Palestine Advocacy Day reaches new heights; leads to building network of support
(WASHINGTON DC 05/02/2017) – A new level of commitment, energy and enthusiasm was the end result of three days of training and advocacy on Capitol Hill. At least 65 people attended the American Muslims for Palestine’s third annual Palestine Advocacy Day and Training at George Washington University in Washington DC. The Palestinian Youth Movement partnered with AMP this year, helping to create the training program, along with AMP and lead trainer Ahlam Jbara, of Chicago.
The purpose of the three-day event was to give participants the skills and knowledge they need to mobilize people in their home districts to participate in civic engagement.
“It’s crucial that the work AMP does in the nation’s capital is supported by civic engagement at the local and state level,” said AMP National Policy Director Dr. Osama Abuirshaid. “This reinforces the idea there are constituents out there who are willing to get involved and who are paying attention.”
“We had participants from several states who visited the offices of dozens of representative and senators,” said AMP Government Relations Coordinator Kareem El-Hosseiny.
Participants engaged in two days of intensive training that covered topics such as structures of government, how a bill becomes law, building power and the purpose of political advocacy and how it works. On Monday, May 1, the group attended a briefing at the State Department and then visited their congressional offices on Capitol Hill.
During the Q &A session, the issue of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis was discussed intensely; AMP will be working further with the State Department on this issue.
In addition, AMP’s media director Kristin Szremski outlined the group’s advocacy issues and official requests, which included settlements, the location of the U.S. embassy and the treatment of Palestinians as stated in the State Department’s annual world human rights report. Case studies the group focused on included Human Rights Defender Issa Amro of Hebron, who is facing years in prison for his peaceful activism; American citizen Mahmoud Shaalan, who was killed by an Israeli soldier; and the hunger striking Palestinian prisoners.
The “Asks” to both the State Department and elected officials included reaffirming the U.S. position that settlements are illegal; asking the IRS to investigate the tax exempt status of the Jewish National Fund and the Hebron Fund, both of which raise money for settlements in violation of the tax code for charities; and to pressure Israel to end its use of administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners and to end human rights abuses in its military prison system. Furthermore, delegates asked that Congress and the State Department encourage the Trump administration to abide by decades of U.S. policy and refrain from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
“We had students and community leaders from all over the country, from New York to California, with great diversity as well,” said Taher Herzallah, AMP associate director of outreach and grassroots organizing. “What is especially significant is that not only was this event led by Palestinian Americans, it was led by Palestinian American women.”
Plans already are underway for next year’s event. AMP is the only organization bringing Palestinian Americans to Capitol Hill.
Trainers included advocacy and electoral politics expert Ahlam Jbara; Nadya Tannous, Maisa Morrar and Dima Masoud, all of PYM; and AMP staffers El-Hosseiny, Herzallah, Dr. Abuirshaid and Szremski.
“We’re heartened by the response this year. It’s vital that elected officials hear from their Palestinian and Muslim constituents,” Dr. Abuirshaid said. “Now we’re working to build on this and create a network of those willing to get involved with civic engagement for Palestine.”