Home   »  Our Coalition  »  US Campaign Conferences  »  3rd Annual National Organizers' ...

Annual Steering Committee Report, July 2003-June 2004

Presented by the Steering Committee to the
Organizers’ Conference: Speaking Out and Being Effective
June 4 - 7, 2004, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20037
1. Background … 2. The Campaign in 2003–04 …
3. Treasurer’s Report… 4. Moving Forward

1. Background

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation was formed in October 2001. It is a diverse coalition working for freedom from occupation and equal rights for all by challenging US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Campaign is based on human rights and international law, providing a non-sectarian framework for everyone who supports its Call to Action www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=45 Its strategy is to inform, educate, and mobilize the public to change the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The Campaign is primarily a channel for the efforts of advocacy groups and in no way replaces the work of member groups on the ground. Much of its work focuses on providing resources and a forum for sharing lessons learned as well as organizing nationwide mobilizations or projects to have impact on US policy. The Campaign’s first two conferences - in Chicago in June 2002 and Washington DC in July 2003 - brought together groups and individuals from all over the US. 

The Campaign framework of human rights and international law has successfully kept together people and groups holding a wide range of political opinions. People holding diverse views on different questions (such as two-states, binational, or secular, democratic state), or on priorities within the movement for Palestinian human rights (for example, prioritizing the right of return, or work on house demolitions), have been able to work together in the context of the Campaign’s focus on changing US policy to end the occupation.


2. The Campaign in 2003-04

The past year has been a period of growth for the US Campaign both in size and functions. It has also been a period of maturity and broader understanding of the potential contribution the Campaign can make as well as the limitations.

a. Growing Membership

The July 2003 conference in Washington DC had twice the number of participants as the June 2002 conference in Chicago, over 200 as compared to over 100. By May 2004, 130 national and local organizations as well as many individuals had signed on to the Campaign – twice the number of the previous year. They represent a wide range of groups – faith-based, peace and justice, Arab-American, Jewish anti-occupation, African-American, and a host of others operating both locally and nationally. They contribute time and resources to the Campaign. Among the organizations that have taken on national coordinating work or provided staff time, resources, and funds to the Campaign are: Grassroots International, Global Exchange, CESR, MERIP, AFSC, the United Methodists, Black Voices for Peace, TARI, the Palestine Center, and IPS.

This is a testament to the compelling appeal of the Campaign’s human rights and international law framework. It is also recognition of the way the Campaign meets the need felt by advocacy groups nationwide for a space to share expertise and resources, and, most importantly, to join forces to change U.S. policy without in any way losing their autonomy or sight of the specific issue that inspired their group (e.g. home demolitions, bringing speakers to the U.S., standing in solidarity, stopping the Wall, etc)

b. Increased Organizational Maturity

The July 2003 conference adopted Organization Rules for the Campaign, and the first elections were held immediately for four members of the 12-person Steering Committee, bringing democratic processes into the work of the Campaign while maintaining continuity. Thanks to the generous support of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Campaign was able to add a part-time staff person, Kymberlie Quong Charles, to support membership outreach, in addition to the work of its full time Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, Josh Ruebner. The rest of the Campaign’s work, for example producing resource materials and maintaining the website, is done on an entirely voluntary basis.

The Steering Committee held a strategy meeting in December 2003 to discuss further ways of implementing the decisions taken at the Campaign conference (the minutes were circulated to member groups at the time). Perhaps the main issue that the Committee continued to grapple with was the structure to best organize the Campaign’s work: 

1. By discrete project task forces, e.g. Stopping the Wall, divestment, opposing sales of Cat bulldozers to Israel, or 

2. By functional task forces relating to legislative work, media, membership, resources, fundraising, and others.

The Committee felt it was important to resolve this question so as to enable member groups to contribute and reflect the organization clearly and accurately on the website. A better understanding was developed during the course of 2004, and a proposal on how to move forward is made in Section 4b below.

Steering Committee conference calls were held at least once a month and minutes were kept and circulated to the membership as required by the Organization Rules, with the exception of the past three months when the Committee functioned as the conference program committee and focused almost exclusively on developing the conference agenda.

c. Expanded Services

As a result of the growing membership, the resources and expertise available to member groups have also grown, as is reflected in the diversity and scope of the Campaign’s biweekly newsletter, Occupation Endnotes, which is compiled by Kymberlie at AFSC and archived at: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=48

Other resources have included 

1. Fact sheets – e.g. the fact sheet on dual occupations tying the U.S. occupation of Iraq to the Israeli occupation of Palestine

2. Talking points, including ways to respond to the Geneva Accords, and 

3. Briefs, including a legal brief on the Wall and a major student resource for activists.

These materials are being used beyond the Campaign membership by other coalitions and groupings, including the 800-organization-strong anti-war coalition, United for Peace and Justice, which draws on the Campaign to help define its position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and which has taken up the Campaign’s call for a national week of action to mark the 37th anniversary of the occupation on June 5th, 2004.

The Campaign facilitated two major national actions in the past 12 months:

1. U.S. participation in the international Stop the Wall action on Nov 9, setting up a listserv to exchange information and ideas, organizing conference calls for its members, and providing space on the website events calendar.

2. Rachel Corrie National Day of Action on the 1st Anniversary of her death on March 16; events were held in three dozen cities and 200 organizations signed the petition

3. The upcoming national week of action on June 5th, providing talking points, information, and the events calendar.

In addition, the Campaign facilitated monthly national action alerts to support education of and outreach to elected representatives, through the work of its Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, Josh Ruebner. Josh worked with the Campaign’s Congressional District Network and DC-based partners to organize “Washington Wednesdays” on the first Wednesday of the month. Through this network, Members of Congress are receiving thousands of coordinated communications from concerned constituents on different aspects of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and U.S. policy towards Israel, e.g. the Wall, loan guarantees, violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act through Caterpillar sales, the murder of Rachel Corrie, funding for M.E. studies, and other areas.

The grassroots advocacy work has been one of the most dynamic areas of the Campaign, partly because Josh is full-time, and partly due to his energy, skill, ideas, and experience. In addition to facilitating the Washington Wednesdays, Josh has during the past year 

1. Built up the Congressional District Network from 19 coordinators in 15 states and 26 congressional districts in March 2003 to 118 coordinators in 32 states and 135 congressional districts by April 2004.

2. Conducted interactive training sessions on grassroots advocacy with local groups, provided over 1,000 grassroots activists with the skills they need to be effective advocates and educate their elected representatives. Topics covered in these session include: communicating effectively with Members of Congress; scheduling meetings with Members of Congress; and creating a sustained and pro-active legislative education strategy

3. Helped constituents schedule meetings with their Members of Congress in their home districts during Congressional recesses, as well as grassroots advocacy days for the Campaign conferences in 2003 and 2004 and for Campaign member groups. 

4. Organized briefings on the Hill for member organizations, e.g. briefings for Palestinian-Israeli Knesset member Azmi Bishara on behalf of Global Exchange, and International Solidarity Movement’s Huwaida Arraf in collaboration with the Palestine Center

5. Created a Congressional report card that rates Members of Congress on their voting record on Israel/Palestine policy and developed this useful tool for activists into a Voter Education Guide for 2004.

In addition, Josh has introduced a powerful new tool – a petition that enables member groups and individuals to sign on to statements that they want delivered to their elected representatives. The most recent petition, to be delivered to Congress during the grassroots advocacy day on June 7 had garnered 2,500 organizational and individual signatures by June 1. This is another indication of the Campaign’s growing outreach and ability to mobilize.

Meanwhile, the Campaign continues to play a major role in the UN-sponsored International Coordinating Network on Palestine and two of our Steering Committee members – Phyllis Bennis and Kathy Bergen – are also members of the Committee.

3. Treasurer’s Report

The Campaign has had modest success in fundraising this year, raising twice as much income as last year from dues from member groups and individuals as well as generous contributions from individuals and organizations. One member asked her friends and family to commemorate the loss of a family member by contributing to the Campaign, while another invited friends to a farewell party to donate to the Campaign instead of bringing gifts.

With much appreciated support from long-time union and community organizer Kim Fellner, we produced a fundraising proposal for 2004 which helped greatly in mobilizing resources (if you can help raise funds for the Campaign, please request a copy of this proposal from info@endtheoccupation.org) We have not yet secured our own 501c3 non-profit status and are still working on this. The Center for Economic and Social Rights phased out its fiscal sponsorship of the Campaign by April 2004, while the American Friends Service Committee undertook fiscal sponsorship from September 2003 to September 2004.

Income and Expenditures
July 1, 2003 – May 31, 2004

Income:

Contributions from members

38,759.00

Donors/foundations     67,000.00
Total as of May 31, 2004 105,759.00


Expenditures:
US Campaign Conference 2003 expenses     14,300.14
Administrative/office supplies 1,557.08
Printing-fact sheets/t-shirts 1,398.55
Postage for mailing 544.23
Travel/staff 581.44
Grassroots advocacy/Administration 26,514.37
Total as of May 31, 2004     44,895.81


Total income 105,759.00
Total expenditures 44,895.81
Balance as of May 31, 2004 60,863.19

The above figures do not reflect the value of the in-kind donations provided by member organizations and individuals. For example, AFSC provided half a staff salary (approximately $23,000) as well as office services and facilities for the membership outreach coordinator. At a conservative estimate, the value of the time donated by Steering Committee members, student volunteers and others is worth well over $100,000. Still, the increase in actual cash contributions is very significant and will enable the Campaign to put itself on a solid footing to move forward in the ways described below.


4. Moving Forward

a. Lessons Learned

The 2003 conference voted for projects to Stop the Wall, education for the 2004 elections, and CAT, while continuing pre-conference projects that included divestment. The experience of the past two years has shown that the Campaign is more successful in providing the kind of services needed to build a coalition than in facilitating projects.

For example, although the nationwide actions during the week of November 9 to Stop the Wall were very effective in terms of organization and education, these were not followed through by the Campaign as a whole in subsequent months and the listserv remained largely inactive. The US Campaign endorsed and referred people to the CAT Campaign initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace, SUSTAIN, Center for Economic and Social Rights and others, which is producing some impressive results. However, the Campaign itself was not able to make a distinctive contribution to the CAT Campaign – although it was included in Washington Wednesdays action alerts. Of course, individual member groups have continued to be active in these areas and to make linkages through the Campaign.

Where the US Campaign has been most successful is in building the national movement, growing the membership, providing skills training and resources, serving as a clearing-house, and providing a channel for nationwide actions. The evidence is in the rapidly growing number of member groups, the growing CDC network, the new groups that are signing on to petitions and then joining the Campaign, and the growing use of Campaign resources by other Coalitions.

b. Proposals for Moving Forward

Based on these lessons, as well as on the Campaign strategy paper prepared for the June 2004 conference by Phyllis Bennis and David Wildman, we propose to strengthen the Campaign’s functional task forces, particularly a media task force. The Campaign would continue to provide space on the website for and links to important initiatives, such as the CAT Campaign, the divestment movement, the Stop the Wall initiative in its resources section, but without making these Campaign projects. The functional task forces that are proposed are:

1. The CDC network, which functions as legislative education taskforce and is facilitated by the grassroots advocacy coordinator

2. Media task force, to be facilitated by member group Palestine Media Watch, which already has a network similar to the CDC network, with media leaders in 40 major US cities

3. Membership outreach and coalition building task force, to be facilitated by the membership outreach coordinator

4. Resources task force to identify and exchange resource materials, also facilitated by the membership outreach coordinator

5. Fundraising taskforce to be facilitated by designated members of the Steering Committee 

6. Web committee to be facilitated by webmaster Geoff Hartman, and for which the search is underway

The Campaign would function very powerfully through the above lineup. For example, the CDC network and the Washington Wednesday partners might decide to work on the US Arms Export Control Act. As they develop the legislative strategy, the media task force would develop a media strategy, while the resources task force would work on the necessary materials. This would put planning the media strategy on the same footing as planning other strategies and ensure that Campaign members have access to good education materials.

c. Steering Committee Composition

All members of the Steering Committee serve in their individual capacity, whether or not they belong to a member group. Steering Committee members in 2003-2004 have included a diverse group of individuals, an important aspect of its composition. The current Committee is listed below, with affiliations given for identification only.

- Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies New Internationalism Project, Washington DC; Co-Chair
- Kathy Bergen, M.E. Peace Building Unit, American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia PA; Treasurer
- Geoff Hartman, Campaign web coordinator, Washington DC*
- Zaha Hassan, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland, Oregon
- Nadia Hijab, The Palestine Center, Washington DC; Co-Chair
- Jeff Mendez, The Palestine Center, Washington DC*
- Nancy Murray, Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights, Boston, MA
- Roger Normand, Center for Economic and Social Rights, New York, NY*
- Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace, Washington DC
- Ladan Sobhani, Reality Tours, Global Exchange, San Francisco, California**
- David Wildman, Human Rights Office, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church, New York, NY
- Ora Wise, International Solidarity Movement, New York, NY*

* Stepping down at DC conference in June 2004.
** On maternity leave; requested Ceanna Stephens of Global Exchange to fill in during her absence.

As per the Organizational Rules, elections will take place for four members of the Steering Committee at the June 2004 conference.

d. Staffing and Office

Josh Ruebner, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, is ready to serve the Campaign for another year. Membership Outreach Coordinator Kymberlie Quong Charles is ready to serve the Campaign on a full-time basis and to move down to Washington DC. We propose to consolidate all Campaign functions – office, post, database, etc – in Washington DC for greater efficiency. It should be noted that these two jobs are not seen as career positions and indeed entail some financial risk on staff’s part since ongoing fundraising is necessary to pay staff salaries. Josh and Kymberlie envisage working for the Campaign for an average of two years each, which will give members of Campaign organizations and others the opportunity to apply for these openings. The need for a 3rd job – Grassroots Organizer – was identified at the December strategy meeting, and this will be advertised once funding is secured.
****************

Through the contribution of all our members, we have been able to lay a solid foundation for building the national movement against Israeli occupation and for Palestinian freedom and self-determination. Working together, we have been able to better coordinate our work, channel our efforts, stay focused on our specific areas of concern, and learn from experience to build and grow. If we can continue building at the same pace, then we will achieve the goals we came together to fulfill: just peace and human rights for all.