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Steps For Solving Middle East Conflict

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago

 Anna Baltzer's eyewitness reports



What I am about to tell you is a recipe for action that has been

growing in my mind for almost a year but I've been waiting for the

right moment to put it all together. As I receive more invitations to

speak than I can even accept, as I receive requests to join the

movement all day long, I am increasingly aware that times are changing

in the United States. It may not be perceptible from any one town or

city, but as someone who travels from place to place, the overall

trend is clear: Americans are more and more skeptical of US foreign

policy in the Middle East and increasingly sympathetic towards the

plight of the Palestinians.


It's not just in the big liberal cities--it's in the smallest Midwestern towns, it's on conservative

southern ranches--it's everywhere. In every corner of the country,

there is a middle-aged couple who just came back from Bethlehem or a

soldier who just came back from Iraq who is outraged. We have reached

a critical mass.



The trouble is, change in popular opinion doesn't automatically effect

a change in reality. For many years the majority of Americans opposed

George W. Bush and his war on Iraq, but until only recently the

majority's frustration was in vain. People would throw up their hands

with disgust at the nightly news--just as they may today watching the

carnage in Gaza--but they were most often too disillusioned or

disempowered to change what they saw. Then Obama stepped into the picture.



The significance of Obama's campaign and subsequent victory cannot be

overstated. Obama tapped into the critical mass of disillusioned

citizens who were either passive or seperately active, and focused

them all into one powerful voice that could not be ignored. He found a

way that everyone, no matter who they were, could actively participate

in the process and contribute (even if only symbolically with one

dollar--it was still a personal investment in the cause). The trouble

before Obama's campaign was not that public consciousness for change

lacked numbers or even money; the problem was that it lacked




I believe the same can be said about the US movement for justice in

Palestine today. People are anxious to see change, but many take no

action and those who do often act separately. The middle-aged couple

does a presentation for their church; the Iraq veteran talks to

whoever will listen; the musicians make hip-hop; the artists paint

murals; the labor unions put out joint statements; the ordinary

citizen writes a letter to the editor or to congress; the community

groups demonstrate or vigil; the organizers put on educational events;

the mosques host fundraisers; the teachers talk to their students; the

college students work on divestment resolutions; the high school

students join facebook clubs...



Many of course do more than one of these things. They are all valuable

to the movement, and are much of what accounts for the change in US

public opinion, the physical sustenance of the Palestinian people

(with financial contributions, especially to Gaza), and the noticable

discomfort of Israel (following boycott and divestment efforts). We

will--we must--continue to do all of these things. My particular niche

has been educational, I plan to continue and expand by founding a new

organization later this Spring called Witness in Action, which will

facilitate the training of new speakers, placing them to inform

communities, and then helping enthusiastic audience members find their

place in the movement (more about Witness in Action later this year).



As an educator, I believe my greatest failure has been leaving

audiences moved and enthusiastic but not necessarily clear on their

next step. I always provide a list of ideas for getting involved, but

I only recently realized how overwhelming and unrealistic the options

are for most audience members. As much as I wish they would, the

average high-school student, senior citizen, or anyone in between is

not going to organize an effective divestment campaign. Most won't--or

can't--visit Palestine, give talks, or donate significant funds. What

is needed is something every single person can do, no matter how

little experience, time, or money they have.



I found my answer in the Five for Palestine campaign organized by the

American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (AAPER). The

campaign proposes five very simple and accessible steps that by

themselves don't amount to much, but if every single person who cares

about this issue did them we could change the course of history. The

five steps are as follows:



1. Learn about AAPER at www.americansforpal estine.org

You've already started by reading this email. Now visit the website.



2. Sign up for the campaign at www.fiveforpalestin e.org

You'll have to enter your zipcode so you'll be immediately placed with

others in your elected officials' consituencies.



3. Contact your elected representatives 5 times during the year.

Most of the contacting can be done quickly via the Five for Palestine

website, which will ensure that your letters are grouped with others

in the same constituency, giving them much greater impact than if you

sent them alone.



4. Contribute $5 per month to the campaign to help it grow.

Once there are a few hundred members in a constituency, the campaign

can hire a local organizer. Once there are a few hundred more, it can

hire lobbyists on Capitol Hill.



5. Find 5 others to join the campaign too.

This shouldn't be too difficult for most people on this list who know

at least a handful of people involved in the movement.



Again, the issue isn't numbers--it' s organization. We have the people,

and we could have the financial sustainability, but we lack the

infrastructure for a fast-growing and effective campaign to unify us

and make our diverse voices resonate as one. I think AAPER has

provided that infrastructure and with enough dedication we could be

every bit as effective as the Zionist lobby currently maintaining the

status quo, in fact even more. We are not talking about a top-down

change that begins with Congress or even Obama--this is a bottom-up

grassroots campaign through which we will assert--not request--the

change that needs to happen.



So will we continue to boycott?--Of course we will! It's what

Palestinians have asked of us, and it is applying necessary pressure

on Israel to comply with international law. Will we continue to

demonstrate? --Heck yeah! But we will compliment all of those things

with a solid presence and pressure on Capitol Hill that represents our

growing numbers.


------------ ---------------------




In addition to learning about AAPER at www.americansforpalestine.org

and joining Five for Palestine, here is AAPER's latest outreach effort

(I've paraphrased a bit --Anna). You'll notice AAPER's tactics are

largely based on the Obama campaign's successes utilizing internet

social networking and promotion:



Dear Friends:


With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the AAPER Foundation

initiates a public letter calling for the dawn of a new era in U.S.

policy toward Israel and Palestine. The letter is neither a symbolic

gesture nor a desperate plea, but a Statement of Principles for an

American Movement for Palestinian Rights in which we will ask every

signatory to participate. As such, it is also an organizing document

through which we will identify, inspire and invite the American people

to join us. Our objective is to obtain the signatures of 100,000

Americans in President Obama's first 100 days in office and, together,

begin to change the course of history.



We ask each of you to take just 5 minutes to read, sign, and, most

importantly, forward this letter to your family, friends, neighbors

and fellow citizens: www.aaper.org/ obamaletter


In addition, we ask each of you who uses Facebook to take just 5

minutes to take the following three simple actions:



1) Join our Facebook Group

(http://www.facebook.com/pages/AAPER-Foundation/31138263216) and

invite your friends to join;



2) Add our Facebook Application

(http://apps.facebook.com/americaforpalestine) and invite your friends

to add it;



3) Donate your Facebook status for at least 3 days to read -- "Donate

your status! President Obama: We, the American People, Seek a New

U.S. Policy Toward Palestine! Sign the letter at

www.aaper.org/ obamaletter."


100,000 signatures in 100 days. Change begins with you.




AAPER Foundation


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