How to Take Action from Your Home Countries

By Miri -

Many of our guides frequently face the same question at the end of a tour: "What can we do?"
Having had a glimpse at the reality on the ground, a lot of participants end up with a feeling of powerlessness, or to the contrary, with a strong will to get engaged, to become actively involved in working towards a just solution to the situation in Palestine/Israel. 
In the following we will outline a few ways of how you can get involved in your home countries. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, and the specific ways of how you can get active very much depends on the specific context you live in, and also on your personal preferences.

Join a Group

It is usually easier to work with others, especially if you are not an old time activist with a lot of experience. The Palestine solidarity network is a growing one and most likely it won't be too difficult to find a group in your home town that you can join. Obviously, the bigger the place you live in, the easier it will be to find a suitable group. Do a little research on the Internet, check out the community centres or churches in your area, and I'm pretty sure you will be successful. It may also be a good idea to find out about groups that are not directly working on the situation in Palestine, but are concerned with broader issues, such as anti-war groups, or women's groups. If Palestine and Israel are not yet on their agenda, you can help to put it on their list.

One word of caution: there's a huge variety in the groups working on the topic of Palestine, yet the fact that they supposedly work towards ending the Occupation, does not mean that their politics are flawless. There's a lot of bashing of pro-Palestinian groups, mainly on the grounds of supposed anti-semitic sentiments. While a lot of those accusations are false, and are conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish attitudes, they may unfortunately also sometimes be true as some groups themselves are not capable of distinguishing between those two very different notions. The work of those latter groups is obviously very counter-productive and we therefore recommend you to thoroughly check the politics and stances of the respective group you are considering to join.

Mass demonstration against the bombardment of Gaza, London 2009
Larger groups obviously organise activities that are more effective if carried out in big numbers, such as demonstrations and vigils. They also increasingly engage in awareness raising campaigns by pointing out the intricacies of the Israeli occupation and the involvement of other countries as well as multi-nationals, which on the one hand benefit from the Occupation and at the same time ensure its continuation. Many companies profit by providing the Israeli state, and especially the army with their products. By outsourcing their production to the West Bank companies further benefit from the Occupation by lowering their production costs. The Israeli research project Who Profits? is an excellent online information centre, which can help you in organising bigger campaigns, but may also just help you in developing more responsible consumer habits, by refraining from buying products from companies involved and benefiting from the Occupation.      

This last point already shows that in a globalised economy, each and every one of us, no matter how far away we are from Palestine (or other places where human rights abuses are commonplace), carries a personal responsibility and can have her/his own share in improving the situation without staging a mass protest. So here's a small list of things you can do yourself:

Change Your Consumer Habits

Refrain from buying products that benefit from the occupation and consider to at least once in a while buying fair trade products. Yes, they are usually pricey, but by buying them you do not only get great quality, but at the same time you also directly help the farmers involved in the production, and their local economy as a whole.  To find out more about fair trade products, including those coming from Palestine, check out this website.

Lobby for Justice

And also politically, this world is much smaller than it sometimes seems. The Palestine-Israel conflict in one way or the other, usually does figure in the foreign politics of other countries, and since politicians in democracies supposedly act on behalf of the people that voted for them, you may want to try and influence their agenda with respect to our region. Most people find it more successful to use bottom up approaches by speaking or writing to their local representatives, their MPs etc., rather than sending directly a fax to the president, but this very much depends on how politics are structured in your place of residence. In order to be more effective, ask your friends, your work colleagues to do the same, and voilá, you already have your little campaign.

Organise Your Own Speaking Event

Having visited Palestine and Israel and having acquired first hand knowledge about the situation, you have a big advantage compared to those people who rely on often biased media accounts on what is happening here. So why not share your knowledge by organising a little event during which you can show photos or just tell about your personal experiences, it can be in a local community centre, a church, or simply in your living room, involving only your friends. 
     
Raise money

Another way to help is by raising money. Yes, it's true, both Israel and Palestine receive huge sums of money from all over the world, but does that mean it is being used in a good way, or does it even reach the people who are actually in need of it? Most likely it doesn't. In turn, smaller peace groups and grassroots initiatives find it very hard to get official funding, and therefore rely on the donations of generous people. For some of them, every penny counts, so do not get discouraged if you are not able to raise huge sums.
There's many ways of how to raise money, be creative, have a stall at some local community event for instance, encourage donations in return for home baked cakes, or how about dispensing with your birthday presents for one year, and instead asking your guests for a humble donation for a cause that you believe in? 

We often do feel discouraged, powerless, and small, but if we all followed this feeling, nothing would ever change in this world. Keep in mind that by convincing only one person, and changing her/his way of thinking, you have already achieved a lot.


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