More than 50 Palestinians from across the United States gathered in Chicago June 15-17, 2007, for an organizing meeting to prepare for the U.S. Popular Palestinian National Conference, a conference that includes the broadest sectors of the Palestinian community in the US, scheduled to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of al-Nakba. The organizing focused on realizing the objectives of establishing a network that will act as an open arena where Palestinians residing in the US, regardless of their organizational or political affiliation, will come together to:
Previous meetings were held in Detroit and Cleveland, however, the increased energy behind this initiative was signaled by the high number of new attendees. The meeting participants represented a wide array of political, organizational, geographic and generational constituencies and in the face of new tactics to annihilate the Palestinian national cause and its people in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, the attendees reaffirmed the points of unity upon which this initiative is based.
During these challenging times in the history of the Palestinian struggle, the attendees reminded each other and the world of the sanctity of Palestinian life and reiterated the commitment made in Detroit to “revitalizing grassroots activism, speak confidently for ourselves, and to unleash our potential as the agents of change in our collective struggle for justice, return and liberation.”
The decision was made to hold the conference in Chicago the weekend of 8 August 2008. The weekend of 2 November 2007 was designated as a national weekend of mobilization, education and outreach to our local Palestinian communities regarding this initiative. Practical steps were undertaken to build the network and the committees reported on progress and plans for the upcoming year. Specific goals were developed by consensus and volunteers stepped forward to take on the tasks. The Outreach Committee agreed to expand the database of contact information for mixed and Palestinian organizations and created focused subcommittees for students, religious community, and media. Work by the students subcommittee began and the media subcommittee decided to immediately develop a promotional video, brochures and advertisements.
The Logistics and Finance Committees developed a detailed cost and needs analysis. The Logistics committee decided to recruit hundreds of volunteers to accommodate the thousands of Palestinians from across the US. The Finance Committee opened a bank account, created a budget, set budgetary target dates and began raising funds at the meeting and via phone. The Program Committee began to develop the framework for an entertaining, educational, and captivating weekend for the gathering in 2008, by developing a rich series of workshops and events aimed at empowering the Palestinian people. The program will cover culture, advocacy, education, youth identity and numerous other areas of interest.
The attendees pledged to stand unified in honor of our ancestors who sacrificed much in their struggle for the liberation of Palestine, its land and its people. As Palestinians living in the US, with all of its associated privileges, we must take the opportunity to envision our communities in five years, one decade, two decades and beyond. By doing so we will be able to consider what will be best for us as a national body dedicated to the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes, lands, properties, and villages, ending Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine and to the self-determination and equality of our people.