MCC photo/Meghan Mast.

Jarrah Masalmeh, now 18, in the barbershop he runs below his family home. 

Jarrah Masalmeh was 15 years old when he was arrested at 2 am by Israeli soldiers at his home in the West Bank. He was treated roughly by the soldiers, with his hands tied behind his back. Charged with throwing stones, which he says he did not do, he was locked up for nine months.

Jarrah’s story is told in more detail as part of MCC Canada’s “A Cry for Home” campaign.

Unfortunately his story is not unusual. Each year Israel detains hundreds of Palestinian youth, many of whom are subject to abuse and sometimes torture. Israel is the only country that systematically prosecutes youth in a military court system. The impact of these traumatizing experiences stays with the youth and their families for years to come.

In mid-November, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced a bill to help put an end to such practices. The legislation, H.R. 4391, requires the U.S. Secretary of State to submit an annual report certifying that no U.S. funds have been used to torture, physically abuse or coerce confessions from Palestinian children.

Each year the U.S. provides more than $3 billion in military assistance with Israel, which until now has had almost no conditions attached and few ways to monitor how it is being used. This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting the systematic abuse of children.

As of November 28, there are 12 co-sponsors on the legislation. More will be needed in the coming months to send a clear message to the Israelis that members of the U.S. Congress want to see an immediate end to the mistreatment of Palestinian children.

After his release Jarrah was able to get support from an MCC partner organization, the East Jerusalem YMCA. But some effects of his traumatizing experience remain. He has nightmares and still does not feel safe when he goes out on the street.The legislation aims to ensure that future generations of Palestinians will not experience these traumas and that their rights will be respected. Please urge your legislator to co-sponsor the legislation.


Rachelle Lyndake Schlabach is director of the MCC U.S. Washington Office. Story originally published on November 29, 2017. Reprinted with permission from Peace Signs