Rep. Dingell declares, ‘my heart has always been with the children of Palestine’ after withdrawing support from a bill that promotes their human rights

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) recently withdrew her support for a bill that promotes the human rights of Palestinian children, explaining that she changed her mind after speaking with members of her community. This past weekend Dingell took to Twitter to inform her followers that she was still committed to the issue.

H.R.2407 is Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) historic bill that aims to end Israeli detention of Palestinian children. It would amend the Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit U.S. taxpayer money from being used for the detention of children in foreign countries, including Israel. Recent statistics from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies indicate that of the 450 Palestinians arrested by Israeli forces last month, 69 of them were children. Dingell (whose district includes a large Arab-American population) became a co-sponsor of McCollum’s bill in June, but on September 10th she withdrew her support.

“We must be committed to promoting a peaceful, two-state solution that empowers the Palestinian people to live in dignity and security with Israel,” Dingell told the Detroit Free Press, “After talking with many in my community about this bill. … I felt HR 2407 was ultimately counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

In a series of tweets on September 14, Dingell addressed her withdrawal again, although she didn’t reference it directly. Together the three tweets read:

My heart has always been with the children of Palestine and I would never take action that would harm them. I believe we must act to protect them and that we must do better than this bill. I am working hard on a solution. We must send a strong signal that the United States cares about these children, and also send a strong message to Netanyahu that his statement last week on Palestine was dangerous, and shows Netanyahu has no intention of supporting a two state solution. That is why I have been pushing our leadership hard for a vote on the resolution supporting a two state solution and that the timing must be now.

The two-state solution resolution that Dingell references is presumably H.Res.326, which was introduced by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) in April. In July, Democrats scrapped every mention of the occupation and settlements from the legislation in an attempt to gain GOP support for the bill

Last month, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published a piece about pro-Israel activists who found themselves alienated by both President Trump and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Although the article was mainly about the campaign to unseat Tlaib, it also mentioned the activists’ growing frustration with Dingell:

People around the table said Dingell, once seen as pro-Israel among donors, is under pressure in her district to line up with Tlaib, and [pro-Israel philanthropist Lisa Lis] and others described frustrating meetings they had with her.

Dingell was among 17 Democrats who voted last week against a nonbinding resolution condemning the boycott Israel movement that overwhelmingly passed in the House. And last month she cosponsored a bill that would bar Israel from using U.S. military aid to detain Palestinian minors.

The likelihood is that pro-Israel money for Dingell will disappear, but because she is popular and unlikely to face a serious primary, there’s no talk of actively opposing her.

Shaina Low is the U.S. advocacy officer for Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), an organization that has pushed for passage of the legislation. “Despite stating her commitment to protect Palestinian children, Rep. Dingell has withdrawn her cosponsorship from H.R. 2407, the only bill currently before Congress that directly seeks to protect Palestinian children’s human rights, by prohibiting foreign units who torture and abuse children from receiving U.S. taxpayer funds,” Low told Mondoweiss, “Rather than sending a ‘strong signal’ that she cares about Palestinian children, Rep. Dingell has sent a message to Israeli officials that Israeli forces may continue to disregard international law and violate the rights of detained Palestinian children with impunity.

On September 16 Rep. McCollum posted her own Twitter thread, this one challenging Dingell’s justifications for withdrawing support from the bill. Her three tweets combined read:

My bill, HR 2407, prohibits U.S. military aid from being used to detain, abuse, & torture Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation. Children should never be mistreated, caged, or tortured with our tax dollars – anywhere. Rep. Dingell removed her name from HR 2407, calling it ‘counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution.’Does ongoing U.S. funding for Israeli military detention and abuse of Palestinian children promote peace or human rights violations? Rep. Dingell says ‘we must do better’ than HR 2407. While we wait & wait for a two-state solution, Israel’s occupation continues and Palestinian children continue to be held in Israeli military detention. #NoWayToTreataChild

Dingell is not the first lawmaker to withdraw from supporting McCollum’s bill. In June, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) withdrew from the legislation, just ten days after becoming a co-sponsor. “I was inadvertently added as a cosponsor to this legislation without my approval,” DeLauro told The Intercept, “After being made aware of this error, I removed my name as a cosponsor of the legislation.”

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