Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Most Important Campaign in Years -- Please Read & Forward!

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 organization.

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

2. Sign up for the campaign at www.fiveforpalestine.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


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is the biggest load I have seen since Blood libel Barbie's phony atrocity story.

BTW, where I grew up, when you falsely accuse someone of a heinous crime, you apologize. So how about apologizing, Anna?

I love the part about supporting the elected representatives of the Palestinians (aka the Hamas terrorist organization).

Why not be consistent with your message. Include a call for citizens of every nation in the world to have the same rights in the U.S. as U.S. citizens do.

The Israeli Arabs have equal rights. The Palestinians don't have equal rights in Israel for the same reason that European citizens don't have equal rights in America. Because they are not citizens.

Your biggest failure as an educator is that you teach lies.

j said...

You are going to have many robots spiders that replicate Hasbara 101

Anonymous said...

I am neither a robot, nor a spider, nor a Hasbara. I am an American Jew who thinks that when you falsely accuse someone of a monstrous crime you should apologize rather than simply saying "oh wait, no they didn't".

If someone said Anna Baltzer murdered five Israelis, would she think that it was enough for the false accuser to simply say (weeks later) "well, actually she didn't".

Still it does help discredit anything else Anna Baltzer says when someone can truthfully and accurately say that she is an unapologetic spreader of false atrocity stories.

Anonymous said...

Who is denying Palestinians "equal rights"? Surely not Israel. The elected government of Gaza is Hamas. To read how they treat their citizens, read the following article reported in the Guardian.


Incidentally, these stories of torture and murder committed by Hamas are credible - substantiated by organizations like Amnesty International, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Anonymous said...

Here is a quote from an acticle written by Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America. I am sure though some will say that he is a self hater and anti-semite for writing this article.

"Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in "Righteous Victims" that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists."


Anonymous said...

Here is a very intresting article from the CNN.

... claims were made by Israeli soldiers who were graduates of a pre-military course at an Israeli college. They were first reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday.
At a gathering at the college following the Gaza operation, the newspaper reported, soldiers gave testimony that ran counter to persistent claims by the military that "Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation."
The testimony was taken down by the head of the college's pre-military program, Danny Zamir. He told Haaretz that he did not know what the soldiers were going to say and that what they heard "shocked us."
According to Haaretz, Zamir passed on the testimony to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, saying he "feared a serious moral failure in the IDF."
Contacted by CNN, Zamir said he would not comment to the foreign press on the matter and that the full testimony would be appearing in Haaretz newspaper.
Portions of the testimony appeared in the Thursday edition of Haaretz and more is expected in coming days.
In one account, a squad leader from a brigade serving in Gaza described an incident in which he said an elderly Palestinian woman was shot and killed at the orders of a company commander.
According to the testimony, the squad leader protested the rules of engagement, which he said allowed soldiers to fire on Palestinian homes without giving residents a warning. After the rules were changed, his soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."
According to Haaretz, the squad leader went on to testify that, "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."
In a statement released Thursday, the Israeli military spokesman's office said Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, the Israeli military's advocate general, had ordered an immediate investigation be opened that will "examine" what was said by the soldiers.
Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio Thursday that "Israel has the most moral army in the world" and that the testimonies will be checked carefully.

Anonymous said...

Anna your new organization starting in the Spring 'Witness in Action' not only inspires me but gives me hope for Palestine and its people. It really isn't just because this blog and upcoming organization speaks up against the atrocities that have been taking place for 60 plus years and counting in Palestine but it speaks up for the atrocities of the world. I find your work and commitment for peace admirable.

I first learned about this blog through an email sent to me by a friend which i am very greatful to for allowing me to see, yet another human rights advocate who speaks in the name of justice. May God Bless You.

I hope you never give up doing what you know in your heart is right; I won't give up either. I have already informed almost everybody I know about your blog and they too are informing those they know. With the will of God, and our ambition for justice we will be victorious, that I promise you.

So pay no mind to those who take real life events and try to 'fabricate' them into their own lie's or justification's. They're just trying to intimidate but all they're really doing is proving to be ignorant and heartless to the cruelty of the world around them. I bet these inhumane acts could happen in front of their very eyes and they would find some sick twisted way to justify that too... wait that's already happened and is still happening.

If you really sit down and think about it they took one story out of millions, and chose to attack it's supposed lies because their wasn't enough evidence. When it really doesn't matter if their is proof or not, at the end of the day ZIONIST not Jews have innocent blood on their hands because of their inhumane methods of dealing with Hamas (which is a democratically elected government).

Who shot what rocket at who first, does not give ANYONE THE RIGHT TO:
-Kill over 1300 people and counting because there are still scores of bodies still been dug up from under the rubble.
-300 in which were children.
-Allow no medical care in the Gaza Strip for the wounded.
-Allow no food supplies.
-Allow no fuel.
All in which was done for a whole month straight.
But wait now three months later the IDF has let scarce amounts of medical supplies, scarce amounts of food, and scarce amounts of fuel to a population of nearly 1.5 million people.

I don't know... i seriously don't understand so maybe someone can help me? How does one even begin to justify such cruelty? Wait YOU CAN'T!

This wasn't a war against Hamas because if it was 1,000 civilans would not have been MURDERED! It was a Massacare that had nothing to do with Hamas, and everything to do with the Genocide of the Gaza People that would have come sooner or later regardless of Hamas.

How can one possibly compare tiny rockets to: F16s,tanks,guns and white phosphorus (which is supposedly banned by th UN)? Then have the nerve to call it a war? Again YOU CAN'T!

As for 'Promised Land' you Zionist need to chill out... because I can settle this for you guys right now...sad but true it isn't for you guys because first of all Zionist are atheist, and guess who the 'Promised Land' was promised by GOD, a powerful being you don't believe in so you've been kicked off the list of 'who the Promised Land belongs to.' I guess if any two groups of people want to argue over the 'Promised Land'it would be the Arab Muslims/Christians and the Juddist/Christian Jews. Yet again I can settle this, the Jews who meet the above criteria were once given the 'Promised Land' but when they turned their back on God he took it back from them.

Ok look I'll finish my story later, maybe tommorrow it's late now.

Before I go I just want to point a few things out first I'm not racist and Zionism is not a race so that doesn't count, Second I would like to believe I'm a realist so I don't believe all people are good or even that everyone has good in them, some people are just straight up cruel. Third I know I've jumped way off from my first topic, so I don't need that pointed out. It's just really hard not to when one's speaking of such a complex issue.

So for now Bye.

Sara Schmidt said...

For those interested in Anna Baltzer's message, here is a truly well-informed and interesting article:

Who Needs a Palestinian State?Anonymous #2 (March 29), you say:

"I don't know... i seriously don't understand so maybe someone can help me? How does one even begin to justify such cruelty? Wait YOU CAN'T!"

Do you want help, or do you want to simply accuse? Your question is a "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" question.

As for justifying the actions of Israel, yes, I can. Consider that they are dealing with a people (a state) whose entire existence is to wipe them off the map.

For an education, read the article I posted above.