Dear Friends and Family of the PYM,
We hope this finds you in good health and spirits. We write to share with you some of the highlights of the work we’ve done in 2018, share what we have in store for 2019, and ask for your continued support as we start the new year. As you may know, we are a collective of Palestinian youth working toward liberation and justice in Palestine and for all our communities globally. We are all grassroots youth volunteers with no paid staff and count on the generous contributions of our community to continue this work.
At a time when catastrophe has engulfed so much of the world, when Palestinian land and life remains consistently under attack, and when the extremities of xenophobic hate and systemic violence make our organizing in the US more precarious, we look to you to sustain us in the struggle. From the ongoing global refugee crisis to increased militarization of borders, policing and surveillance systems, criminalization of political dissent and ongoing attacks on Palestinians and Palestine solidarity organizers in the US, we as the PYM promise that we will continue to mobilize until freedom and justice prevail. But we can’t do it alone!
Despite these hardships, Palestine activism in the US is gaining ground and the need for a grassroots movement of Palestinian/Arab youth in the US connected to a transnational community is more important than ever. The PYM-USA chapter is proud to be the only Palestinian-led young adult voice at the forefront of this movement. On September 29, PYM was honored to receive US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USPCR) “Outstanding Youth Activist Group Award,” particularly for our work with immigrant and refugee youth in the San Diego area at our Khaled Bakrawi Center and in our refugee support volunteer service program in Greece. We were honored to deliver an acceptance speech at the annual USPCR conference.
We’re writing to recap some of our other achievements in community organizing this year as well. We hope this inspires you to give what you can and to consider one or more of our projects, initiatives, and programs for future support and collaboration.
Some highlights of what we’ve accomplished with the support of our community this year include:
TRANSNATIONAL PALESTINIAN YOUTH MOBILIZATION
GREAT RETURN MARCH: We participated in the Great Return March efforts in coordination with Palestinian youth on the ground in the Gaza Strip and mobilized a transnational Great Return March Coordination Committee. The committee co-organized 34+ protests around the world and translated videos and statements into English to circulate on social media and to share with Palestinian communities throughout the shatat (diaspora). The Great Return March has been a weekly Friday demonstration since March 30 (Land Day) to protest 70 years of Nakba and Zionist colonial violence, as well as to demand the non-negotiable Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees. PYM, with other youth-led organizations, organized an International Day of Action in several countries between May 11-15, 2018.
LIFT THE SANCTIONS: In summer of 2018, Palestinian grassroots youth organizers in the homeland organized a campaign entitled Lift the Sanctions. The goals of the campaign are to place pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end their complicity with the siege in the Gaza Strip and to lift the sanctions including restrictions on travel and distribution of income. The PYM facilitated coordination between Palestinian organizers in Palestine and the shatat. PYM organized call-ins, write-ins, and protests of Palestinian institutions calling on establishment politicians to respect and represent the needs, desires and aspirations of the people. Our New York chapter hosted several protests for Lift the Sanctions outside the PLO Embassy. PYM-USA offered a solidarity video with our siblings under siege in the Gaza Strip at the conclusion of the July 2018 Nakba convening.
DEFEND KHAN AL-AHMAR CAMPAIGN: In May of this year, the IDF issued a demolition order for the Palestinian village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar. On July 4th, Zionist forces entered the village in an attempt to forcibly displace 200 Palestinian residents from their homes, brutalizing 35 people in the process. The Palestinian Youth Movement began a campaign – coordinated with the Popular Mobilization Committee in Ramallah – to raise awareness about the colonial land grab and take action in defense of Al-Khan. For PYM, this mobilization campaign was critical to protect and defend both the residents of Al-Khan and the greater Jerusalem area in the context of the Trump administration’s move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We engaged social media campaigns with a goal of increasing awareness; developed educational materials relating to Al-Khan and its critical role in the broader ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine; and coordinated/released a statement demanding a halt to the demolition attempts that was endorsed by over 100 organizations internationally.
REFUGEE SUPPORT PROGRAM
OPENING OF KHALED BAKRAWI CENTER: On January 20th, 2018, the Palestinian Youth Movement opened our first center in El Cajon, CA: the Khaled Bakrawi Center. The Center was created with the purpose of refugee and immigrant empowerment, as El Cajon is home to over a quarter of the Iraqi refugees in the U.S. and over 10,000 Syrian refugees. Since its opening, the Khaled Bakrawi Center has served immigrant and refugee youth by teaching skills such as computer training and offering English language tutoring, Arabic tutoring, after-school homework help. Our trauma-informed services and culturally relevant programs cultivate a sense of collective healing and community power meant to minimize alienation and feelings of loss which often accompany war trauma and the struggles of exile in immigrant and refugee youth.
SWANACONNECT: REFUGEE SUPPORT VOLUNTEER SERVICE PROJECT IN GREECE: Sustaining our partnership with our friends in the SWANACONNECT Program, we continue to operate an ongoing refugee support service project in Greece, by sending youth volunteers from the US to provide culturally appropriate programs and services for recently displaced people from across the Asian and African continents.
SOLIDARITY AND JOINT STRUGGLE
FROM TURTLE ISLAND TO PALESTINE: Building upon our ongoing joint-struggle organizing with indigenous communities, particularly the 2016 and 2017 Palestinian youth delegations to Standing Rock and the Save the West Berkeley Shellmound campaign in 2018, on November 12, 2018, we, the Palestinian Youth Movement, launched a 10-day delegation of Palestinian and Indigenous youth from Turtle Island (the US) to Palestine. Exploring questions of indigenous survival, youth resistance, protection of water and land, and settler-colonial violence, the delegation explored the intersections of our various struggles and deepened our bonds as communities in joint struggle. You can read our full press statement here and learn more about the delegation and our ongoing From Turtle Island to Palestine organizing work at our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
ANTI-RACIAL SURVEILLANCE AND POLICING: Deepening our bonds with Black and Brown communities in the US and developing a more critical analysis on the connections between state violence, surveillance and policing, PYM-USA members have been involved in campaigns and coalitions that work to transform U.S. state policies of racialized secret spying, surveillance, militarization, policing, and imprisonment of our communities. Most recently, we have partnered with Students in Justice in Palestine-West (SJP) to write an open letter to the University of California Task Force on University Wide Policing drawing the connections between UC policies of racialized policing and their refusal to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.
Our LAOCIE (Los Angeles - Orange County - Inland Empire) chapter has been building upon past work of the Bay Area Chapter, which has long participated in the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, by playing a vital role in coalitions to stop the US government's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. LAOCIE has engaged and participated in the coalition since late 2017 and provided research that draws the links between the CVE program and Zionism as well as offered popular educational resources to the community alongside our partners in Southern California. Joint efforts and community organizing around the anti-CVE campaign resulted in the Los Angeles City Council voting “no” on a recommendation to accept grant money to implement CVE.
In 2017, the LAOCIE chapter hosted an educational event dedicated to honoring members of the Los Angeles 8, and drawing links between the pre-9/11 racial surveillance and criminalization Palestinians and Palestine supporters have endured and the 2017 Trump Executive Order resulting in the Muslim Ban. In November of 2018, our Texas chapter built upon this work by paying homage to the Palestinians of the Holy Land Five, commemorating the 10th year anniversary since they were indicted, and partnering with local community organizers to host an event to call attention to the ongoing criminalization of Palestinian political dissent. PYM also wrote a statement for the anniversary of the conviction and led a social media campaign to generate awareness.
5th ANNUAL BREAK DOWN BORDERS 5K: We co-organized our 5th annual Break Down Borders 5k Border Run with our allies in Colectivo Zapatista. The Border Run is part of Enero Zapatista, a month-long series of events designed to commemorate the anniversary of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. Members of PYM, Colectivo Zapatista, and our communities walk/run along the US/Mexico border in protest of imperialist colonial borders/walls that steal indigenous land and divide our communities. The purpose of the event is to bring together our two communities in joint struggle, highlighting the intersectionality of our oppressions and strategizing ways to combat them.
SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS: PYM has also offered solidarity statements at an array of events and programs nationwide. Most recently, we worked with our partners at SWANA Alliance to support CNN commentator and Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN for giving a speech at the United Nations in support of freedom and justice in Palestine.
COMMUNITY BUILDING AND YOUTH EMPOWERMENT
NAKBA CONVENING: Forerun by our Bay Area chapter and national project coordination committee, the PYM hosted a national convening in July of 2018 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. The event brought together about fifty Palestinian youth and elders. In the hopes of strengthening our community to sustain the longevity of our struggle, PYM focused on three areas for this convening. The first was to foster intergenerational conversations to strengthen institutional memory of movement work in our community and harness healthy dialogue. The second was to address the various forms of internal fragmentation within the Palestinian communities in the homeland, in the broader region and in the far shatat. The third was to brainstorm how national institution building in the far shatat has, is, and can be done.
GHASSAN KANAFANI SCHOLARSHIP AND ANTHOLOGY: Every year, PYM accepts art and creative writing submissions from diasporic Palestinians as part of our Ghassan Kanafani Arts Resistance Scholarship. (To read the 2018 call for submissions published on Mondoweiss, click here). A panel of reviewers award the top three candidates scholarships. Many other contributions make it into an annual anthology produced by the PYM. PYM hosted anthology receptions which brought together community for dialogues on the connections between culture and politics. We welcomed our scholarship winners to share their work with us. Our chapters hosted launch parties in the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, San Diego, and in New York at the “Palestine Lives” conference at Hunter College.
STUDENT SUPPORT WORK: PYM has offered over ten trainings and workshops to various chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) nationwide. We also participated in this year’s National Students for Justice in Palestine conference at UCLA and supported the students against efforts to shut down the conference by campus administration caving to external pressures. PYM co-issued a statement with NSJP condemning repression, racism and Islamophobia at the 2018 National SJP conference at UCLA.
40th ANNUAL PALESTINE DAY: As a member organization of the Palestinian American Coalition, our Bay Area chapter participated in the coordination of the annual Palestine Cultural Day “From the Bay to Jerusalem: 40 Years of Celebrating Culture and Building Bridges,” which brought several thousand Palestinians and other community members together. This event highlighted local and international Palestinian artists and writers, community organizations and vendors. PYM’s main role was to provide socially and culturally empowering children’s and youth programming for the first time at the annual event as well as to introduce some more historical visual pieces and knowledges to the event more broadly.
POLITICAL EDUCATION, PARTNERS AND ACTIONS: This year PYM has participated in multiple national and global days of action and campaigns for Palestinian freedom. We’ve produced 19 cultural and educational events open to the public nationwide to bring attention to the Palestinian struggle for freedom and its linkages to other geographies, communities, and causes in struggle. We have organized cultural empowerment and political education activities for our own members, including webinars, reading groups, lectures, and film screenings. We have participated in over 14 conferences nationwide and internationally including conferences of the Popular Assembly of Palestinians in North America in Chicago, the United States Palestinian Council in Washington DC, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Conference in Minnesota, where we offered two workshops: “Grounding Solidarity: Accountability to Palestinians in the Face of Fragmentation” and “Indigenous-Palestinian Solidarity: Connecting Native Struggles.” We are proud to continue joint-struggle working relationships with over thirty-five partner organizations and six coalitions.
Now proud to have eight active local chapters (San Francisco, Los Angeles-Orange County-Inland Empire, San Diego, New York, Austin, Houston, Michigan, New York), 2018 has been a seminal year for the PYM. We look forward to expanding our impact in 2019 with the creation and growth of two more chapters.
This is where you come in.
As an organization dedicated to an unwavering, justice-centered mobilization of young people for Palestinian liberation and for social justice in our communities here in the US, we are not able to accomplish our work without the generous support of our community.
In April of 2019, PYM-USA will host an international gathering of Palestinian youth in Johannesburg, South Africa to revitalize the bonds of Palestinian youth transnationally, and to deepen our commitment and understanding of joint struggle. In the summer of 2019, we plan to host our third bi-annual Summer School, bringing together 60-75 Palestinian and Arab youth organizers for an intensive political education and project planning. We think of the School as a launching pad for Palestine youth organizing in the U.S, as it offers an unparalleled and much-needed time and space to connect and strategize our campaign(s) for the years ahead. Separate from these two projects, we have ample cultural empowerment, political education and mobilization, refugee support programs and more that we will continue to sustain.
In order to continue developing this work and make an impact, we need your support.
As a 100% grassroots membership-based, volunteer-based organization, all of your contributions will go directly to our projects or general and minimal operating expenses.
Are you able to donate this holiday season to support the role of Palestinian youth in continuing to persevere in the struggle for Palestinian freedom?
All donations are tax deductible and there's the option to make a one-time or recurring contribution.
You can also donate by sending a check to our fiscal sponsor WESPAC:
77 Tarrytown Rd., Ste. 2W, White Plains, NY 10607
Checks can be made out to WESPAC Foundation with "For PYM" in the notes.
Thank you so much for being a part of the Palestinian Youth Movement community. We appreciate you and wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year.
Until Return & Liberation,
Palestinian Youth Movement - USA Chapter