By Ayah Ziyadeh
If you’re here, I’m sure you seek to make a difference in the world and stand up for what you believe in. That puts you and me in the same boat. Let me share my journey of becoming an advocate for Palestine and our incredible progress in recent years.
Growing up in Colorado, being a Palestinian and one that was engaged in Palestine advocacy, organizing had many challenges, especially when I came of age during my junior year of high school. Despite the discussions about human rights and freedom in the classroom and school assemblies, the silence from my teachers and administrators surrounding Palestinian rights left me feeling marginalized. As a Palestinian American youth and student, I longed for recognition of my heritage, acknowledgment of the struggles faced by my community, and the pursuit of justice for Palestine.
My journey continued as I worked for the state legislature in Colorado during my final year of college, where the Palestinian struggle was completely ignored. It was there that I got to experience the ways politicians maligned Palestinians openly in order to gain cheap political points. But in 2018, the winds of change began to blow as Representative Tlaib became the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress. She opened doors that had been bolted shut for pro-Palestinian advocates for too long. The turning point came in January 2021 when Representative Iman Jodeh, the first Palestinian-American Muslim woman, was elected into Colorado’s state legislature. Witnessing her commitment to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities ignited a sense of hope in me.
Emboldened by this renewed spirit of enthusiasm, I came to Washington, D.C., to work for AMP (before the launch of AJP Action) in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, hoping to participate in this positive shift in American politics. It was in that summer that the world witnessed a shift in the American public’s zeitgeist as global outrage erupted over Israel’s crimes in Sheikh Jarrah and the atrocities in Gaza. Palestinian voices broke through to the US mainstream for the first time, challenging the Israeli narrative. This wave of awareness and empathy vastly changed American elected officials’ perspectives and willingness to speak up within policy spaces.
In a 2023 Gallup poll, 49 percent of Democrats expressed sympathy for the Palestinians, a significant increase from the previous year’s 38 percent. This shift has empowered Palestinians and supporters of their cause to press on with their advocacy efforts, and we have seen remarkable results at Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action).
In 2022, we saw a record-breaking 803 American voters participate in our annual advocacy day to advocate for Palestinian rights in Congress, leading to meetings with more than 130 congressional offices. Last year, HR2590, a bill AJP Action supports and lobbies for, gained 32 cosponsors, up from a mere 13 in its initial introduction in 2021 – an unthinkable number just a few years ago.
I know too well the feeling of despair that may arise because the progress that comes from our efforts is not always clearly seen. But many successes have bolstered my confidence in our work with members of Congress to shift entrenched US politics on Israel-Palestine and promote legislation supporting Palestinian rights. While advocating for Palestine remains an uphill battle in Congress, it is no longer impossible.
I invite you to join this movement and be part of the change we are creating. Your passion, dedication, and voice are crucial in this fight for justice. Together, we can continue to build momentum and make a lasting impact on the lives of Palestinians and their right to freedom and equality.
I can’t wait to meet you all in person from October 23-24 at our 9th Annual Advocacy Days here in Washington, DC, where we will hold a 2-day event of training and advocating on the Hill.
Whether you’re just starting or have been an advocate for some time, this movement has a place for you. Let’s work together to ensure a brighter future for Palestine.