Networking And Recruiting Activists
There is generally a tricky balance between setting goals and priorities clearly enough to recruit good members and leaving flexibility enough to get membership feedback in setting the direction of the group. Usually one way to get around this is to ensure a good solid core of activists are involved right from the beginning before trying to expand and grow membership.
Membership expansion and achieving our mutual goals can also be accomplished through affiliation with other organizations. Reaching out and finding common ground with any group that could potentially support your goals is exactly the kind of activity that local and national groups should be doing as a matter of routine and not only when a chance encounter happens (say at a rally). This includes Church and Mosque groups, professional organizations, and other civil liberties and anti-discrimination organizations. In particular, I suggest that we (ADC members) help form such organizations and take active part in them. For example, I founded two organizations in the last year, the Middle East Genetics Association and the Holy Land Conservation Foundation. People who identify with the goals of these two foundations invariably include some who would identify with the goals of ADC (as they have at least taken the collective effort before). Thus, I find that telling them about ADC and its goals is very productive.
One of the keys to success is for the initial group of activists to understand what other movements and forces in society at large can become allies in the struggle. In this, being optimistic and casting a wide net frequently yields incredible rewards. No groups should be discounted just because they appear too distant or hopeless. Activists on the Palestine/Israel issues based on a cornerstone of human rights can approach groups with varied interests. Below are just some categories with examples:
Environmentalists and concerned scientists
Left wing political groups
Right wing conservative groups
The Republican Arab American Congress http://www.raaonline.org
Arab American Republicans Against Bush http://www.AARAB.org
Religious organizations and individuals
Native people rights groups
Palestine Right to Return Coalition http://Al-Awda.org
Academics For Justice http://www.AcademicsForJustice.org
Arabs Against Discrimination http://www.aad-online.org/
Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights http://www.jcser.org/english
Academics and Students
Academics For Justice http://www.AcademicsForJustice.org
Women against the war http://www.arabdeclaration.com/
International Women's Peace Service - Palestine http://www.womenspeacepalestine.org/
Women Against Occupation http://www.nonprofitnet.ca/wao email@example.com
Jerusalem Women Speak http://www.partnersforpeace.org/jerusalem.shtml
Women in Black http://www.chorley2.demon.co.uk/wib.html
http://www.zmag.org/women_in_gaza.htm or http://www.zmag.org/meastwatch/meastwat.htm
"Sout Al Nisa'" (The Voice of Women): http://www.pal-watc.org/voice-arb.html (Arabic version)
http://www.pal-watc.org/voice_00.html (English version).
Campus Radical Women: firstname.lastname@example.org or Heatherr Zenone (510) 527-3312
Women For Change: email@example.com
The Democracy and Workers' Rights Center http://dwrc.org
Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride http://www.iwfr.org)
Green Party http://www.gp.org see Manski on Palestine
This may seem like a lot of people and a reader might wonder how could we gain support from such diverse groups with their own diverse agendas. History shows that it is possible to do that. For example, one can receive the support of left wing political groups simply because they are interested in equality, helping struggle against imperialist interests in the Middle East (oil etc) while at the same time gain the support of conservatives for reducing or eliminating our massive foreign aid to Israel which drains taxpayer resources. Finding common ground and being flexible (but without compromising your principles) will ensure making coalitions that make a difference.
Starting in a new area, one can quickly find out what groups are active on what causes. Sources for this information include web searches, newspapers, TV and radio, phone book, attending events to network, and simply asking questions. Building a database of contacts can quickly increase resources for gaining activists to the cause. because causes for justice are so intertwined, enhancing mutual support among them can be a very rewarding experience. As an example, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition in New York built close working relationships with the Viegas Support Campaign, the International Action Center, and other activist groups in the New York area. All these groups found a common goal in supporting the lifting of sanctions on Iraq that have killed so many innocent civilians.
Hundreds of Non-Governmental organizations with interest in the question of Palestine exist. A list of ones with information submitted to the United Nations is found at
Congressman Paul Findley published a book in the 1970s called "They Dare to Speak Out" about individuals who challenge the stranglehold of Israeli lobby in US affairs. At the time, there were few but persistent and vocal Jewish voices speaking-up against Israeli brutalities and most of those he listed were non-Jews. Today, there is a proliferation of groups and sites that are Jewish voices against Israeli policies. Those thousands of courageous individuals are frequently labeled by Zionists as "self-hating Jews." The myth that Zionists represent Jews has fallen just like all the other myths used by a self-righteous Israel to justify its persecution of the native Palestinians. See Exhibit 11, Exhibit 12 Exhibit 13 for partial listing of web pages for Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups who speak out.
Religious groups can also be a key source of support for human rights based on their moral concerns. For example, different churches have issued statements in support of Palestinian human rights, e.g., Churches for Middle East Peace, CMEP. Some support Palestinian material needs, while others send members to the occupied territories to intervene on behalf of Palestinians vis-a-vis the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli settlers (e.g. Christian Peace Maker Team, Sabeel Palestinian Liberation theology Center, International Solidarity Movement).
In networking and outreach efforts to all groups, make sure that your principles are not compromised. If you are fighting for human rights and equality, you will not do well to network and associate with groups which are racist or advocate superiority of one group over another (e.g. Zionists, white supremacist etc).
To recruit activists use every available mean to you from sign-up sheets at events, to internet searches, to joining list serves in your community and outside, and to directly asking people to give you names and contact information of others. The networking possibilities are endless. After you recruit people and engage in functions, do make sure you keep them involved and interested. Again the methods can be different. For example, ensure all members not only learn about upcoming events but that they learn about successes of past events they may have missed. Success breeds more success.
Groups should respond to member concerns but avoid getting bogged down with one individual concerns. One way to measure this is to do a membership survey. This can be constructed by a member who is a social science professor or someone familiar with doing this. It would include such questions as:
a) asking areas of expertise that people have that can help the community (e.g. someone who is a TV producer can help edit clips on the media bias and produce a documentary).
b) should ADC make a general statement on importance of democracy in the Arab World, and how hard should we push on this. The source of our community is the Arab world and many in our community believe that as long as the source is polluted, it is difficult to do much more on this end. On the other hand, engagement maybe good in some aspects (I guess analogous to China human rights policies).
c) what issues are important, what ideas can people generate, how can they contribute to these ideas (people can devote much time on an issue if it is their pet/their interest. Thus if someone thinks that media contacts is important, would they take charge in their area.
d) are they members of other organizations. Would they be willing to expand knowledge of ADC and to act as liaison/network with these other organizations.
Some of the points learned from trial and error regarding membership recruitment and retention:
a) Respect and understanding of individuals differences: There are many books on these issues and especially valuable is understanding your style of communication and that of others so that you can help facilitate proper communications. Respecting the individuals and enhancing their self esteem by showing them in a very gradual way that they can do things and succeed (empowerment). For example a non-member if approached with the “holier than thou” attitude of “why not do something” and so on will react negatively. A better approach with this same person is to initially invite him/her to attend a function, show appreciation/thanks for attendance, then invite them again and this time asked if he/she would be interested in participating, and so on (gradual approach).
b) Leadership: Again books are written on this and I think it is important that we educate ourselves regarding these issues. Specifically, a leader should set the tone as early as possible for a democratic organization with inclusive attitude. The leader must set a structure that ensures that goals are set and met, that conversations do not get out of hand, that people respect and work with each other, and that criticism is done in private and praise in public. Above all, a good leader is a coach and a servant to the cause.
c) Each of us should ask ourselves if the time spent is the best utilized. We should learn to optimize and set deadlines and time frames and follow these precisely. Thus, in organizing a banquet, times must be kept to a minimum. We need to start moving away from excessive statements and lengthy speeches to actions. A summary of any information of value maybe provided in text format to people. When giving “a speech” think of what is the bottom line “take home” message and build around it very sparsely (no need for castles in the air).