Third North American Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Friday, October 10 - Sunday, October 12

 



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Introduction:

At Rutgers/New Brunswick, today's ground zero for the struggle for Palestine in the United States, Palestine emerged victorious (zirriborro)!

Defeating one of the most vicious Zionist and rightwing-orchestrated assaults on Palestine solidarity in North America in recent history, the Third North America Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement ("PSM") at Rutgers University (the "Conference") concluded its proceedings and activities with a resounding success and a determination to forge forward to build a unified and principled movement.  The Conference was held in the spirit of resistance to Israeli war tanks that were during that very time destroying hundreds of homes and neighborhoods in Rafah, Palestine.

In what will be recorded as a definitional event in the history of Palestine solidarity in the US, this was the first ever conference of this size and significance to announce its actual venue only 48 hours prior to convening to outmaneuver the enormous systematic pressure imposed by the Zionist movement and rightwing forces that had caused the cancellation of all previously-secured venues.

The Zionist movement at its highest levels had considered this Conference and the divestment movement as its top priority target, recruiting to the attack the governor of New Jersey, Rutgers University president, and state and federal agencies along with dozens of elected officials.  According to all press reports, never before did the Zionist movement bus into an American town five to seven thousand Israeli supporters for the sole purpose of silencing and intimidating the Palestine solidarity movement.  Such is what AIPAC, the ADL, state and local Zionist forces did on that weekend to shore-up the largest ever pro-Israel campus counter-event, termed "Israel Inspires."  

This was the first time ever that a state governor would actively campaign to reverse divestment and to leverage Zionist and rightwing frenzy to announce investing public funds in Israeli bonds.  New Jersey Governor, Jim McGreevy, did just that, by announcing to the Zionist rally of many thousands that he was the first governor in New Jersey to invest Public Employees Pension Funds in Israeli bonds.

Additionally, never before did a national conference convene with such success against a systematic and extensive campaign from simultaneous multiple sources repeatedly announcing its cancellation in all media venues and forms up to the day it was actually being held.

Yet, despite all stacked odds, between Friday and Sunday, October 10-12, 2003, at least 300 committed nationwide activists, including many founders of the PSM and divestment movement that was initiated in 2001 in Berkeley, California, participated undeterred in the proceedings and activities of the Third PSM Conference.  They came from as far as California and Florida to join many others from the Midwest and the East Coast determined to register a unified stand in solidarity with Palestinian people.

Reflecting the worldwide support extended to the Third PSM Conference through the enthusiastic endorsement of 229 organizations (listed below) and 1,498 individuals, the conveners resolved to unify the PSM, maintain the centrality of divestment as its anchor, and protect its founding principles that were set in Berkeley, California in 2001.  

In that context of unity, the Conference reaffirmed its commitment to the existing principles without any alteration, and passed a resolution to establish a PSM Coordinating Committee that is open to all organizations that support the existing principles of unity.  In addition to setting an action plan and an open mechanism of implementation, the Conference also resolved to propose to the movement at large that the Fourth North America PSM Conference be held in Northern California - the strong founding region of the divestment movement.

Of all the national and international massive support for Conference, the inspiring support from the Abna el-Balad Movement in Palestine was of special meaning.  It affirmed the unity of the Palestinian people in all of their sectors, and the need to maintain a principled position on the nature of the Apartheid system of the Israeli polity.

Conference Challenges:

With more than 1,000 letters of support worldwide, and an endorsement list that intersects North America with the Arab World, this 3-day event was historic in the tasks placed on its shoulders.  The Conference faced monumental logistical challenges related to the constant forced venue cancellation and the smear/fear campaign that whipped a frenzy against the Palestine Solidarity Movement.  Against such unprecedented difficulties, the Conference was nonetheless tasked with securing a unified solidarity and divestment movement that is rooted in supporting the self-determination of the Palestinian people.  Primarily, the Conference aimed to:

  1. Ensure that the primary contradiction for the PSM at all time is not internal but with Zionism and colonial designs in all their forms.  This was evidenced in the massive assault the Zionist movement waged against this Conference and the amount of resources it channeled in a failed attempt to secure its cancellation.
  2. Ensure that the Palestine Solidarity Movement does not transform its principles and programs to selective and conditional solidarity that would inevitably lead to a colonial power structure.
  3. Protect the centrality of institutional divestment, particularly on college campuses, as the core anchor program of the PSM, with corporate boycott campaigns as an integral part of divestment but not as an exclusive substitute.  
  4. Maintain a principled unity in the PSM and to expand the reach of the movement to all organizations and individuals in agreement with the principles of unity to include both student and community groups.
  5. Provide an organizational structure that is voluntary and non-binding, yet able to coordinate national programs and safeguard the consensus of the PSM.

Conference Rallied in Support of Palestine and Free Speech

In the spirit of defiance against Zionist intimidation and rightwing forces, Conference participants held a powerful rally on Saturday afternoon on the grounds of Rutgers University.  At 4:30 PM participants boarded busses and cars and headed towards Rutgers University for a show of determination, unity, and solidarity.  Zionists throughout the rally attempted to disrupt and intimidate participants in the most aggressive manner, but to no avail as the level of political awareness was exceptionally high.

After a spirited and emotionally charged rally and standoff, and in a rare show of commitment, rally participants boarded back the busses and returned to the final plenary of that day that addressed the history of Palestine solidarity.  Following the plenary, the Conference opened the first portion of the organizing session, which continued into the evening.  The Saturday rally was also unique in that Conference participants left the venue of the proceedings to an off-site location, rallied, and returned in full for several hours of additional commitment and hard work.  The rally received extensive press coverage, and demonstrated that a principled and well-organized movement can stand strong in the face of all odds.

Conference Defeated Racial Profiling and Zionist Intimidation:

Racial Profiling:  Registering at the hotel where Conference proceedings were held was no less challenging than holding the Conference itself.  When obtaining their rooms at the hotel front desk, "Arab or Muslim looking" and "dark skinned" participants were asked to present their identification cards and were told that a copy would be made and kept by the hotel.  Hotel personnel revealed that they were required to maintain this record by law enforcement, which appear to have demanded the list of participants.  This prompted the hotel to implement this politically motivated racial profiling practice.  Conference participants strongly and emphatically objected to this practice and demanded the return of all acquired copies.  A legal team was immediately assembled, and the hotel management was informed that should they continue their practice legal action would be initiated promptly.  All copies were returned, and hotel management stopped this profiling practice.  

Zionist Intimidation:  Throughout the duration of all proceedings and the on-campus rally on Saturday afternoon, Zionists attempted to use various means to politically and physically intimidate participants and record all proceedings.  It would be safe to state that the vast majority of participants were photographed through close-ups and remotely placed zoom-cameras, some of which were visible at a distance between trees.  The process of photographing the participants took an exceptionally intrusive and aggressive nature in order to create a confrontation that would undermine the Conference and the rally.  Zionist attempts at infiltration were ongoing throughout the duration of the conference leading to several confrontations with the volunteer security team.

At one point on Saturday morning, a tripod-mounted CNN camera set to record the opening session was stolen without a trace.  During that same Saturday afternoon, it appeared that there was an attempt to set-off fire sprinklers in the second floor of the Conference area where all the workshops were being held in order to disrupt the proceedings.

Conference Decisions:

I - Principles of Unity:

The Conference resolved to affirm unchanged the existing principles of unity set forth in the founding Conference in Berkeley, California, 2001.  The decision was made in order to safeguard and build towards the unity of the movement. These principles are:

  1. The PSM is committed to a core set of principles.
  2. The PSM believes that the Palestinian people must ultimately be able to decide their future in Palestine. Certain key principles, grounded in, but not limited to, international law, human rights, and basic standards of justice, will be fundamental to a just resolution to the plight of the Palestinians. These include:
    • the full decolonization of all Palestinian land, including settlements, which are illegal under international law;
    • the end of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem and all Arab lands;
    • the recognition and implementation of the right of return and repatriation for all Palestinian refugees to their original homes and properties; and
    • an end to the Israeli system of Apartheid and discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian population.

  3. Just as the PSM condemns the racism and discrimination inherent in Zionism underlying the policies and laws of the state of Israel, the PSM rejects any form of hatred or discrimination against any group based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

  4. The PSM's strength is in the great diversity of its membership. The PSM welcomes individuals of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to join in solidarity with the struggle for justice in Palestine.

  5. As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.

    STRATEGY

  6. The PSM seeks to promote the following campaigns:
    • Divestment from Israel
    • Ending U.S. aid to Israel
    • Right of Return

    Using tactics which may include:

    • Education
    • Public demonstrations and rallies
    • Civil disobedience or direct action

  7. The PSM does not endorse activities that contradict the guiding principles as stated above.

  8. Individuals or groups acting as members, representatives, or sponsors of the PSM agree to abide by the code of conduct and promote its guiding principles.

  9. In the interest of building a more unified and expanding solidarity movement for justice and human rights in Palestine, individuals or groups may endorse and sign on to the above guiding principles.

II. Establishing A PSM Coordinating Committee

In order to facilitate open and voluntary coordination within the constituent members of the PSM, and in an effort to include within the movement both student and community organizations, the Conference resolved to establish a:

"National Coordinating Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Movement based on the principles of unity, to facilitate the implementation of the solidarity program, of which divestment is the central focus."

Groups agreeing to the principles of unity can join the coordinating committee by writing to:

III. Action Plan:

In addition to calling for implementing educational campaigns on Palestine in all areas, the Conference resolved to support and call for the following:

  • Strengthen and support the establishment of a Divestment Resource Center
  • Called for nationally coordinated action in commemoration of Land Day (March 30) and the Deir Yasin Massacre (April 9).
  • Called for nationally coordinated action in support of Palestine on May 15, 2004, in commemoration of the Nakba in 1948.
  • Support the October 25 mobilization against war in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, and organize a Palestine solidarity contingency
  • Call for national Palestine solidarity protests at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions
  • Support the mobilization in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal

IV. Establishment of Committees:

The Conference resolved to establish the following committees:

  1. International Coordination Committee
  2. Reconciliation Committee to internally strengthen the unity of the PSM.
  3. Mobilization Committee (rallies, events, etc.)
  4. Student/Community Resource/Education Committee in support of the Divestment Resource Center (DRC), to be established in service of the divestment campaign
  5. Finance Committee
  6. National Outreach Committee
  7. Communication (website) Committee

V. Support for Civil Liberties:

The Conference issued the following resolution:

"The Third PSM Conference condemns the assault on civil liberties on all people, particularly Arab Americans and Muslims, and demands the repealing of the USA Patriot Act, and calls for support for all those who have been unjustly criminalized in particular the LA-8 and Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

The Conference further rejects all attempts to vilify Palestine solidarity work and calls on all to join in the solidarity movement for Palestine."

VI. Proposed Venue for the Fourth PSM Conference:

The Conference resolved to propose to the movement that the Fourth PSM Conference be held in Northern California.

VII. Endorsement:

The following is a list of 229 organizations that endorsed the Third North America Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement - New Brunswick, New Jersey. All organizations agreeing with the principles of unity outlined above are encouraged to join.