Faith-based and human rights groups from Illinois are joining others Tuesday in Washington, D.C. to call for an end to the detention of Palestinian children by Israel.
A congressional briefing will feature the testimony of Palestinian-American children, including Tariq Abu Khdeir of Florida. Khdeir's attorney, Laila Abdelazizm, says the boy was arrested while watching a protest while visiting relatives in East Jerusalem last summer.
"They chased him down, zip-tied him and beat him unconscious," she says. "They continued to beat him and kick him in the face and all over his body while he was zip-tied on the ground, unconscious. This young child had to go through this horrible event."
Abdelazizm says more than 700 Palestinian children are detained each year, most for throwing stones.
The Israeli Security Agency says the mistreatment claims are baseless, and that its investigators act in accordance with the law. But Jennifer Bing, Middle East program director for the American Friends Service Committee, says children are being held without regard to their rights.
"Young children are being taken in, often accused of throwing stones and put into a military court system without proper representation," she says. "Their parents are not accessible to them, sometimes for days on end."
In response to Tariq's detention, the U.S. State Department said it was "profoundly troubled," and called for an investigation into the excessive use of force. According to Abdelazizm, that hasn't happened.
"How can you uphold Israel's democracy and their system of justice when this horrible thing happened to this child? It was caught on camera," she says. "We have no indication that there's been accountability for it."
Bing says the United States is strategically placed to encourage Israel to follow international laws regarding the treatment of children.
"As a friend to the state of Israel, we should be asking that human rights be part of the equation," she says. "An ally should be following human rights standards, and particularly as it concerns children. Children's rights should be respected."
The briefing will examine the issue within the larger context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how the U.S. can prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children.