As the 2020 presidential election approaches, Palestinian organizers in the U.S. have launched a first-of-its-kind policy platform in a bid to further insert Palestinian rights into the American political discussion.
Inspired by past documents such as the Movement for Black Lives platform, the “Freedom Is the Future” platform, released by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Adalah Justice Project, sets out a central ask: ending all U.S. economic and diplomatic support for Israel as long as it continues its denial of Palestinian rights. Alongside this are five further demands: the right of return for refugees; self-determination; freedom of movement for all Palestinians; an end to Israeli violence; and the right to organize against Israeli repression.
With the debate on Israel continuing to make headlines during the Democratic Party primary season, the platform is an attempt to pull that conversation further to the left—and to make sure that Palestinians, often talked about, are also listened to.
“For so long, there have been conversations about Palestine and Palestinians without Palestinians being present,” said Sandra Tamari, executive director of Adalah Justice Project, a Palestinian rights group and a sister organization of the Israel-Palestine-based Adalah. “We’re trying to offer this vision and policy demands as a corrective to challenge that status quo, where Palestinians are sidelined in conversations about their future.”
The platform was drafted with the input of Palestinians living in Israel-Palestine and members of the grassroots Palestinian Youth Movement. Those behind the document hope that other organizations will look to it as a guidepost for how to support and advocate for Palestinian rights in the United States.
The project has been endorsed by 14 separate Palestinian organizations, as well as over 20 other groups, including solidarity organizations and groups representing communities of color across the United States.
The Ramapough Lenape Nation, an Indigenous tribe, MPower Change, a Muslim-American group, the Dream Defenders, a Black and Brown-led civil rights organization, The Red Nation, an Indigenous activist coalition, and About Face, an anti-war veterans group, are among the groups backing the call. The endorsement by these organizations is a testament to the success that Palestinian organizers have had in linking their struggle for rights to other groups’ struggles.
Since forming in 2017, one of Adalah Justice Project’s central strategies has been to “de-exceptionalize” Palestine by both highlighting similar systems of oppression that operate in both Israel-Palestine and the U.S., and forging bonds with other U.S. groups that also advocate for Palestinian rights as part of their vision for liberation from oppression.
“A brave vision for a future premised on justice requires courageous struggles to articulate that demand,” said Nick Estes, a member of The Red Nation, in a statement released as part of the “Freedom Is the Future” rollout. “As Indigenous people of this continent, we understand it begins and ends with the decolonization of Turtle Island and Palestine.” (Turtle Island is an Indigenous name for the land North America sits on.)
The platform also pays homage to the Movement for Black Lives’ “invest-divest” platform, which calls for divestment from prisons and investment in Black communities. Like that document, “Freedom Is The Future” calls for divestment from U.S. military support to Israel, and investment in health care for all, access to education and a clean environment.
The platform lands as Democratic presidential candidates stake out a range of positions on whether to impose human rights conditions on U.S. military assistance to Israel—something Bernie Sanders supports, but Joe Biden calls “bizarre”—and after IfNotNow, the American Jewish anti-occupation group, launched their own policy platform centering on “defunding occupation.”
But there are key differences between that political conversation and what “Freedom Is the Future” sets out to do. For one, the Palestinian-led platform calls for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes they or their families were kicked out from in 1948. That returns the focus to the Nakba, Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and what Palestinians and their allies say is at the heart of Israel’s system of discrimination: its insistence on maintaining a state that privileges Jews over Palestinians, the core reason why Israel refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return.
Another notable departure from the Democratic Party conversation on Israel is that the “Freedom Is the Future” document does not talk about merely conditioning U.S. aid to Israel. It demands ending all U.S. funding and diplomatic backing to Israel, a prospect that few in the Democratic Party have taken up.
But the organizers of the document are pushing beyond the limits of the mainstream conversation, saying that justice requires listening to those most impacted by Israeli policy.
“Too often the conversation around how U.S. policy can advance peacemaking has been centered around the demands of groups that don’t put Palestinian voices at the forefront, and has often been dominated by a liberal Zionist narrative,” said Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “But what’s different is this puts Palestinian voices at the center. It demands accountability, with the goal of accountability and freedom and justice for all people, not with the goal of maintaining a discriminatory system.”