The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) hosted a quality conference over Thanksgiving break to celebrate the growth of the solidarity movement for Palestine, to give a status update on the movement’s condition in the United States, and to inspire attendees to continue pushing forward. Here is the first part of a two-part report-back on all the conference had to offer.
Hosted in Rosemont, just outside of Chicago, the conference venue featured four main halls, a dozen auxiliary rooms, a dining hall, and at least two boardrooms that were virtually filled to capacity for three straight days. Over 1,700 activists, community members, academics, and students gathered to further establish the Palestinian narrative. AMP did an excellent job of mobilizing the nation.
The conference opened with an overview discussion on the notion of justice and how it relates specifically to Palestine. The panelists united over a broad array of perspectives from the deeply religious to the intensely tactical to highlight the importance countering injustice with justice at every level. Activists based in the United States are faced with a heavy duty: to spurn the reprioritization and recalibration of America’s self-defeating relations with Israel. According to the speakers, this can only be achieved if the activist community capitalizes on the momentum.
The main program presented a number of distinguished guests who put forth their respective philosophies and political strategies as a guide for attendees to maneuver through the diverse collection of topics addressed during the conference. Milwaukee-based Shiekh Ziad Hamdan and Jerusalem’s Archbishop Atallah Hanna discussed the issue of Palestinian prisoners within the context of the siege on Gaza and the blatant human rights abuses in the West Bank. Weeks after the prisoner swap that relinquished Gilad Shalit, the blockade on Gaza has yet to end and the Israeli military continues to arrest and rearrest Palestinians in violent, overnight raids.
Taher Herzallah of the Irvine 11 and Hatem Abudayyah, subpoenaed by the FBI one year ago, deconstructed institutionalized strategies to silence and criminalize solidarity with Palestinians. Those who sat in on this talk walked away inspired and motivated to challenge the establishments that so willingly punish those who actively reveal the illogic behind Israel’s actions towards Palestinians and minority populations, both in the Middle East and abroad.
Max Blumenthal’s panel discussed the opposition’s use of media to spew propaganda and Islamophobia as a means to divert attention away from America’s counterproductive relations with Israel — a topic further addressed by Alison Weir, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, and Dr. Norton Mezvinsky.
The conference’s headliner event, appropriately titled “A New Era of Activism”, presented five core avenues of solidarity for Palestinian rights: campus activism; interfaith collaboration; boycott, divestment, and sanctions; mainstream media penetration; and community-based organizing. To Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP’s co-founder, these five avenues barely existed just one decade ago. Today, however, each avenue is leaving its mark by destabilizing the foundations of state-sponsored racism, apartheid, intolerance, and oppression. The level of networking, coordination, awareness, and dedication existing within the sphere of today’s activists for Palestine outdoes anything that has ever existed in the past, and so the world is bearing witness to a new age of activism for Palestinian rights.
AMP’s Conference on Palestine shed light on a new reality, that it is only a matter of time before Palestinians and their supporters will be able to rejoice over a free Palestine.
In part two of this report-back, read about the College Activism Track, the entertainment session, and the conference’s closing messages.