Last week, seven-year-old Palestinian Rayyan Suleiman became one of the latest victims of Israel’s violent apartheid regime when he died of a heart attack after being chased by Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank during a raid on his home. The American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP) extends its deepest condolences to the family of Rayyan Suleiman and condemns Israel’s continued brutality and terrorizing of Palestinian children and communities.
Rayyan’s tragic death demonstrates the devastating consequences of the hyper-militarized context that Palestinian children live in and the ramifications of Israeli soldiers’ presence in Palestinian communities. Israeli soldiers and military offenses have already claimed the lives of dozens of children in 2022 alone, including 17 children who were killed during Israel’s three-day attack on Gaza in early August, and 22 children who were shot and killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli military forces or settlers this year so far.
While the U.S. State Department has stated that, “Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom and prosperity” and that it “supports a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death,” U.S. policy has shown otherwise, with a virtual lack of accountability for Israel’s continued illegal and inhumane occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and apartheid policies toward Palestinians – despite Israel being the largest recipient of U.S. aid since World War II.
The Biden Administration and Members of Congress must ensure that aid to Israel adheres to existing U.S. law, which stipulates that countries receiving U.S. aid must meet human rights standards or otherwise face sanctions or be deemed ineligible to receive aid. While these requirements have been enforced for aid to other countries, such as Egypt, Israel has consistently been exempt from any accountability for their gross human rights violations against Palestinians. Israel also enjoys almost total lack of oversight on the usage of U.S. aid, in turn resulting in the inability for the U.S. to ensure that funds are not being used in contravention of U.S. and international law.
Additionally, the Federation calls on our Members of Congress to take immediate action to defend the lives of Palestinian children and families and pass HR2590: The Defending Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Occupation Act, introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, which seeks to ensure that no U.S. taxpayer funds are used by the Israeli government for: the military detention of Palestinian children; the demolition of Palestinian homes and property; or to further annex Palestinian land in violation of international law.
It is well past time for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes against Palestinians, including Palestinian children. The U.S. government must take immediate action to ensure that our tax payer-funded aid dollars are in line with our purported values to defend and protect human rights at home and abroad.
The American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP) is the largest Palestinian membership organization in the United States, estimated at approximately 40,000 members across the U.S. AFRP aims to promote the rich, cultural Palestinian heritage of the Ramallah family and their descendants in the diaspora – – by providing programs that foster cultural and social interaction, as well as educational, humanitarian, civic and charitable opportunities. Learn more at https://afrp.org.