On Might 10, a historic occasion unfolded within the halls of energy in Washington. Members of the US Congress, their workers, and greater than 100 activists, advocates, and survivors huddled right into a Senate committee room to commemorate the seventy fifth anniversary of what we, Palestinians, name the “Nakba” (disaster) – the violent expulsion by Zionist militias of roughly three-quarters of the Palestinian inhabitants from its homeland.
The occasion, “Nakba 75 and the Palestinian Individuals”, was the primary of its sort to be hosted in Congress. It was a hit, not solely as a result of it gave a voice to Palestinians on the coronary heart of American imperial energy, but additionally as a result of it resisted efforts to be shut down.
The day earlier than the occasion was scheduled to happen, Speaker of the Home Kevin McCarthy tried to dam it. He revoked our reservation for the Congressional Auditorium within the US Capitol Customer Heart, falsely accusing us, the organisers, of “visitors[ing] in antisemitic tropes about Israel”.
However McCarthy did not cease us. Senator Bernie Sanders stepped in and welcomed the occasion to the Well being, Training, Labor, and Pensions Senate Committee room, which is underneath his jurisdiction.
As a Palestinian American and one of many lead organisers, this expertise was deeply private and profoundly important. It jogged my memory of all of the challenges that I – and lots of Palestinian Individuals like me – have suffered in attempting to have our voices heard. It serves as proof that change within the US is occurring.
Silencing Palestine in Congress
Traditionally, the American public has not given a lot thought to Palestine. It has usually embraced the Zionist narrative that our homeland was an “empty land” when Jewish individuals, Europe’s canonical victims, got here to settle it, fleeing violence. A majority of Individuals has at all times sympathised with the Israelis over the Palestinians, who’ve usually been seen as “violent orientals”.
This public assist has been mirrored in Congress and within the White Home, with the US changing into Israel’s largest supporter and sponsor. To this point, Washington has offered Tel Aviv with some $158bn in support, making it the largest recipient of US help.
State legislatures and the US Congress have recurrently handed pro-Israel resolutions and laws. Dozens of states have permitted authorized measures to counter the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) motion, which works to strain Israel into complying with worldwide regulation.
In the meantime, successive US governments have pressed Arab states to normalise relations with Israel, most just lately by the so-called Abraham Accords.
Israel has a robust foyer within the US. In line with a recent report, the ten largest Zionist teams within the US collectively maintain greater than $500m in belongings; in 2022 alone, they spent $70m to advertise unconditional assist for Israel in Congress.
There are, in fact, members of Congress who’ve spoken up for Palestinian rights. For instance, in 2017, Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota launched the groundbreaking laws referred to as the “Selling Human Rights for Palestinian Kids Residing Below Israeli Navy Occupation Act”.
Senator Sanders of Vermont has additionally been a notable advocate for Palestinian rights. He has known as for extra accountability for Israel’s therapy of Palestinians throughout his presidential campaigns and has overtly criticised Israeli settlement growth.
However McCollum and Sanders have been within the minority. This imbalance in illustration has made it extraordinarily troublesome for advocates for Palestinian rights to work throughout the halls of energy in Congress and Washington as an entire, attempting to boost consciousness, have interaction in significant discussions, and promote laws supporting the Palestinian trigger.
Change is coming
I confronted this difficult atmosphere after I first began getting concerned in pro-Palestinian activism in my junior 12 months of highschool. Regardless of all of the speak concerning the significance of human rights and freedom in tutorial and political circles, the silence surrounding Palestinian rights left me feeling marginalised.
As a Palestinian American, I yearned for the popularity of my heritage, the acknowledgement of the struggles confronted by my group, and the pursuit of justice for Palestine.
I began working for the state legislature in Colorado in my remaining 12 months of faculty. There, too, the Palestinian battle was fully ignored. It was actually disheartening however anticipated.
Palestine was a curse phrase in US politics till Consultant Tlaib was elected in 2018. Being the primary Palestinian-American lady to serve in Congress, she unlocked doorways that had been bolted shut for pro-Palestinian advocates for a very long time.
Issues began to vary for me personally when Consultant Iman Jodeh, the primary Palestinian-American Muslim lady elected into Colorado’s state legislature, took workplace three years later, in January 2021. Seeing her dedication to amplifying the voices of all marginalised communities, I felt change was potential.
A number of months later, tensions escalated in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem subjected to Israel’s vicious ethnic cleaning of Palestinians by compelled eviction. For the primary time, two Palestinians, Muna and Mohammed el-Kurd, broke by to the US mainstream and challenged the Israeli narrative. The US media gave them some house to talk and at last paid consideration to Israel’s massacres of Palestinians in Gaza.
The worldwide outrage over Israel’s crimes within the spring and summer time of 2021 created a critical shift within the American public’s zeitgeist.
The change in attitudes is especially obvious amongst supporters of the Democratic Occasion. In a 2023 Gallup ballot, 49 % of Democrats mentioned they sympathised extra with the Palestinians than with the Israelis, in contrast with 38 % a 12 months earlier.
The shift has inspired Palestinians to press on with their efforts to foyer for his or her trigger within the halls of energy. We already seeing the outcomes of it in our personal advocacy at Individuals for Justice in Palestine Motion (AJP Motion).
In 2022, AJP Motion had a record-breaking 803 American voters register with our programme to advocate for Palestinian rights in Congress; they met with greater than 130 congressional workplaces.
Final 12 months, HR2590, a invoice that will prohibit overseas support from Israel, which AJP Motion helps and lobbies for, reached 32 cosponsors, up from 13 when it was first launched in 2021 – an unthinkable quantity just a few years in the past.
These successes make me all of the extra assured in my work with members of Congress, attempting to shift entrenched US politics on Israel-Palestine and promote laws supporting Palestinian rights.
Advocating for Palestine continues to be an uphill battle in Congress however it’s not an not possible one.
And our occasion on Might 10 demonstrated that. For the primary time, within the halls of Congress, survivors of the Nakba have been in a position to recount their traumatic recollections of the violence and ache they suffered and be heard; for the primary time, Mahmoud Darwish’s emblematic poem “On This Land”, about Palestinians’ love for his or her land, was recited.
The commemoration of the Nakba on Capitol Hill was a milestone in our ongoing battle for recognition and justice. Regardless of efforts to silence us, we raised our voices and reached locations far past what our detractors anticipated.
The Nakba didn’t finish in 1948. It’s nonetheless occurring and Palestinians proceed to be dispossessed, ethnically cleansed and killed. However we’ve demonstrated that there’s a drive prepared to answer Israel’s atrocities, even within the halls of Capitol Hill.
That is the ability of grassroots organising. That is the significance of illustration. That is the resilience of the Palestinian-American group.
This occasion wouldn’t have been potential with out the tireless work of the advocates of Palestinian rights that got here earlier than me. We are going to carry its spirit with us, as we proceed to struggle for a future the place the Palestinians are not marginalised or forgotten however recognised, revered, and free. The street forward could also be difficult, however with willpower, solidarity, and the assist of our allies, we imagine in a brighter tomorrow for Palestine.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.