Americans care about Palestine
Contrary to popular thought, many of us in the United States are working against the occupation of Palestine.
In my last blog post "An American in Lahore", someone commented that:
“American citizen[s] should stand against their government for [its] inhumane behavior towards the rest of the world.”
A large number of the readers agreed and posted similar comments.
Actually, like you, many of us in the United States do care about what happens to our fellow human beings around the world; like you, many of us are frustrated by our government’s unjust foreign policies and the apathy of our fellow citizens towards the plight of oppressed groups around the world; like you, many of us have our eyes peeled to the news these days, hoping that the US will not embarrass itself once more and that the UN Palestinian bid will successfully go through.
Because so many readers claimed that American citizens are not protesting their government’s inhumane actions, I thought I would introduce some of the groups and initiatives in the States that are taking a stance against the Occupation of Palestinians:
- The US Campaign to End the Occupation has already circulated an open letter to President Obama, telling him not to veto the Palestinian UN membership bid. It has been signed by thirty American organizations, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CODEPINK, and Peace Action.
- A demonstration will also take place tomorrow at the White House regarding the looming US veto. If it is like any of the protests for Palestine I have been to, there will be people coming from all over the country in buses to participate.
- In December 2008, when what the Israeli military code-named “Operation Cast Lead” began, a group of Georgetown University students and I got together to form Georgetown for Gaza which, in an open letter circulated throughout the campus, called on our university leaders to demand an end to the attacks on civilians in Gaza. The letter attracted around five hundred students’ signatures and a number of student societies also put their name on the letter.
- In 2005, a group of Palestinian organizations launched the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a global call for putting sanctions on Israel and for boycotting and divesting from companies that profit from the occupation. The campaign’s goal is to put economic pressure on the Israeli state to end the occupation. The current BDS movement is international, but a number of American groups support the campaign, including the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the US Campaign to End the Occupation.
- Various student groups on American campuses—including at Stanford, Columbia, DePaul, Hampshire College, and Georgetown—have also joined the BDS movement, calling on their universities to divest from companies profiting from the occupation.
- Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) university chapters around the country have collectively organized a number of activities throughout the years. These are just a few:
- This past March, SJP chapters at Boston University, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts, Brown, and Tufts got together to host Boston’s second annual Israeli Apartheid Week.
- This May, University of Chicago’s SJP distributed campus-wide eviction notices to students living in dormitories to draw attention to the Israeli state’s illegal demolition of Palestinian houses. This was modeled after similar activities done at Harvard and Yale universities.
- One fall morning in 2006, Georgetown students walked to class only to find themselves blocked by a twenty-foot wall the university’s SJP had put up to raise awareness of the illegal Separation Barrier the Israeli state has constructed.
- On Wednesday, Georgetown’s SJP hosted a panel discussion on the UN bid, inviting human rights activists and human rights lawyers like Josh Reubner and Noura Erakat to underscore the importance of recognizing Palestinian statehood.
- In 2003, a young American college student, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza while trying to stop it from destroying her Palestinian’s house. Her parents founded the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice in her honor. The Foundation works on promoting peace and human rights around the world and in Palestine. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has also joined the BDS movement.
- In response to the powerful American Jewish lobby, which for many years has funded American politicians’ campaigns while asking them to pledge support in Congress to the Israeli state, concerned Americans established the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (AAPER). Though a young organization, AAPER has been working hard to build America’s first Free Palestine Lobby and is encouraging Americans to contact their political representatives to inform them about the human rights abuses in Palestine and about what they can do to stop them.
These are just a few of the many groups in America working to end the occupation.
The people working in these organizations would be the first to agree with you that not enough is being done in the US to end the plight of the Palestinian refugees. The looming US veto shows this and also reminds us that there is no time to waste.
So, readers, instead of focusing on placing our government’s faults on our shoulders, help us—those ordinary Americans working to reverse our government’s unjust policies. You are more than welcome to criticize our government’s unfair policies (as we ourselves often do), but then please also offer us sound advice on how we can strengthen our campaign for human rights and justice for all.
If you have recommendations for how we can reach more Americans, please let us know.
If you do not like our ideas for raising awareness in our communities about the occupation, please do give us some of your own.
If you are not satisfied with the strategies some of us in the States are using to call on our government to make a change, offer suggestions as to how we can do so more effectively.