The Link, published on a bi-monthly basis, is Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU)'s primary education and information tool. More than 175 issues of The Link have followed since the first issue written by Humphrey Walz appeared in 1968. For the first two decades of its existence, The Link was virtually the only national periodical published for a diverse audience by an American non-profit organization that persistently challenged the prevailing myths and stereotypes about Arabs, Muslims and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over the past several decades, activists, grassroots organizations, and institutions generally deemed congressional advocacy focused on Palestinian rights as a completely futile exercise. Many avoided direct engagement with lawmakers, often expressing it would be a waste of time. Much necessary effort was put into public education campaigns, speaking tours, and BDS (boycott, sanctions, and divestment campaigns), which all have helped build and expand a broad U.S.-based movement demanding equality, freedom, and justice for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. However, without complementary efforts targeting policy and decision makers to help leverage these efforts for political change, the U.S.-based Palestinian rights movement lacked long-term policy vehicles to organize around.
In 2014, a handful of individuals, organized by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), came together in Chicago with the intention of building an evidence-based, rights-based congressional advocacy campaign to demonstrate not only that it wasn’t futile to engage with members of Congress on a Palestinian rights issue, but also that it was entirely necessary for building political power to force change.
From these initial discussions, DCIP and AFSC’s joint project, the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, was born. Launched in June 2015, the goal was to engage members of Congress on a narrowly-tailored and compelling child rights issue, like widespread and systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces.
In just three years, the campaign has mobilized an extensive network of people across the U.S. through strategic congressional advocacy. In November 2017, we celebrated a historic achievement when Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) and nine co-sponsors introduced the first-ever bill in the U.S. Congress focused on Palestinian human rights. By the end of September 2018, the bill, H.R. 4391, had 30 sponsors.
This issue explains how an evidence-based advocacy made this legislation a reality.
The author, Brad Parker, is a staff attorney and international officer at Defense for Children International-Palestine and leads its legal advocacy efforts on Palestinian children’s rights.