businesses cease operations in the West Bank (mostly harming Palestinian workers), but falsely charged them with complicity in “war crimes. HRW’s publications also show an absence of professional standards, research methodologies, and military and legal expertise. The group regularly uses inaccurate legal rhetoric to accuse Israel of “war crimes,” “collective punishment,” and fostering a “culture of impunity.” It applies double standards to Israel as part of its broader delegitimization campaign.
Before members of Congress sign future letters of this nature, we hope that they will independently verify the allegations and claims. More importantly, they should confirm they are not providing a platform for discriminatory agendas, the demonization of Israel, and related campaigns of economic warfare.