A Connecticut based Palestinian activist, Mazin Qumsiyeh, attended a meeting in Detroit out of which came a document entitled the “Detroit Declaration.” He sent it to PNN and the statement is printed below.
“Thirty-two Palestinian organizers and activists from across the U.S gathered in suburban Detroit, Michigan on the weekend of June 23rd-25th 2006, marking the first politically diverse national meeting of Palestinians in the U.S. since 1988. This grouping is NOT a new organization, and in no way intends to become one. It is a loose network of activists and preexisting groups and in no way seeks to take the place of already existing groups. The meeting participants agreed, by consensus, to issue the following statement reflecting the results of the meeting.
“The Detroit meeting comes at a critical time when Palestinians are facing a political impasse and a political and economic siege. It also comes in response to a call issued by participants of the Palestinian Shataat (Exile) Conference in Geneva held in December 2005. At the Shataat conference, Palestinians gathered from Europe, North and South America, Australia and the Arab World to discuss the need to re-invigorate grass-roots organizing and rebuild community-based institutions within the framework of a reformed, democratic, inclusive and genuinely representative Palestinian National Council.
“The Detroit meeting sought to gather Palestinians, irrespective of political affiliations or community and organizational membership, with a focus on developing ways to mobilize the Palestinian community in the US to affirm our Palestinian narrative and assert our rights to:
“Self-determination and equality, return of the refugees to their original homes, lands, properties and villages (a natural right supported by international law and UN Resolution 194); and End of Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine, including Jerusalem.
“The participants who hailed from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington D.C., represented the entire Palestinian political spectrum, several generations of Palestinians in the US, and a rich pool of organizing experience.
“After a weekend of intense deliberation, brainstorming, and strategizing, the participants have committed to:
“1) Empower the Palestinian community and its existing grassroots organizations across the U.S. We believe that empowerment of our community hinges on its ability to live in relative security and safety. For this reason, we seek to address the community’s interest as members of the Palestinian national body as well as its particular concerns as activists, organizers, recent immigrants, youth, women, and workers who face particular challenges in the US. We seek to accomplish this by establishing a loose network of Palestinian activists and organizations at a national level and focusing on three campaigns in the US—BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), breaking the siege, and media advocacy.
“2) Build for the US Popular Palestinian National Conference to take place no later than 2008— the 60th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.
“We seek to make the Conference as inclusive as possible –shaped by input generated amongst local Palestinian communities across the U.S. as well as a preparatory meeting set for November 2006.
“Many similar initiatives have already started in Europe, with incredibly successful results, including a conference held in Sweden in May 2006, attracting 5,000 Palestinians. We believe we have the ability to convene a similar conference in the US and that it is our duty to help shape our national ambitions as Palestinians, given our unique posture as US citizens and residents who are part of the social fabric of the immigrant community in the U.S. In addition to our national struggle, which seeks to triumph in an existential battle against Israeli colonialism and occupation, Palestinians in the U.S. are also struggling against racism, discrimination, political repression, and anti-immigrant policies. This community must rise up once again as it did in the heyday of the Palestinian American activism and organizing of the late 70s and 80s. Although we have faced serious blows and attacks, we should note the victory of Aiad Barakat as a turning point in our activism. After a lengthy 19 year court battle in the landmark case of the L.A. 8, which sought to persecute Palestinian activism, Barakat can finally live his life in relative normalcy after being granted U.S. citizenship against all odds.
“We are calling upon our community to celebrate this landmark victory by revitalizing our grassroots activism, speaking confidently for ourselves, and maximizing our potential as the agents of change in our collective struggle for justice, return, and liberation.
“Join us in rebuilding Palestinian activism in the US and building for the US popular Palestinian National Conference in 2008."