Image via Sacramento to Bethlehem
This week, Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are marking the 51st year of the brutal Israeli military occupation. As the resistance to Israel’s oppression continues across Palestine, we have a responsibility to keep pushing to end the US policies that have allowed Israel to act with such impunity for so long.
Today we are launching a new website, Cities for Palestine, to encourage people to focus on opportunities to organize for Palestinian rights in our cities, towns, counties, and states that will build our collective power upwards to impact policy.
Municipal campaigns focus on engaging directly with local policy makers, building capacity and activating the power of everyday people. This work will reverberate to help move decision-makers at local, state, and federal levels. Ultimately, we move closer and closer to changing the US policies that enable Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.
Why the municipal campaigns approach? Because we know it works. From the South African anti-apartheid movement to environmental justice campaigns that focus on divestment from fossil fuels to prison abolition, municipal campaigns are a tried-and-true strategy that prove the effectiveness of organizing locally to impact national and global causes.
citiesforpalestine.org lays out eight ideas to help you start thinking about what campaign would work for your community. These ideas are intended to be implemented as part of an overall commitment by communities to invest in freedom while divesting from injustice. That means understanding the connections between local demands related to the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality and the demands of Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.
You will also find on the website a toolkit to help you with implementing a municipal campaign in your community. It has all the nuts and bolts of planning and carrying out a municipal campaign, like tips about research, coalition building, and engaging with elected officials.
Finally, we hope you will be inspired by this list of past successful municipal campaigns across the country. These wins have been vital to strengthening the global struggle for Palestinian rights. We’re proud to continue working with partners across the country to invest even more time and resources into empowering you to do this type of local work.
WHAT’S THE CAMPAIGN ABOUT?
Invest in justice by building genuine connections between US and Palestinian cities, towns, villages, or refugee camps through a sister city relationship. Sister Cities promote ties between community members in both places to learn about each other’s lives and work together on projects to support one another.
Sister Cities have transformed US city officials’ and other residents’ understanding of what is happening in Palestine through personal and official connections with Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid. Sister Cities also open the door to delegations to Palestine, including by city officials.
Current official and unofficial sister cities between the US and Palestine include:
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Establish a sister city relationship between your city and a city, town, village, or refugee camp in Palestine. Maintain and grow that relationship in the years to come.
In Muscatine, IA, residents with relationships in Ramallah, including Palestinians, led a sister city campaign. Despite being met with tremendous opposition, the campaign succeeded in 2011 thanks to long-term relationship building with city council members and the mayor. The sister city project has focused on projects connecting Muscatine and Ramallah middle school students through art and social media, and has allowed Muscatine residents to gain awareness of what life is like for Palestinians in occupied Ramallah. There have been multiple Muscatine to Ramallah delegations, and there is an delegation being planned for city officials.
The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project began as a campaign led by Boulder residents inspired by personal relationships with Nablus residents. Their first attempt in 2013 was so controversial that Palestine dominated local news headlines for weeks, capturing the attention of the entire city – the city’s livestream of the hearing was so widely watched that it crashed! The campaign was massively effective at reaching folks who don’t consider themselves political but care about people-to-people connections and cultural exchange. An official sister city relationship was passed in 2016.