As-salāmu ʿalaykum. Fourteen years ago, we founded American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) as a small, all-volunteer organization to begin the important work of educating, organizing, and mobilizing the Muslim community in the United States to advocate for Palestinian rights.
By the grace of God, and thanks to our supporters’ generosity, we’ve now grown to a professional organization with a dedicated staff of nine, more than a $1 million annual operating budget, and an office in our nation’s capital to better position ourselves to influence our country’s policies.
We fill an important niche in the broader Palestine solidarity movement in the US, uniquely positioned to mobilize Palestinian-American and Muslim-American communities across the country to take action. Our signature annual advocacy day in Washington, DC attracts hundreds of people to meet with their Members of Congress. Our annual educational conference in Chicago draws thousands of people who learn from the most influential figures in the Palestine solidarity movement worldwide. Our protests and online action campaigns also mobilize thousands of people to promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) for Palestinian rights and to change US policy.
We are helping to change the tide. Public opinion is increasingly supportive of Palestinian rights. Our ability to shape the media discourse is growing. We are winning BDS campaigns nationwide. More Members of Congress are boldly speaking out in support of Palestinian rights.
However, the organizations promoting Israel’s apartheid policies toward and oppression of the Palestinian people are still much larger. We don’t need to match their resources dollar for dollar for truth and justice to prevail; but, we need to grow big and fast to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist for promoting Palestinian rights in the US.
We have a plan to do just that. We are investing heavily in our ability to organize grassroots pressure among constituents to educate Members of Congress about the plight of the Palestinian people. We are doubling down on establishing even more chapters across the country to organize more communities. We are revitalizing our signature boycott campaign against dates produced in illegal Israeli settlements for Ramadan. And, as a growing organization, we are acting strategically to become an even more effective and efficient catalyst for change.
I hope that you will be as inspired as I am by our plans for this year and that you will give even more generously to help us accomplish our big goals. Of course, the way in which we do our work is being altered by the coronavirus pandemic. However, since oppressors do not cease their oppression during a pandemic, neither will we cease our efforts to achieve justice. The people of Palestine refuse to be defeated by a brutal occupation, and we will not be defeated by a virus.
I am excited and eager to share with you more details about our plans. I look forward to discussing them with you and getting your feedback.
Challenging US Policy to Support Palestinian Rights
In January, organized its first-ever policy forum, convening approximately two dozen people representing key national organizations and important grassroots leaders in the Palestinian- American community who are working effectively through political parties to achieve change. We strategized together about harnessing our collective power to influence the 2020 elections to get political parties and elected officials to be more supportive of Palestinian rights. Throughout the year, we will continue to play a leading role in coordinating this effort to influence the parties’ platforms on Palestine, organize major presences at state and national political conventions, and present winning candidates with recommendations for policy change.
Our sixth annual Palestine Advocacy Day (PAD)--one of AMP’s signature events--was initially scheduled to be held this year in March, but was postponed until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. Every year, hundreds of Palestinian-Americans and their allies come to Washington, DC for the largest lobbying day for Palestinian rights. It is of crucial importance that Members of Congress and their staff hear directly from these constituencies, and AMP is the only organization providing them this opportunity. Before postponing, this year’s PAD was going to be the largest--with more than 700 people in attendance--and the best one yet. For the first time, AMP planned to lobby on Tuesday in order to meet with Members of Congress directly. We had scheduled more than a dozen such meetings before postponing. In the fall, we will hold PAD with even more participants and more meetings with Members of Congress.
Although having constituents meet once a year with their elected officials is valuable, it is of equal, if not more, importance to cultivate sustained relations with Members of Congress in their home state or district. Toward this end, AMP is launching the Palestine Advocacy Club (PAC) this year to work with key grassroots organizers and AMP chapter leaders to educate Members of Congress on crucial policy issues and organize in their congressional districts for policy change. AMP will organize special webinars and training sessions for PAC leaders and provide them with materials and action alerts to empower them to become catalysts for change in their congressional districts.
This year, AMP also will build upon its previous work to meet regularly with congressional staff, issue timely action alerts to its supporters to engage them in advocacy opportunities with their elected officials, and send high-quality memos and talking points to Capitol Hill on relevant policy issues.
However, as a 501(c)(3) organization, AMP is restricted in the amount of lobbying work that it can do. In order to take advantage of the many opportunities AMP currently sees to build for Palestinian rights on Capitol Hill, we will explore establishing an affiliated 501(c)(4) organization this year, which could engage in unlimited amounts of lobbying. In addition, this organization could engage in limited electoral work, such as endorsing candidates for office and running ads to support them. This affiliated 501(c)(4) organization could also establish a political action committee to make direct contributions to endorsed candidates and encourage its grassroots supporters to do so as well. As we have witnessed in the 2020 presidential and congressional races, advocating for Palestinian rights is no longer a liability; in fact, being a strong advocate for Palestinian rights is becoming an asset for politicians! In order to further encourage this process, AMP will look into establishing these affiliated organizations to more effectively support politicians advocating for Palestinian rights.
Education to Empower Our Supporters
AMP’s efforts to change governmental policy will be even more effective by continuing to invest in deepening the knowledge of our supporters who will be better equipped and empowered to be effective advocates for Palestinian rights as a result.
Every year, AMP organizes the largest conference for Palestinian rights in the US, attracting more than 3,000 Palestinian-Americans and their allies to Chicago during Thanksgiving weekend for an inspiring and enlightening conference featuring dozens of well-known speakers from around the world who are making important contributions to the Palestine solidarity movement. Last year’s keynote speeches featured activists and authors Linda Sarsour and Marc Lamont Hill. Not only are AMP’s national conventions an opportunity for adults to sharpen their skills and enhance their knowledge; AMP strongly believes in focusing on our youth, and has dedicated tracks for high school and college students, as well as special programming for youth to empower the next generation of activists for Palestinian rights. This year’s conference will be the biggest and best one yet!
AMP also strongly believes in the power of connecting and educating in person. This year, dynamic speakers from AMP’s staff and board of directors will crisscross the country, delivering hundreds of lectures at college campuses and high schools, community events, and conferences, and sermons at mosques, churches, and synagogues.
This year, AMP also will invest heavily in producing more of its high-quality educational resources in a wide variety of formats, acknowledging that the way in which people consume information today is constantly evolving. AMP will develop a full-scale, on-line curriculum which will serve as a resource for educators, activists, and community leaders to teach about the history of Palestine and the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli oppression. AMP also will continue to produce short explainer videos--on historical issues, intersectional connections between the struggle for Palestinian rights and other struggles for justice, and on current events--to be disseminated through AMP’s expanding social media channels.
Lastly, this year, AMP will undergo a rebranding and a redesign of its website to improve user experience to make AMP a one-stop-shop for people to become more engaged in advocating for Palestinian rights.
Grassroots Organizing to Achieve Palestinian Rights
Even though AMP’s national office is in our nation’s capital, we understand that change does not originate from our elected officials; our theory of change is that growing numbers of empowered and passionate activists for Palestinian rights will create the awareness and pressure on our elected officials which will lead them to change policy. Toward that end, AMP strongly believes in the power of grassroots organizing.
This year, AMP will invest heavily in enhancing the educational, organizational, and advocacy capabilities of its existing chapters, and seed new AMP chapters across the country to build even more pockets of community organizing for Palestinian rights. Existing AMP chapters are dynamic and effective in organizing community events and protests, in engaging in local intersectional campaigns for justice, in educating their broader communities about Palestinian rights, and in engaging their local media and elected officials. AMP will build upon this solid foundation by organizing a chapter leader retreat to share lessons learned and strategize together about strengthening the connection between their efforts and those of the national office. AMP will also develop policies and procedures to streamline and standardize chapter communications and relations with the national office while maintaining the chapters’ significant autonomy in developing their own plans of action.
While historically AMP has had a strong presence in the Midwest and on the East Coast due to the locations of its former and current national office, AMP has had less of a presence on the West Coast despite the large and active communities of Palestinian-Americans and Muslim-Americans there. To remedy this imbalance and to help organize and mobilize these communities, AMP hired its first West Coast organizing director late last year. This year, AMP will greatly expand its presence on the West Coast by engaging in intensive relationship-building, delivering sermons in mosques, speaking on college campuses, organizing additional chapters, and hosting its first-ever West Coast conference, which is expected to draw hundreds of new activists into AMP’s ranks.
As a capstone of its grassroots organizing efforts, AMP will revitalize its signature BDS campaign to mobilize Palestinian-American and Muslim-American communities to boycott dates produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. These dates are grown in Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, an historically productive agricultural area of the West Bank from which Israel is actively driving Palestinians from their land. Many Muslims unwittingly purchase these dates for Ramadan not knowing their provenance. AMP will produce new educational resources to raise awareness and work intensively with chapters across the country to increase the growing effectiveness of this boycott campaign.
Organizational Development and Fundraising to Power AMP’s Work
As a growing and effective organization, AMP is also actively investing in its organizational development by implementing management practices for strategic planning, annual staff retreats and planning, quarterly reviews, and biweekly staff meetings and work plans. AMP strongly believes in being good stewards of your support and being as effective as possible with your donations. Everything we do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis flows into a strategic plan to accomplish our mission to end our country’s support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and to see Palestinian rights actualized.
Our growing and talented staff is a testament to your trust in us. And to become even more effective and efficient as we continue to expand our operations and capabilities, we are also investing in developing policies and procedures to simultaneously encourage the professional development of our staff and ensure they receive the managerial support needed to shine in their positions. Our greatest asset is our human resources, and we greatly value and appreciate the dedication and professionalism of our employees.
In order to accomplish all of the ambitious goals that AMP has set for itself in 2020, we also know that we need to grow our financial base of support from $1.2 million in 2019 to $1.5 million this year. AMP has developed a comprehensive fundraising plan to meet these expanded needs. This year, AMP will build upon its existing revenue streams of in-person and event-driven fundraising. AMP will diversify its fundraising capabilities by incorporating online fundraising into its programs and campaigns, build out a monthly donor program to increase stability in its cash flow, launch peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to take advantage of social media fundraising, explore grant opportunities with large foundations devoted to advancing Palestinian rights, and expand its person-to-person connections with its most dedicated and generous individual donors.
We are confident that we have developed a solid plan to guide our work in 2020 and believe that we will have a large and successful impact on the movement to achieve the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people. With your ongoing and generous support, we will accomplish our goal. Thank you.