Dem congresswoman: Israel's Treatment of Palestinian youth 'unacceptable' – Josh Ruebner/TheHill
“I usually wear a suit, but I wanted to represent my son today,” Siam Nawarah explained after walking the halls of Congress and meeting with the State Department earlier this month.
The 43-year-old Palestinian father and successful salon owner from the West Bank city of Ramallah, with a youthful face that breaks into a sly grin in lighter moments, sported a black T-shirt with a picture of his 17-year-old son Nadeem wearing a baseball cap backwards, a keffiyeh — a Palestinian scarf — wrapped around his neck, and an ear-to-ear smile.
Nawarah made the long journey to Washington to pursue justice for Israel’s killing of his son on May 15, 2014, convinced that the same government that may have given the Israeli Border Police the M-16 rifle that extinguished Nadeem’s brief life would now help him hold Israel accountable for the atrocity.
On that fateful day, Nadeem attended a protest outside the Ofer military prison in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank. Closed-circuit television footage obtained by Defense for Children International Palestine records Nadeem walking down the street and suddenly crumpling to the ground, shot once in the chest with a live bullet. The bullet exited his back and lodged in his backpack. Approximately one hour later, Israeli Border Police gunned down 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Daher in similar circumstances.
Since Nadeem’s killing, Nawarah has evinced a steely determination to seek justice for his son. He single-handedly obtained the video evidence from international media which demonstratively proved that Nadeem posed no threat to the Israeli Border Police when he was killed. Nawarah also made the excruciating decision to exhume his son’s body so that an autopsy could be performed to document forensic evidence that he was killed with live ammunition. The totality of this evidence enabled Forensic Architecture to conduct a video, sound and spatial analysis that identified Nadeem’s killer. As a result of this incontrovertible evidence, Israel has placed under house arrest an Israeli border policeman whose trial for manslaughter is scheduled to begin next month.
If Nawarah obtains a modicum of justice through the Israeli courts, then his case will be the exception to the rule of Israel’s impunity regarding its treatment of Palestinian children under military occupation. Israel has yet to launch an investigation into Mohammad Abu Daher’s killing or the grave injury Mohammad Al-Azzeh, another Palestinian child, suffered that day from a live gunshot wound. In fact, since 2000, Israel has killed 1,417 Palestinian children who took no part in hostilities, not including an additional 535 Palestinian children killed by Israel last summer in its attack on Gaza. And not a single Israeli soldier has been held accountable for these killings.
This atrocious record motivated Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to send a letter to the State Department last week expressing concerns about Israel’s killing of Nadeem Nawarah [sic] and Mohammad Abu Daher and excoriating Israel over its treatment of Palestinian children.
“As these killings exemplify, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian youth in the Occupied West Bank is unacceptable and must not be tolerated by the U.S. or the international community,” McCollum wrote. “The murders of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Daher only highlight a brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children. It is time for a strong and unequivocal statement of U.S. commitment to the human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”
McCollum also called on the State Department to investigate whether the 38th Company of the Israeli Border Police — the unit that killed Nadeem and Mohammad — violated the “Leahy Law.” If such a violation occurred, the unit “should be ineligible to receive future U.S. military aid and training and all border policemen involved in this incident should be denied U.S. visas as stipulated by the law.”
McCollum’s letter comes on the heels of a “Dear Colleague” letter she spearheaded in June, signed by 18 other members of Congress, expressing concern about Israel’s policy of detaining, ill-treating and trying Palestinian children in military courts.
These members of Congress are right to be concerned about Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinian children, not only because “Palestinian children should be treated exactly the same as Israeli or American children, without the fear that one day soldiers will arrest them, beat them, and lock them away in prison,” as McCollum stated. They are also right to be concerned because it is the more than $3 billion in military aid that Congress appropriates to Israel every year, which enables Israel to perpetuate its military occupation of Palestinian land and the human rights abuses it inflicts on Palestinian children.
*Inconsistencies in the spelling of Siam Nawarah’s name have been corrected.