EPF Palestine Israel Network PINontheGo
1 June 2023
PINontheGo: Human Rights for Palestinian Children
An Update on Shadi Khoury and HR3103
From Randy Heyn-Lamb:
The text message I received on Saturday night sounded like something out of a prime-time crime drama. I’ve been in irregular contact with Shadi Khoury’s mother ever since he was arrested back in November 2022. It was already Sunday morning Jerusalem time and the Khoury family were once again heading to a court hearing which might decide the 16 year old’s future.
As Rania described it, the hearing was “the first of a series where the prosecution was supposed to bring witnesses to testify against Shadi and prove he was part of a demonstration.” I told her I would be praying for them and would follow-up later.
When I woke Sunday morning, I sent her a message hoping for, but not expecting, good news. Her response read, “Their first witness was a 15-year-old Palestinian boy called Bara’ who had confessed that he saw Shadi participate in the demonstration.” But to the surprise of the prosecution and the defense lawyers, Bara’ (whose name means Innocent in Arabic} denied knowing Shadi, withdrew his police confession, and testified that the Israeli interrogators coerced hm into “confessing”!
The teen’s story continued to spill out in court. He testified that he was verbally abused during his interrogation. He had only agreed to sign the confession under psychological and physical torture. “The terrified child,” Rania wrote, “was threatened with imprisonment unless he confessed that Shadi attacked an Israeli car. He was promised immediate release as a reward for snitching on Shadi falsely.” During the defense lawyer’s cross-examination, “it became apparent that Bara’ was fed specific lies about Shadi’s actions by Israeli police interrogators. He testified that investigators would take him from the official interrogation room, which had recording equipment, to another room where he would be threatened, prompted, and told what to say, Then he would be returned to the official investigation room to lie on the record. “By the end of Bara’s testimony,” Rania wrote, “it became apparent that the police coerced him to lie to entrap Shadi.”
What implication this will have on the judge’s ruling has yet to be seen. Instead of releasing Shadi for lack of evidence, or at least declaring a mistrial, the judge cancelled the two additional hearings scheduled for last week and gave the prosecution until October 23rd to bring more evidence iagainst Shadi. The judge didn’t even revoke Shadi’s house arrest, which will remain in place for at least 40 days, when his attorney can appeal.
Rania continued by saying, “What happened [in court] certainly revealed what we know very well about their illegal methods in children’s cases. It is important to talk about what happened because these are crimes committed against our innocent children. We forwarded this information to the US Administration through the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Please tell your elected officials what is happening.”
Rania finished her message like a mother, “It was a very difficult day for Shadi; for a child to be subjected to such pressure. Externally, he was strong, but internally, it was clear that he was psychologically stressed. But we try in every way to give comfort and all love.” ” She could just as easily have been speaking about Bara’ and his parents (with whom they are barred any contact), or of all the children and parents subjected to the cruelty of childhood detention in Israel.
Note: On the day you receive this report, Layan Nasir, a young Episcopalian woman we have written about and prayed for, will return to court for another hearing. It has been nearly two years since her arrest and original incarceration for her on-campus activism. Although released on bond, she continues in a legal limbo until her case is resolved.
And from Mary Neznek:
As if creating a case study for Rep. Betty Mc Collum’s (D-MN) reintroduction of Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, the arrest and harsh interrogation of Shadi Khoury and Layan Nasir drag on with ongoing house arrest and postponed court dates. There is no closure to charges made via a peer informant’s coerced testimony. Drawn under duress from children arrested, military policing divides and rewards coerced testimony by getting children to tell on others after they have faced threats and harsh methods of questioning as Randy Heyn-Lamb’s report chronicles.
Rep. Mc Collum addressed indiscriminate charges of anti-Semitism in her opening remarks at the Women’s National Democratic Club when she said that defending the rights of children and families living in Palestine or criticism of US support of Israel is not a form of bigotry. Justice for Palestinians and ensuring their human rights is not a form of antisemitism but rather her legislation creates a framework in which to measure how US democratic values and basic rights are ensured in all countries receiving US taxpayer funding. The 2023 Act makes the treatment of Palestinian children a domestic US issue and seeks to shed light on trauma through psychological forms of torture that her newly-introduced act addresses. Critics of US-supported Israeli military occupation paid for by US taxpayers and enabled by a faith community are too often silenced by indiscriminate charges of anti-semitism. “The legislation prohibits Israel’s government from using US taxpayer dollars in the Occupied West Bank (where both Shadi Khoury and Layan Nasir live) for the military detention abuse or ill treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.” The two case studies of children from the Episcopalian community living under Israeli military occupation are clear examples of why this act is so important.
Congresswoman Mc Collum, reiterated her belief that “Not $1 of US aid should be used to commit human rights violation, demolish families’ homes or permanently annex Palestinian lands…The US provides billions in assistance (grants, not subject to repayment) for Israel’s government each year. Those dollars should go towards Israeli’s security not toward actions that violate international law and cause harm. Peace can only be achieved when everyone’s human rights are respected and Congress has a responsibility not to ignore the well-documented mistreatment of Palestinian children and families living under (US-supported) Israeli military occupation.”
During the Q&A following her presentation, one question came from long time Hill Senate staffer and former executive of World Vision Tom Getman. He asked what US citizens should be doing to bring this resolution to a wider audience. Her reply was that work at the local level is vital through community groups like the interfaith community, coalitions of civic organizations and bodies of local government. People of conscience need to speak out and encourage their elected officials to sign this legislation. Each year the bill garners more support but not at the level to bring it to a vote of the entire Congress. Thus far only Democrats have signed on and in numbers well below one hundred in the House of Representatives. There has been no similar bill introduced in the US Senate but that would be a helpful next step for advocates at the local and state level field offices.
Rep. Mc Collum reminded the audience that “Support is growing rapidly for the Palestinian people, who deserve justice, equality with human rights and the right to self-determination. Over seventy five prominent civil society groups including Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations have signed on in support of this bill…We all agree that no Palestinian child and no Jewish child should go to bed at night fearing ongoing violence. There is a path to a peaceful future; it requires leading with our US values of democracy and equal justice for all.”
It is the work of the Episcopal Church (which along with EPF PIN has endorsed the bill) to speak out for those Palestinian children and their awaiting families whose homes are being destroyed, whose children are being tortured and held in military prisons. Juvenile justice is sorely absent under US-funded Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
EPF PIN suggests calling the Capitol Hill offices of your Congressional Representative at 202.224-3121 ( Capitol Switchboard) or writing or emailing regional field offices in your state encouraging your member of the House of Representatives to endorse Rep Betty Mc Collum’s HR 3103.