From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject American Muslims to Democrats: 'Palestine is a foreign policy priority'
Date December 14, 2019 12:09 PM
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[The American Muslims for Palestine convention was bigger than
ever, with participants looking to build momentum with Democrats.
Speakers included Marc Lamont Hill, Linda Sarsour, Zahra Billoo,
and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.] [[link removed]]

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Azad Essa
December 2, 2019
Middle East Eye
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_ The American Muslims for Palestine convention was bigger than ever,
with participants looking to build momentum with Democrats. Speakers
included Marc Lamont Hill, Linda Sarsour, Zahra Billoo, and Rep.
Rashida Tlaib. _

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib delivering a on Saturday evening at the
AMP convention , American Muslims for Palestine


Activists and academics gathered in Chicago over the weekend for the
12th annual American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) convention, calling
on American Muslims and the Democratic Party to prioritise Palestine
as a foreign policy issue. 

Those present at the convention overwhelmingly expressed the view that
if a Democrat is elected president in 2020, the momentum built in the
last few years over issues impacting Palestinian self-determination
needed to be carried into the White House.

The conference, organised by AMP, a national, grassroots organisation
focused on educating the public on political and cultural issues
related to Palestine, featured speakers like academic and television
personality Marc Lamont Hill, activist Linda Sarsour, lawyer Zahra
Billoo, and Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

Over 3,500 people from across the US registered for the three-day
convention, organisers said.

Though the importance of American Muslim civic participation ahead
and after the 2020 election dominated discussions at the convention,
other key issues raised included Israel’s recent spate of bombings
in Gaza and the US government's decision to no longer consider 
[[link removed]]Israeli
settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal. 

The conference made special reference to the shifting sentiment
towards Palestine, especially among the Democratic Party’s younger
base, who increasingly see the forced separations of children from
their parents at the US-Mexio border and treatment of African
Americans as synonymous
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the brutality meted out to Palestinians.

'Interconnected oppression'

"Do you know what I saw at the [US-Mexico] border? I saw Gaza,"
Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, said
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her keynote address on Saturday.

"When you think about the border, you have to got to understand how
interconnected the oppression in Palestine is with the oppression
taking place at the border," Tlaib said to applause from the packed

Organisers and delegates said Tlaib's presence at the convention
signified the tremendous shift in the way in which Palestine is being
discussed in the US today. The rise and rise of Tlaib and fellow
congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and their willingness to speak openly about
Palestine, shows that the issue is no longer as peripheral as it once

“To see Democratic nominees Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro speak
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the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference [in September]
illustrates the shift in the Palestine discourse in America,” Hatem
Bazian, a senior lecturer at the University of California,
Berkeley, says.

The election of Omar and Tlaib into Congress and their mainstreaming
of Palestine has helped mobilise and motivate a new generation of
youth to enter politics and encouraged Muslim Americans to run for
political office. But others noted that it was still significant that
none of the Democratic nominees for president had shown their
support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, nor
have they expressed their support for Palestinian right of return. 

“There is still a lot of room to educate and there is scope to do it
in the Democratic Party,” Josh Ruebner, a political analyst, said.

"Her [Tlaib] coming here and endorsing this cause despite all the
attacks she has faced also shows that Palestine is no longer a
liability and rather an asset,” Bazian said.

Conference organisers from AMP said that this 12th incarnation marked
quite a shift from its early days as a small, modest affair featuring
community leaders. This weekend's event was big, featuring speakers
from across the US and multiple organisations, and including training
programmes for young activists and activities for children as well.

Deanna Othman, media coordinator for AMP, told MEE that conference
organisers deliberately put together a programme that spoke to the
different needs of the community.

The activities here are essential for our growth,” Aya Ali, a
21-year-old student at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, who
attended the events geared for students, said.

Ali told MEE that the convention was "one of the biggest resources
for equipping student activists to educate and change the narrative
about Palestine on our campuses.”

Rifqah Falaneh, a student from DePaul University, the largest Catholic
university in the US, agreed. 

“It is not only about learning, but it is also about connecting with
other young people because there are so many different universities
from across the country. It is cool to see what other students and
leadership bodies are doing on these topics", the 21-year-old said.

Activists cautioned the community from expecting too much from the
Democratic leadership with regards to Palestine, as they had done
previously with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. They also
expressed concern that even if Trump were to be voted out of office,
it was highly unlikely a new administration would reverse the decision
to move the US embassy to Jerusalem or its stance on settlements.

But Ruebner, the activist and analyst from Washington, says the only
way forward is to continue insisting that Palestine remains a central
foreign policy issue with all Democratic Party nominees.

“So if we have a Democratic Party candidate entering the White
House, then he or she would have to carry the Palestinian mandate,”
Ruebner said.

_Azad Essa is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye based in New York
City. He worked for Al Jazeera English between 2010-2018 covering
southern and central Africa for the network. He is the author of The
Moslems are Coming (Harper Collins India) and Zuma's Bastard (Two Dogs

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