New Initiative: Palestinians in the U.S. form US Palestinian Council
By Emiliya Strahilova/Arab America Contributing Writer
For 70 years Palestinians around the world have been horrified by the events of the Nakba (Catastrophe) that took place in 1948 and still happening as of today. In December 2017, The Trump administration officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as cutting UNRWA funding which worsened the humanitarian situation on the ground. This also affected tremendously American Palestinians who felt let down by their own president.
Last weekend, about 70 Palestinian American activists gathered from all over the U.S. to establish a new organization. They represented all regions of the U.S. including south, midwest, northeast, and the west. Throughout the meeting, a roadmap of the group’s mission was devised. They collectively established the US Palestinian Council (USPC) which aims to represent Palestinian American organizations, individuals, and communities across the United States.
According to a press release, the originators state its purpose is “to provide effective representation of Palestinian Americans and to promote the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.” The delegates of USPC who met all day on April 22, 2018, in Washington DC area discussed the new entity’s structure.
Later in the evening, they were addressed by PLO Ambassador, Husam Zomlot, at a dinner at the Jerusalem Restaurant. The Ambassador recognized proudly the representatives from each region in the U.S; he declared his faith in the work of the group and said this was the most remarkable and historic day of his work as an Ambassador of the PLO to the United States.
The USPC plans to have three components: an organization legally advocating on behalf of Palestinian Americans on issues of concern to their communities, a political action committee (USPC-PAC) which will be raising funds from its members in support of political candidates and elected representatives, and a charitable foundation (USPC Foundation) that will support charities and other philanthropic causes of concern to the Palestinian American community.
The idea of the new union started on a regional level and developed into a national effort. The founders of USPC share their intention to form four regional councils that will each coordinate on their own regional levels, and each of these four councils will then work together on a united national level. Membership in the USPC will be categorized organizational and individual with specific dues assigned to each category, for example, $1,000 per organization and $100 per individual.
Overall, this is how USPC will operate. There have been numerous attempts in the past by the Palestinian American community to form various organizations. There will be a major effort to make this attempt effective and successful in unifying Palestinian Americans.
The National President of the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine, Hanna Hanania, who is involved with the initiative commented: “USPC started on a regional level and then the local level evolved to become national. The distinction is that this is a grassroots outreach organization. It has a clear vision and mission and it’s an American effort with no Palestinian politics–an American effort for Palestine.” He also explained the organization was not a direct response to Jerusalem’s change of status by President Trump but it was accelerated by it.
Another concern is the USPC’s funding and how long it will take for it to become a substantial entity. The group now consists of 20 organizations from more than 15 states. Although there’s speculation that some Palestinian Americans might be skeptical about joining the council, USPC strives to include more representation as it grows in the future through its activities and initiatives.
When asked about the unification of all Palestinians in the U.S., Hanania makes this appeal: “We will be outreaching for support in all aspects. Everyone who wants to work within the American system to promote issues of human rights violations, and the Palestinian peoples right of self-determination, please join us.”