PVS Students Advocate for Palestine
From September 14-18, PVS high school seniors attended a weeklong advocacy program for Palestine where they were trained in advocacy techniques for two days then spent three days meeting with the offices of Senators and Representatives to advocate for social justice in Palestine and in the US.
Sponsored by the nonprofit American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), more than 800 people attended the program, which was conducted over Zoom. This was also the first year that AMP held their annual advocacy program virtually.
On Monday and Tuesday, the students attended lectures and training sessions that helped them understand the most prominent issues affecting Palestine that are currently being discussed in Congress. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi addressed the students from her home in Ramallah with a detailed update about the current conditions in Palestine. Six members of Congress who are currently trying to get legislation passed supporting Palestinian rights also addressed the students to discuss the specific bills that they are supporting. Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum, Judy Chu, Debbie Dingell, Andre Carson and Donald Payne all addressed the students.
During the two days of training, students received training in specific lobbying techniques from members of AMP and Hilary Shelton from the NAACP, Beth Miller from Jewish Voices for Peace and a number of other prominent and experienced lobbyists. One of the main themes of the training was the connection between social justice in Palestine and in the US, especially the need for policing reform and rooting out racism within US law enforcement bodies.
Before meeting with their own representatives and senators, the students were advised to focus on four issues. During their meetings with their Representatives, the students focused on two bills currently being debated by the House of Representatives. The first, H.R. 2407, would prevent U.S. financing from being used to detain, interrogate, and abuse Palestinian children. The second, H.R. 8050, would prohibit the U.S. from recognizing the annexation of any Palestinian lands occupied since 1967 and would cut off all forms of US funding used to support annexation. During their meetings with Senators, they focused on including funding for UNRWA and additional humanitarian aid to Palestine in the State Department Appropriations Act and to support S. 3912, the Justice in Policing Act, which was already passed in the House. The act would root out racism within US policing and stop violence at the hands of law enforcement officers. They also asked the Senators to introduce a Senate companion to the House bill prohibiting US recognition of the annexation of Palestinian lands.
From Wednesday through Friday, the PVS students had meetings with Representative Stephen Cohen, and the offices of Representative David Kustoff and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander. Representative Cohen met with the students directly and seemed very open to the students’ requests. He noted that he fondly remembered visiting PVS and the visit that some PVS students made to his office last year. He told the students that he supported the sentiment behind both bills and would seriously consider co-sponsoring them after further study.
The students plan to follow up by sending Representatives Cohen and Kustoff further information about both bills currently before the House and by reaching out to Sen. Alexander to again ask if he will consider supporting the issues discussed with his office.