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New Orleans Conference Report, April 1-2, 2005

Pre-registered participants: 14 (including Josh, Kymberlie, and Mazin)
Total participants: 31
No-show: 2
Total organizations/groups represented: 8
·        *New Orleans Palestine Solidarity
·        4 The Palestinian Cause
·        New Orleans Shura Council
·        New Orleans ADC
·        New Orleans Pax Christi
·        Wheels of Justice
·        *Palestinian American Congress, National
·        Louisiana Violence Prevention Alliance
(* denotes current membership with the US Campaign)
Total states represented: 2
·        Louisiana
·        Tennessee

Conference Summary
Friday Night Public Panel
Linking Struggles: Building Coalitions for Middle East Justice
Panelists from various movements, including anti-death penalty, prison rights, anti-war and Palestine solidarity presented the audience brief introductions to their area of work, then addressed the linkages between the various issues, putting emphasis on the need for movements to work in solidarity with each other.  Below is the list of panelists and their bios. 
Mazin Qumsiyeh PhD - (www.qumsiyeh.org) is Palestinian American and an Associate Professor of Genetics at Yale University School of Medicine. He is author of the widely acclaimed book Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. He is founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation, and a cofounder of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (see al-awda.org. He won the Jallow activism award from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. He was co-founder of Triangle Middle East Dialogue and the Carolina Middle East Association. Dr. Qumsiyeh's specialty is media activism. Appearances in national media include the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, CNBC, AlJazeera, C-Span, and ABC, among others.

Sandra Bahuur - President, New Orleans Chapter of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Danny Muller - is the cocoordinator of Voices in the Wilderness in Chicago and an active member of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). He is a tax resister, conscientious objector, musician, speaker, and organizer. He has traveled to Iraq numerous times, in opposition to US led sanctions and bombing, recently as a delegate with the Iraq Peace Team. In December 2003, Danny traveled with MECA throughout the West Bank and Gaza and continues work against the economic and military occupation of Iraq and Palestine. Danny studied at St John’s University and Manhattan College, with a degree in Peace Studies and Political Science. Before his work with Voices in the Wilderness, Danny taught alternatives to violence for the NYC Board of Education. He has taught on the junior high, high school and university level. Danny is a founding board member of Chicago’s Synapses Foundation and PeaceEd.org, a national campaign advancing peace education.

Jenka Soderberg - is an independent journalist currently based in Washington, DC. She has spent the past four months covering the occupation of Palestine for Indymedia and Pacifica's Free Speech Radio News.

Malik Rahim
- Born and raised in New Orleans' Algiers Neighborhood, Malik has spent many yearrs studying and organizing around housing and prison issues. He was a founding member of the Black Panthers Louisiana Chapter, the anti-death penalty campaign Pilgrimage for Life (with Sister Helen Prejean and others), and the successful National Campaign to Free The Angola Three. He traveled to Iraq before the current occupation as part of a delegation with Voices in the Wilderness.
About the US Campaign: Kymberlie Quong Charles
Kymberlie Quong Charles introduced the US Campaign and a brief history of it, its framework of international law and human rights, organizational structure, projects, and taskforces.  She also discussed the Campaign’s vision for building the movement by expanding the coalition through increasing membership, as well as the “benefits” of becoming a member of the Campaign.
Religious Communities Panel
Panelists from various faith communities presented personal perspectives on how their faith leads them to work for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.  Significant emphasis was placed on linking faith communities through dialogue and solidarity.  The panelists’ presentations lead to a lively question and answer / dialogue session with conference participants on how to build relationships between faith communities in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana.  Below is a list of panelists and their bios.
Alison Aucoin was born into a historically interfaith family and was raised Catholic. After exploration of her Christian and Jewish backgrounds, Alison converted to Judaism in 1999. Recent experiences in Israel and Palestine have led Alison to work with other local Jewish activists to form a Jewish organization against the occupation.  Alison has a masters degree in international health and development and currently works as a program planning and evaluation consultant with social service and public health agencies.

Cliff Nunn
 is Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans and active in New Orlean’s peace and justice community.                        

Abdel-Rahman Hamid, an Egyptian American, is a representative of New Orlean’s Shura Council, and is also a student at the University of New Orleans
.
Mahdi Issa is a member of the Palestinian community in New Orleans and is part of the leadership of Money Management Advocacy Council Icon, a New Orleans organization that works with various religious organizations on money management, and advocates for the equal distribution of money and resources.

Skill-building Workshops: Conference attendees participated in three skills-building workshops.
Grassroots Political Activism (including new CDC’s): Josh Ruebner
Josh Ruebner led a 1-1/2 hour workshop on how to effectively engage elected representatives, focusing on Members of Congress.  The workshop highlighted successful examples of US Campaign member groups educating and pressuring their Members of Congress to change their voting record on Israel-Palestine.  The workshop also covered the various modes of communicating with Members of Congress and how to maximize the effectiveness of these communications.  The workshop addressed other topics such as how to write an appropriate letter to Members of Congress and how to schedule and have an effective meeting with Members of Congress.  The workshop also covered some pro-active ideas that local grassroots organizations can implement to have a positive effect on their elected representatives.
Media Activism (including volunteer media activists): Mazin Qumsiyeh
Mazin Qumsiyeh of Al-Awda and the Wheels of Justice Tour led a 1- ½ hour workshop on the role of US media in US perceptions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and provided tools for engaging and challenging the media to be more balanced and inclusive in reporting on Israel and Palestine.  He used a Power Point presentation to show the discrepancies in media coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and provided suggestions for different avenues to work with the media.  In addition, about 11 participants signed up to become part of Palestine Media Watch’s network of volunteer media monitors and activists. 
Direct Action / Caterpillar Campaign: Jenka Soderberg, Danny Muller, and Kymberlie Quong Charles
Kymberlie Quong Charles opened this workshop with a brief history of the Caterpillar Campaign and the many types of action people are using to end Caterpillar bulldozer sales to the Israeli military.  During her presentation she emphasized the importance for organizing for the International Day of Action Against Caterpillar on April 13, 2005. 
Jenka Sodeberg and Danny Muller from the Wheels of Justice Tour used the example of Caterpillar to plan a direct action.  Participants were divided into three groups to work on creating the action, laying out a media strategy, and a support plan, including legal considerations and general people power.  This session doubled as a regional strategizing session since all but of the participants were from the greater New Orleans area.  The result was the beginnings of a plan to build a Mardi Gras-style Caterpillar float to parade through New Orleans.     

Evaluation Summary
Conference evaluations were distributed with each conference packet.  Of 25 distributed evaluations, 6 were returned completed. 
Participants were asked to rate each session on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest mark, as well as to comment on four other general questions.  The following is the breakdown of these ratings.
Did this conference meet your expectations?
1: 0 respondents
2: 0 respondents
3: 1 respondents  
4: 2 respondents
5: 2 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average score: 3.5
About the US Campaign
1: 0 respondents
2: 0 respondents
3: 1 respondents
4: 2 respondents
5: 2 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average score: 3.5
Religious Panel
1: 0 respondent
2: 1 respondents
3: 2 respondents
4: 1 respondents
5: 1 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average: 2.83
Grassroots Political Activism Workshop
1: 0 respondents
2: 0 respondents
3: 0 respondents
4: 2 respondents
5: 3 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average score: 3.83
Media Workhop
1: 0 respondents
2: 0 respondents
3: 1 respondents
4: 2 respondents
5: 1 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average score: 2.66
Direct Action and Caterpillar Workshop
1: 0 respondents
2: 0 respondent
3: 0 respondents
4: 3 respondents
5: 2 respondents
(1 no rating)
Average score: 3.66
Regional Strategizing
1: 0 respondents
2: 1 respondent
3: 1 respondent
4: 1 respondent
5: 1 respondent
(2 no rating)
Average Score: 2
In brief, the sessions were rated in the following order, starting with the best
1- Grassroots Political Activism Workshop – 3.83
2- Direction Action/Caterpiller – 3.66
3- About the US Campaign – 3.5
4- Religious Panel – 2.83
5- Media Workshop – 2.66
6- Regional Strategizing – 2
The following is a sampling of remarks from the question:
Do you have suggestions for future conferences?
“Better organizing much earlier, publicize, web stuff etc.”
“More organization and timeliness…but overall it was good”
“Get involved early to insure better attendance”
“Work more closely with organizations.  Have monthly meetings!”
“Doesn’t seem like enough effort was made to bring delegates – maybe just a Louisiana-wide conference, bringing in new people like universities, churches, etc. (moveon.org style networking) to bring in new people who are interested in progressive causes.”

Outreach Summary
0 new individuals signed on and paid the $30 membership fee.
0 new organizations signed on and paid the $100 membership fee.
3 other organizations have been identified as prospective new members of the Campaign, to whom we will outreach in the coming weeks.

CDC Summary
2 (possibly 3) new CDC's:

Jeanie Williams West (LA-5), represented by Rep. Rodney Alexander (R)
Alice Soliman (LA-2), represented by Rep. William Jefferso (D)

Expressed interest:
Hesham Tillawi (LA-7), represented by Charles Boustany (R)