Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Perhaps to illustrate the issues discussed above, we will review a case study: Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition.
The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (http://al-awda.org) is a young grassroots organization committed to educating the public and providing direct support to alleviate the plight of Palestinians with emphasis on their right to return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled in the 1948 era and thereafter. Al-Awda was founded in April 2000. A major effort has been focused on building this grassroots movement and countering misinformation regarding Palestinian suffering and oppression. The network takes actions both by use of cyberspace and translating into concrete actions on the ground (demonstrations, teach-ins, petitions, direct refugee aid, empowerment, publications).
Examples of some of the accomplishments
* Al-Awda has established semi-autonomous local action committees and chapters in more than 25 states in the US and 12 countries. They engage in local direct action and coordinate national and international actions.
* Al-Awda has established specialized international action committees that deal with specific issues like refugee support, events, media and outreach.
* In addition to its central website ( http://Al-Awda.org ) , Al-Awda maintains regional and local web sites (e.g. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, United Kingdom, Chicago) as well as refugee support and media websites.
* Al-Awda's Events committee and activists organized major internationally coordinated right to return rallies in cities worldwide in September 2000 and April 2001. Rallies were held simultaneously in cities in the US, UK, Spain, Canada, Japan, Australia, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon, and were cosponsored by hundreds of other organizations and received wide media attention.
* Al-Awda has raised funds for direct aid to refugees and to maintain its educational efforts.
* As a result of direct action by Al-Awda-UK and All-Party British-Palestine Parliamentary Group, a House of Commons Commission of Inquiry into the right of return issued a report on 2 July 2001 titled: "Recognition, Protection and Implementation of Palestinian Refugees' Right of Return." It concludes
that "It would be a severe mistake to ignore the claims of the wide community of Palestinian Refugees."
* Al-Awda's Media committee and activists scored over 3000 media hits since May 2000. These include Op-Eds, letters to editor published, and interviews on the right of return, the US and UK rallies, on the suffering of the Palestinian people during the uprising, etc. We built relationships with editors and journalists and placed rally and child support advertisements.
* Since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada Sept. 29th 2000, over 800 demonstrations, vigils, teach-ins, exhibits and other functions were planned or co-sponsored and executed by Al-Awda/PRRC activists including local action committees.
* Al-Awda's Alerts team has issued over 30 timely alerts and petitions. The team has developed significant outreach. Response to each alert has been phenomenal.
* Through its Refugee Support Committee, Al-Awda sent computers, toys for children, school supplies, clothes and other direct support to Palestinian refugee camps.
• Developed productive collaboration with a number of organizations in serving Palestinian human rights. These include Palestine Children Relief Fund ( http://www.thepcrf.com/ ), Palestine Remembered (http://www.palestineremembered.com/ ), Campaign to Boycott Israeli Goods and Services (http://boycottisraeligoods.org/ ), and Citizens for Fair Legislation ( http://www.cfl-online.org/ )
• In collaboration with Voices in the Wilderness and Middle East Children Alliance, we initiated a Wheels of Justice tour across the US. The decorated bus has exhibits, literature, and provides speakers with first hand experience in Iraq and Palestine. Its stops include colleges, high schools, community centers, houses of worship, and their public areas. See http://Justicewheels.org
* In collaboration with Palestine Remembered, we developed an Oral and Visual History project. See http://www.palestineremembered.com/OralHistory/
Part of the success is determined by the lateral and democratic way of ensuring activist participation. Here is an excerpt from Al-Awda Bylaws on representation:
Section 1. General Powers. The coordinating committee ("Board of Directors") shall: a) establish major administrative policies governing the affairs of the association and device and mature means for the associations growth and development, and b) execute the business of PRRC except as otherwise expressly provided by law or by the Articles of incorporation. The board has power of secretarial functions, financial decisions, strategic planning, speaking on behalf of the corporation, and other functions specified by these bylaws subject the laws of the state of Pennsylvania and federal laws regulating such activities.
Section 2. Number, Election and Term of Office. The membership in the organization is open to individuals who agree with the goals specified in Article II section 2. Members join committees of action. Local chapters, national and international action committees shall be represented by election to the Coordinating Committee on the following basis:
15 - 25 members represented by one delegate
26 - 50 members represented by two delegates
and one delegate per 25 member increment.
Coordinators/chairpersons of the action committees may be re-elected and past executive chairpersons will be members of the board. Vacancies occurring from time to time because of resignation, removal, death or enlargement of the Board may be filled by asking for new election of the affected committee.
Locally, groups are encouraged to try different things (as long as they remain legal by state and federal laws). In Connecticut for example, the local group has three listserves it manages:
1) a small listserve (20 people) for dedicated volunteers/organizers.
2) The main listserve for Al-Awda-CT with over 250 subscribers that posts events and alerts on Palestine issues
3) A larger listserve (550 members) called Ctpeace-activists, which includes wider spheres of interests in peace issues and role of US foreign policy (From Columbia to Iraq to North Korea).
Some chapters choose to have individual membership formalized with a nominal fee. Other chapters choose to keep their membership informal. But the net result is a decentralized grass-root movement where individuals act in the area they see fit and when joining larger groups like their local chapter, they become more empowered and more effective in their advocacy.
Al-Awda Action committees
Benefit Concert: Al-Awda-Benefit@yahoogroups.com
Christian Outreach: Al-Awda-Christian-Outreach@yahoogroups.com
Discuss Coalition: Al-Awdaemail@example.com
International Solidarity Day: Al-Awda-29Nov@yahoogroups.com
Jewish Unity: Al-Awda-Unity@yahoogroups.com
Lawyers only: Al-Awda-Lawyers@yahoogroups.com
Muslim Outreach: Al-Awda-Muslim-Outreach@yahoogroups.com
Refugee Support: Al-Awda-Refugee-Support@yahoogroups.com
Grassroots Organizing Committees
(Membership is restricted to residents of the indicated localities)
Los Angeles: Al-Awda-Los-Angeles@yahoogroups.com
Midsouth (USA): Al-Awda-Midsouth@yahoogroups.com
New York/New Jersey: Al-Awda-NY-NJ@yahoogroups.com
North Carolina: Al-Awda-NC@yahoogroups.com
Orange County: Al-Awda-Orange@yahoogroups.com
Rhode Island: Al-Awda-RI@yahoogroups.com
San Diego: Al-Awda-San-Diego@yahoogroups.com
San Jose: Al-Awda-SanJose@yahoogroups.com
San Francisco/ Bay area: Al-Awda-SF@yahoogroups.com
Southern California: Al-Awda-SCalifornia@yahoogroups.com
South (USA): Al-Awda-South@yahoogroups.com
South Carolina: Al-Awda-SCarolina@yahoogroups.com
Tennessee: Al-Awda-Tennessee @yahoogroups.com
Valley California: Al-Awda-Valley-CA@yahoogroups.com
Washington, DC: Al-Awda-DC@yahoogroups.com
Al-Awda Europe: Al-Awda-Europe@yahoogroups.com
Madrid (Spain): Al-Awda-Madrid@yahoogroups.com
Arabian Gulf: Al-Awda-ArabGulf- firstname.lastname@example.org