It is our responsibility as Palestinians in the shatat to strengthen and institutionalize our popular movement. We unequivocally believe that empowered democratic participation at the grassroots level is the only way to safeguard our self-determination and advance the struggle for Palestinian liberation and the Right of Return.
During the three days of the Second Popular Palestinian Conference in the US, we worked together through 16 workshops, that converged into four Palestinian Movement Assemblies (PMAs)-on Women, Students, Community, and Civil/Political Rights, to map out our movement’s priorities in the US from the ground up.
The PMA’s produced several ideas and action plans including new and independent Committees to represent each sector. On the final day of the Conference, the Conference’s General Assembly, comprised of all registered participants in attendance and in absentia, reviewed and ratified the action proposals. A summary of the National Action plan, which includes the proposals and a broad timeline, is included below.
The General Assembly also amended and adopted the USPCN’s Bylaws that safeguard our internal democratic process. The amended Bylaws can be found here: //www.palestineconference.org/uploads/uspcn-bylaws-october2010.pdf and in summary form at //www.palestineconference.org/uploads/bylaws-summary.pdf
Finally, the Assembly completed the first part of the USPCN’s two-part Coordinating Committee process:
Part I (National Facilitation): The Assembly elected seven members of the USPCN’s National Facilitation Coordinating Committee:
Salah Asad, Virginia; Mohammad al-Qazzaz, Michigan; Andrew Dalack, DC and Michigan; Lamis Deek, New York; Monadel Herzallah, California; Mezna Qato, Illinois; and Haitham Salawdeh, Wisconsin.
Part II (Local CC representatives): Elections to elect a local representative from each USPCN chapter are slated to either take place on December 3rd or alternatively a date for elections will be announced by December 3rd. Upon the completion of the election process, the term of the existing interim CC members will have expired.
On the second day of the conference, the USPCN convened a townhall to discuss a political statement to be issued by the USPCN. Although the session was productive, it proved to be insufficient to complete the collective review process. Instead, an ad-hoc committee will amend the statement based on initial feedback and distribute to local USPCN chapters for discussion, proposals for edits and modification and/or ratification.
NATIONAL CALL TO ACTION
As Palestinians living in the US, we have an obligation to become full participants in our people’s quest for freedom, self-determination and the return of the refugees to their original towns and villages. This is only possible by continuing the development of popular, participatory and empowered institutions that deepen the ways in which all segments of our community can effectively participate in and influence the shape and direction of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and the return of the refugees. They are participatory because they elicit and are grounded in the influence of ordinary people through, among other things, responsible deliberation and empowered because they endeavor to tie action to deliberation.
The Second Popular Conference belongs to its participants. Over sixteen workshops and four PMAs, we discussed, we planned, we worked creatively and collectively to shape our communities priorities, and develop actions that will empower us together.
The following action proposals were adopted at the General Assembly.
Palestinian Community Assembly
Our communities, including the US-based ones, are in crisis. In order to solve the fragmentation of our communities, reflecting as they do the larger fragmentation of the Palestinian body politic, USPCN will task a committee to:
a. Develop a community history, one that opens up possibility for analyzing our challenges and achievements, asking how can we build a conversation amongst ourselves?
b. Study Palestinian organizations and institutions in the US, their history and membership, and offer possibilities of joint work, and alternative frames of communication and cooperation amongst institutions, associations and organizations.
c. Support and mobilize for the development of Palestinian and Arab cooperatives across the US, using the Minneapolis and Youngstown cooperatives as models for community empowerment and resource mobilization;
d. Work on seeding professional associations for Palestinians, as well as grocers, small business, and labor associations.
Palestinian Civil and National Rights Assembly
Having suffered decades of systematic targeting by US Department of Justice dating back to the early 1960′s and now facing a renewed level of repression by the Obama Administration and his Department of Justice all without an Embassy to look to for the most meager level of protection, the attendees and organizers of the USPCN Civil Liberties and National Rights Track have committed to launching the Committee for the Equal Protection of Palestinian Arab Rights (hereinafter “CEPR”)
CEPR will be dedicated to the following over-arching goals:
a. Support of the Palestinian Community and those who organize around Palestinian Issues so as to empower students, families and business owners to boldly assert their identities and their rights to free speech, political activity and civil liberties.
b. Advance the rights of Palestinians in Palestine and the Diaspora by creating affirmative litigation strategies to protect and redress injustices committed against Palestinians living Palestine or the Surrounding Refugee Camps. Begin the implementation of alternative mechanisms to allow for the Political Participation of Palestinians in Exile and Diaspora. Work to end State mechanisms that criminalize Palestinians in the Diaspora. CEPR will build on the Return Project’s efforts by documenting and creating a proper record of those Palestinian Refugees who seek re-entry to their native homes and lands in the 1948 territories.
c. Protect Palestinians and those who organize for Palestine. No single issue has been manipulated for the purpose of causing the entrapment or otherwise the prosecution of Arab, Muslim, and Left Leaning Organizations as has the issue of Palestine. CEPR will work to decriminalize speech around Palestine. CEPR has made a focused commitment to support the HLF and to work against the attempts by the DOJ to prosecute or further intimidate the victims of the Raids Carried out on Sept. 24, 2010.
CEPR will host a National Conference of Lawyers and Legal Workers in NYC the week of April 17, 2010.
Palestinian Students Movement Assembly
A rotating student committee will be created to act as an autonomous liaison between the USPCN coordinating committee and the student pro-Palestine movement (SJPs) across the United States;
The committee is empowered by the participating students to actualize the following goals:
a. Drafting common principles, values, and points of unity
b. Creating an online forum as a subsection of the existing USPCN website to provide resources and facilitate communication
c. Electing a student representative to the USPCN political advisory committee
d. Electing regional representatives to act as liaisons between pro-Palestine groups and the USPCN student committee
e. Appealing to the USPCN to include the student committee in the general operating budget.
Palestinian Women’s Movement Assembly
We will establish a Women’s Committee that will have a presence on the USPCN website.
The website will:
a. Provide information on all Palestinian women’s organizations, both in the US, remainder of the diaspora, and in Palestine;
b. Act as a facilitation tool to foster communication and discussion, including through a listserv.
The Women’s Committee will organize projects that will seek to empower women within the Palestinian community in the US and outside it. Its first two projects are 1) a needs assessment report on Palestinian women in the US to be conducted by local committees and 2) a Fashion Show of Palestinian folkloric dresses to fundraise for Palestinian Women’s projects both in the US as well as in Palestine.
Pedagogy of Self-Determination
Seeing the increased need for supporting education on Palestine amongst Palestinian youth in the diaspora, USPCN will establish a Palestine Education Committee that will:
a. Develop a library of resources for Palestine education online, including translating works from Arabic into English
b. Develop a network of Palestinian educators, teachers, education activists in the US, based in academia, public, private, Arab and Islamic schools, as well as informal spaces;
c. This committee will aim to draw connections between different generations of Palestinians, between different communities in the diaspora, in the refugee camps, the Arab world, and in Palestine, and work towards developing a participatory and liberatory national educational curriculum on Palestine for Palestinians.
Supporting Popular Resistance in Palestine
Support of Palestinian popular resistance as a powerful means of confronting oppression and occupation must be strategically adopted by the Palestinian community in the US, as well as faith-based organizations, labor and civil rights organizations. Toward that end, USPCN will form a Popular Resistance Committee that will:
a. Learn and study lessons of other solidarity and civil rights movements in the US, and adopt best practices in calling for US solidarity with Palestinian resistance;
b. Call on organizations and churches to support the Palestinian call for equal rights and self-determination;
c. Conduct forums and marches that aim to educate on Palestine and screen films throughout the US that highlight Palestinian popular resistance in all its forms, as well as US support for Israel;
d. Mobilize Arab Christians in the US to play a role in defending Palestinian rights in their churches and in faith-based arenas;
e. Support the “Audacity of Hope” US shop attempting to break the siege of Gaza in March 2011;
f. Adopt and sign unto the Jewish Voice for Peace campaign calling for TIAA-CREF to divest from all companies supporting the occupation.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: The Role of our Community
Seeing ourselves as members of the Palestinian body politic, we resolve to support the BDS movement in the United States for Palestinian liberation. Towards that end, USPCN will:
a. Establish a permanent USPCN BDS Committee to be led by one USPCN CC member and one USPCN member to organize support, mobilization and resources for the BDS movement in the US.
b. Call on all USPCN members to sign all petitions, ballot initiatives, and calls for divestment, particularly the JVP petition calling for TIAA-CREF to divest from corporations supporting the occupation;
c. Encourage USPCN local chapters to support, in whatever way possible, BDS campaigns based in their area;
d. Support a Grocers Boycott Campaign that will take Israeli products and products by corporations supporting Israel off grocery shelves;
e. Mobilize resources of the Palestinian community in the US to fund and develop BDS campaigns across the country.
Solidarity and Support: Palestinian Refugees Arriving from Iraq
Displaced once again, Palestinians from Iraq have been arriving to the United States in the last year. USPCN will have a Refugee Crisis Committee that seeks to:
a. Empower and encourage participatory and volunteer Palestinian community initiatives throughout the country that aim to mobilize community support in all forms for the refugees;
b. Develop resources and raise funds for the long term support of Palestinian refugees from Iraq, and build access to government and non-profit support.
Common Struggle and Palestinian Solidarity
Believing that our struggle against settler-colonialism and for self-determination is common to other indigenous peoples, USPCN resolves to:
a. Continue to uphold its responsibilities as a National Planning Committee member of the US Social Forum;
b. Mobilize on a national scale for any calls for protest led by the immigrant rights and indigenous movements in the US and internationally;
c. Support and organize, alongside others, for a Gathering of Anti-Colonial Struggles in the United States;
d. Seek to build sustainable and long-lasting relationships with movements in joint struggle whenever and wherever it can.