Engaging Your Congressional Representative: 10 Tips to Get Results

Engaging Your Congressional Representative
for a Just Peace in the Middle East

[Go to for your Representatives contact info]

1. Political work starts at the local level in your district, before your Representative gets to DC, and continues when he or she is at the Capitol. (In fact, some activists have been starting early with candidates for office—see Report from a District).

2. It's not a one-shot deal: you're building a relationship. Results won't come from just one phone call or one meeting. Keep at it, and you will achieve results.

3. The composition of your delegation should show that support for a just peace cuts across ethnic and religious lines and that a just peace is supported by both money and votes.

4. Focus on a few simple messages, backed by clear, concise facts and figures. As American citizens, you are deeply concerned about US support to the Israeli occupation, through military aid and non-fulfillment of UN resolutions. Make sure that a key take-home message is "End the Occupation."

5. Rehearse with your delegation before you go, and agree who will make which point. You will cover much more ground in the time you have.

6. No matter how much you might disagree with your Representative's voting records, never berate or disparage him or her face-to-face or through his or her staff. This is the surest way to deny yourself access in the future. Instead, point out specific pieces of legislation where you would have liked for him or her to have voted the other way and explain why.

7. If you are asking the Members to do something pro-active, be sure to contact them after a reasonable amount of time if they have not done what you have requested.

8. Follow up with Congressional staffers on the issues. Offer expertise, and foster personal contacts. Find out the issues in which they are interested. They will start calling you for ideas, contacts, and advice. Do not go over the heads of staffers to reach your Representative-you may achieve short-term gains but lose on long-term access.

9. Successful initiatives empower members of your own constituency and community. Activists have found they are able to raise money from a much broader circle and get better responses to calls for action when their constituencies are empowered.

10. Activism for a just peace in the Middle East is closely related to civil liberties and human rights at home. Activists have successfully linked issues and communities. The work you do will have a multiplier effect.


Report from a Congressional District

This report was sent to the Campaign in mid-August 2002 by a signatory who lives in a state on the West Coast. Because this was a personal communication, names have been withheld.

I would encourage people not only to visit their representatives but also to work on candidates. We had some success here with the Democratic candidate for the Senate. A diverse group of community leaders (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and community leaders with deep pockets) met with the candidate for dinner on the Israel/Palestine conflict. He was very balanced-initially.

Two months later a member of our group asked for his position paper on Palestine/Israel. It was horrible—very Bush-esque. We sent out an e-mail alert to our over 2,000 members of the community and we had 20 priests/reverends call him. He held a second meeting with us the very next day and said he had not read the position paper, which was prepared by a staff member who also happens to be involved with a Zionist group in town. He has requested that we work with his staff on preparing a revised position paper.

Meanwhile, the Representatives and their challengers are holding many fundraising dinners and receptions from now and until the election. Our group here has been getting the dates, places, and times of the fundraising events. We have had delegations of 10 to 15 people stand vigil in front of the entrances leafleting while others go inside to raise the issue of Palestine with the Representative/candidate directly. The support from those attending the fundraisers has been really surprising and it has encouraged the Representative/candidate to feel more confident about speaking critically regarding Israel's suppression of Palestinian human rights.

All this is by way of saying that we can have an enormous impact on the candidates right now if we do just a little bit of organizing and use our listservs to show that we have the numbers, i.e., the votes, to make a difference in the election.