Legislation about Israel and Human Rights and its Associated Commentary are off the Mark
Two wrongs do not make a right. Alan Dershowitz recently wrote Ten congressional Democrats want lenient treatment for young terrorists who murder Israelis, criticizing Congresswoman McCollum’s “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.” Dershowitz’s piece is problematic in a number of regards, but so is McCollum’s legislation.
The first issue is the title of the article, which may not be Dershowitz’s fault — editors, not writers, are often responsible for titling pieces. An honest reading of the bill could not be interpreted as support for “lenient treatment for young terrorists who murder Israelis” as Dershowitz’s title suggests. The headline is an attempt to outrage Fox News readers and buttress the false narrative that Democrats are somehow Anti Israel.
The larger problem with Dershowitz’s take is that it does not acknowledge a middle ground. It is as if Dershowitz thinks that when it comes to violence perpetrated by under age Palestinians the only two options available to Israel are zero accountability or disregarding the human rights of these minors. Dershowitz points out that there has been a history of violent attacks on Israeli citizens at the hands of Palestinian teens, but misses that there are methods for combatting terrorism available to liberal democracies that do not involve embracing the tactics of the worst autocracies.
The US should be a champion of human rights throughout the world and its taxes must never be spent in a manner contrary to this aim or its values. Dershowitz writes as if any actions decried in the bill are methods that we should be comfortable funding in any nation. Section 6 of McCollum’s bill outlines seven practices that US foreign aid cannot support. These practices are “torture”, “physical violence”, “hooding” and “sensory deprivation”, “incommunicado detention or solitary confinement”, indefinite detention, “denial of access to parents or legal counsel”, and confessions obtained by force. None of these methods are required to keep Israelis safe and most Americans would be ashamed to learn that their taxes were being spent in support of any of these undemocratic tactics.
The problems with Dershowitz’s article aside, there are three questions that require an answer from Congresswoman McCollum.
- Do we have evidence that the Israeli government is using American foreign aid in support of any of the inhumane practices described in the bill?
- Since the aforementioned practices are illegitimate and contrary to American values, should we not just exclude US foreign aid from funding them in all contexts?
- Why single out Israel? According to McCollum’s bill, Israel detains no more than 700 Palestinian minors in a given year, which is in no way an outlier amongst the numerous countries, from Australia to Egypt cited for juvenile detention practices in this Human Rights Watch report.
Israel has legitimate security concerns stemming from the need to protect its citizenry from under age Palestinians. Israel, like all democracies, has a duty to uphold the values of justice and human rights by rejecting tactics like torture and indefinite detainment. McCollum does not acknowledge any of the well documented incidents of Palestinian minors perpetrating attacks on Israeli citizens in either her bill or press release, which unfairly singles out Israel for special repudiation. Dershowitz does not admit to the need for liberal democracies to practice what they preach, especially in the face of terrorism. Both are wrong.