A Toolkit for Grassroots Congressional Advocacy

From the U.S. to Palestine, people of conscience are moving to action, rising against injustice and repression. Right now, the response from our policymakers is to be largely complicit in Israeli oppression and the perpetuation of the separate-and-unequal apartheid status quo. It’s on us, as people of conscience, to generate long-term momentum for campaigns whose discourse and goals push towards freedom, justice, and equality. At USCPR, we ground our approach to building justice for all in the strategic wisdom and deep ethic of building a united, cross-community progressive front against oppression.

Rooting our work in grassroots organizing and building strategic grassroots advocacy starts with you! Explore the grassroots advocacy toolkit below, or download a PDF version, to equip yourself with the tools you need to move your members of Congress towards supporting Palestinian rights.

Know Your Member of Congress’ Record on Palestinian Rights

Knowledge is power! Use our Palestinian rights-focused directory of members of Congress to see where your representatives and senators stand on congressional initiatives relating to Palestinian rights and freedom, justice, and equality.

Speak Up: Contact Congress

As a constituent, your voice matters—elected officials are supposed to answer to you! Use the tools below to find out who your members of Congress are and to ask them to take action on key issues of Palestinian rights, like protecting our right to boycott in protest of Israel’s brutal human rights violations against the Palestinian people, or ending our taxpayer dollars going towards the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.

Lobbying: What You Need to Know to Make an Ask

Now that you know who your member of Congress is, you can set up a meeting with their office. Maximize your impact and time with the tips below. Use our messaging guides and FAQs to be prepared to talk about the issue of Palestinian rights in a succinct and informed way. Bonus: Use the map of U.S. military funding to Israel to find out exactly how much your congressional district, state, county, town, or city is providing in weapons to Israel and what it could be spent on instead.

Be Informed: Summaries of Key Legislation

When you’re thinking about what asks to make to your members of Congress, consider tying it to pending legislation. Learn about the different bills and resolutions pertaining to Palestine/Israel in the 116th Congress.

Speak Truth to Power: Mobilizing at Town Halls

Town halls are one of the best opportunities for grassroots activists to make Palestinian rights an issue in Congress. Find town halls with your elected officials with the Town Hall Project. From the powerfully worded questions that got Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to drop the Israel Anti-Boycott Act to the raucous public opposition activists organized at Sen. Ben Cardin’s town hall opposing the bill, town halls are often places where the narrative on Palestine is shifted!

Thank you to JVP, Indivisible, and AFSC for their indispensable guides, tips, and leading by example, which led USCPR to these tips. For more or to bring these tips to an organizing meeting, contact us.

    • Record, record, record on your cell phone, and hold it sideways! A goal of these town halls is to get your MoC on the record about Palestinian rights. That means any questions and responses on Palestine must be videotaped. Assign one person to video record on their cell phone—and hold it sideways! After, send us the video ASAP!
    • Have a mobilization plan ready. We’ll tap you as soon as a town hall in your district pops up, but this can happen as late as a couple days in advance, so having a list ready of people to contact is helpful.
    • Question preparation is key. Come ready with a clear idea of how you plan to frame your ask. See our messaging for more detailed information on this.
    • Be vulnerable and personal. Use “I” statements and draw on your own experiences. Framing Palestinian rights as an issue that directly affects your MoC’s constituency will make them more likely to consider your ask. It’ll also make the audience more supportive and sympathetic.
    • Know your MoC’s record on Palestinian issues and incorporate that into your ask. Check out our directory to see your MoC’s past actions on this issue.
    • Spread out and talk to other constituents before the town hall begins. This is a key time to introduce and familiarize the issue to other residents and hopefully garner constituent, as well as congressional, support.
    • Decide on roles beforehand. Who are the question askers, video recorders, sign holders, etc.
    • Engage with reporters. Other than making yourself available for any sort of questions, having a list of talking points to hand out makes their lives easier and, more importantly, makes our narrative more likely to end up in media coverage that may emerge from the town hall. Use this toolkit and contact USCPR for support.
    • Bring visuals. Signs and t-shirts are effective ways to attract the attention of the press and show your MoC that their constituents really care about the issue. We are happy to send these to you for free (contact us!). Also see our printable signs folder.
    • Interact with the staff. While everyone is scrambling to talk to the MoC afterwards, strike up a conversation with the staffer and try to get a business card. Staff members are powerful connections to have, and you can follow up for a meeting.
    • Find a “handshake opportunity.” Be prepared to ask a 30-second question or make a 30-second statement while shaking your MoC’s hand after the town hall has ended. Be firm, direct, and polite.
    • Follow up afterwards. Write to the foreign policy or local district staffer you met. You can also contact us if you’d like us to connect you to the right staff member. Offer some positive feedback about the town hall and attach further resources about your ask. 

Following the checklist below can increase your chances of a successful and powerful showing at a town hall! Heading to a meeting with your fellow organizers to plan for an in-person mobilization? You can print this checklist to bring along.

Before

    • Gather a group of people in-district who have agreed to help you organize around town halls 
    • Reach out to them when a town hall arises
    • Conduct outreach outside of your core circle to get other supporters to show up to the town hall
    • Decide on roles. Who will be the:
      • Photographer
      • Videographer
      • Question asker(s)
      • Sign holders
      • Media point person
      • Follow-up email sender
    • Research your member of Congress’s record on Palestine and other issues
    • Decide on key messaging, based on your research, and prepare questions in accordance with that
    • Request visuals such as signs and stickers from USCPR
    • Call your member of Congress’ in-district office to see what kind of format will be used to ask questions during the town hall and plan accordingly

During

    • Bring visuals and stickers to hand out
    • Interact with the audience before the event begins, informing them why you’re there and why Palestinian rights are important to you
    • Spread out in the audience
    • Clap whenever one of your supporters speaks
    • Record with your phone sideways, like a TV screen
    • Try to shake your MoC’s hand after and give a 30-second pitch on your ask

Afterwards

    • Send a follow-up email 
    • Try to schedule a one-on-one with your MoC, if not a staff-level meeting
    • Share your notes, pictures, videos, etc. with USCPR
    • Consider coordinating a call-in or email-in as needed

A town hall is not over until the follow-up is done! Maximize the impact you had with your questions, visibility, and engagement by following the checklist below.

    • Share with USCPR your notes, pictures, videos, etc. from the town hall so we can transcribe the video and use their comments for strategy and social media pushes!
    • Follow-up with your member of Congress’s office, thanking them for hearing your questions(s) and forwarding any resources that are relevant to your asks. 
    • Try to schedule a 1:1 meeting with your member of Congress to discuss more personally what was discussed. If they aren’t supportive: consider pushing the asks further. If they are supportive: ask how you can support them. See the Direct Lobbying section and  this guide from FCNL for more information. 
    • Publish a letter to the editor to personalize the issue and get your member of Congress’s attention. See FCNL’s guide for helpful tips.  
    • Don’t underestimate people power! Numbers matter to your MoC, so the more people you can get to call or email about a certain topic, the better (see: 3B Show Your Numbers for organizing ideas). 
    • Bird dog! Show up consistently at every public event and taking every opportunity to ask your members of Congress in person to support Palestinian rights. AFSC’s guide has more information on this tried and true advocacy tactic.

 

 

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Resources from the last Congress

Looking for something from last Congress? Check out our advocacy resources archive and the 115th Congress Scorecard.