American Task Force on Palestine

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American Task Force on Palestine
Type Non-profit, non-partisan, 501 (c) 3
Founded Washington, DC (2003)
Focus(es) Israeli–Palestinian peace process, Palestinian statehood
Website http://www.americantaskforce.org/

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) is an organization founded in 2003 to advocate that it is in the American national interest to promote an end to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state that will live alongside Israel in peace and security. ATFP condemns all violence directed against civilians no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be.

ATFP is funded entirely by its Board of Directors and supporters. It has never received funding from any government or government agency. ATFP's signed, audited financial statements are posted online on its website.

ATFP works primarily in Washington DC, and seeks to build strong working relationships with government departments and agencies, think tanks, NGOs and the media. It has developed lines of communication with the US, Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian governments in order to pursue its policy advocacy goals. ATFP has also engaged in humanitarian fundraising to support health and education causes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

History[edit]

The American Task Force on Palestine was founded in 2003 as the successor organization to the American Committee on Jerusalem (1995–2003.)[1][2] Rashid Khalidi was president of the AJC.[3][4]

In early 2004, the Task Force helped promote and publicize the Geneva Accords in the United States. In November 2004, ATFP President Ziad Asali served as a member of the United States official delegation to the funeral of Chairman Yasser Arafat. He subsequently served as a member of the United States official delegation to observe the Palestinian Presidential elections in January 2005. On February 10, 2005,[5] Asali testified before a full committee hearing of the House International Relations Committee on "the way forward in the Middle East peace process." Asali was also a delegate with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to monitor the Palestinian Legislative election in January 2006. In February 2006 ATFP issued its Vision for a Palestinian State, first published in the New York Times.

In December 2006, a 10-member delegation from ATFP's leadership traveled to the region and held substantive meetings with top political leaders including Jordan's King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and acting Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni.

On February 12, 2009, Asali testified at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia hearing on the aftermath of the war in Gaza.[6] At the hearing, ATFP also submitted an extensive 50-page report on the circumstances, aftermath and consequences of the war.[7]

On March 4, 2010, Asali spoke before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on "Middle East Peace: Ground Truths, Challenges Ahead".[8]

Annual galas[edit]

In the fall of every year since 2006, ATFP has hosted galas in Washington DC celebrating the accomplishments of and honoring significant Palestinian Americans and hosting prominent keynote speakers.

On October 11, 2006, ATFP held its first annual in Washington, DC, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Condoleezza Rice, also addressed by American of Palestinian descent Sen. John E. Sununu and Sen. Carl Levin. Rice told an audience of 500, “I believe that there could be no greater legacy for America than to help to bring into being a Palestinian state for a people who have suffered too long, who have been humiliated too long, who have not reached their potential for too long, and who have so much to give to the international community and to all of us. I promise you my personal commitment to that goal.“[9]

The 2007 gala featured Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the highest-ranking Foreign Service office at the State Department, as keynote speaker[10] and also remarks by Mr.Walter Isaacson,[11] chairman and CEO of the Aspen Institute.

On October 12, 2008 ATFP's Third annual gala[12] was addressed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.[13]

On October 15, 2009, National Security Advisor Gen. James L. Jones was the keynote speaker at ATFP's Fourth annual gala.[14] "We are clear, unambiguous and consistent," said Gen. Jones, "The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states."[15] The National Security Advisor emphasized that, "President Obama's dedication to achieve these goals is unshaken, is committed, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of achieving these." He said that ending the conflict and the occupation is essential because what is at stake is "nothing less than the dignity and the security of all human beings."

In 2010, ATFP's gala had former Secretary Hillary Clinton giving the keynote speech.

In 2011, ATFP gala featured former PM Salam Fayyad highlighting quest for peace.[16]

Gala honorees[edit]

2006:

  • ATFP Award for Outstanding Contributions to Government Service

Gov. John H. Sununu

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Commerce and Industry

Mr. Jesse Aweida

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Scholarship

Dr. Mujid Kazimi

2007:

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Government Service

Ambassador Theodore Kattouf

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Commerce and Industry

Mr. Farouk Shami

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Medicine

Theodore Baramki, M.D.

2008:

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Government Service

T.H. George Salem, Esq.

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Business & Science

Dr. Adnan Mjalli

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in the Arts

Mr. Simon Shaheen

  • Special Welcome

Mr. Rami Kashou

2009:

  • ATFP Award for Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Najat Arafat Khelil

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Scholarship

Dr. Shibley Telhami

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Science and Medical Education

Dr. Fuad Jubran

  • Special Recognition: 20 Years of U.S.-Palestinian Diplomacy

T.H. Robert H. Pelletreau Jr.

2010:

  • ATFP Award for Distinguished National Service

Dr. Peter Mansour

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in the Arts

Ms. Naomi Shihab Nye

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts

Ms. Betty Shamieh

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Business

Mr. Ghassan Salameh

2011

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Arts Scholarship

Hanan Karaman Munayyer

  • ATFP Award for Distinguished Service in Philanthropy

Maha Freij

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in Fine Arts

Nawaf Soliman

  • ATFP Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts

Maysoon Zayid

Positions[edit]

Principles[edit]

ATFP advocates the following six principles towards a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  1. Two sovereign states—Israel and Palestine—living side by side in peace and security based on the borders of June 4, 1967 with mutually agreed upon territorial adjustments.
  2. An end to the Israeli occupation and the evacuation of all Israeli settlements, save for equitable arrangements mutually agreed upon by the negotiating parties.
  3. A just solution for the Palestinian refugee problem, in accordance with international legality and the relevant UN resolutions.
  4. A shared Jerusalem open to all faiths, serving as the capital of two states, providing for the fulfillment of the political aspirations of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
  5. Full acceptance of Israel by all Arab states, and normalized diplomatic and economic relations throughout the region.
  6. A "Marshall Plan" style package of aid and investment for Palestine and the new Middle East.

Palestine and the US national interest[edit]

ATFP’s advocacy emphasizes the positive aspects of Palestinian statehood, and especially why the creation of a Palestinian state is good for the United States. ATFP stresses five key benefits of the creation of a Palestinian state to the American national interest:

  1. Promote U.S. interests in the Middle East generally: “Peace based on the creation of a Palestinian state will remove the greatest single obstacle to achieving U.S. policy objectives in the Middle East. More specifically, the emerging Palestinian state will be a new democracy, a new ally of the United States, and a peace partner to Israel.“
  2. Remove one of the major rallying calls of terrorists: “Many people, including former senior government officials, CIA officers, political scientists and commentators and other persons closely associated with the American establishment and having impeccable reputations have made the point forcefully that a resolution of the conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state would be a major blow to anti-American extremism in the region.“
  3. Strongly enhance the US role as world leader: “Americans believe that they should be trusted to run a monopolar world system in the general interest of all. They also understand that the world expects a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially close allies such as the UK.”
  4. The opening of major Middle Eastern economic markets: “Resolving the conflict would mean the removal of major barriers to trade and other relations between the United States and 23 Arab states, and 1.2 billion Muslims around the world, to the tremendous mutual benefit of both Americans and Arabs.“
  5. A major step in promoting American values worldwide: “The creation of a Palestinian state means the birth of a new democracy, and the emergence of millions of new citizens of a new democracy, and the ending of a period in which millions of people lived without benefit of those basic political freedoms which constitute the founding ethos of the United States.“

Vision for Palestine[edit]

On February 3, 2006, ATFP published in the New York Times its Vision for the character of the Palestinian state it advocates. The vision advocates that the state of Palestine be:

  1. Pluralistic: “It must be a genuinely pluralistic state for all its citizens, which recognizes and celebrates their diversity while it treats them equally and with neutrality.”
  2. Democratic: “Palestine, for reasons of its own internal stability and for the regional role it needs to play, should be a democratic state built on the foundations of pluralism. Its political structures will be based on a multiparty system without ideological disqualifiers, that regular elections ensure the consent of the governed, that there be an independent judiciary that applies the rule of law in an equitable and impartial manner, and that fundamental individual political rights such as freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed”
  3. Non-militarized: “The immediate order of business in the independent state of Palestine must be social and economic development. Non-militarization would realize very substantial economic benefits and free resources for investment in education and other tools for the development of human capital, which should be the foremost priority.”
  4. A positive, stabilizing regional player: “A Palestinian state committed to peaceful coexistence, non-belligerence and military neutrality would have a powerful moral voice in promoting international legality and regional stability”

Right of return[edit]

Regarding the Palestinian Right of Return, the ATFP states on its website that "The right of return is an integral part of international humanitarian law, and cannot be renounced by any parties. There is no Palestinian constituency of consequence that would agree to the renunciation of this right. There is also no Jewish constituency of consequence in Israel that would accept the return of millions of Palestinian refugees... The challenge for the Israeli and Palestinian national leaderships is to arrive at a formula that recognizes refugee rights but which does not contradict the basis of a two-state solution and an end to the conflict."[17]

Humanitarian efforts[edit]

ATFP launched the Palestinian Humanitarian Fund appeal in May 2006 to collect donations for humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. ATFP donates all funds raised from the Palestinian Humanitarian Fund to medical facilities in the West Bank and Gaza. In total, ATFP has donated $55,000 to medical facilities in the West Bank and Gaza for Palestinian humanitarian relief. In August 2006, ATFP donated $45,000, with grants going to Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem, St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus, and the Washington, D.C.-based United Palestinian Appeal (UPA). On January 23, 2007, ATFP launched a humanitarian medical program to help alleviate the Palestinian medical situation in the West Bank. The program, 'Healing Palestinians,' will consist of one-week rotations to several West Bank hospitals beginning in Summer 2007.

American charities for Palestine[edit]

In June 2007, members of the ATFP Board of Directors established a sister organization, American Charities for Palestine (ACP), an innovative charitable organization for the purpose of creating a secure mechanism for distributing contributions that improve the quality of life for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ACP is pioneering a new approach for distributing secure donations to worthy causes that will help build both peace and Palestine. ACP is designated by the IRS as 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

In August 2008, ACP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) ensuring that all recipients of ACP donations in Palestine are fully vetted and approved by USAID. This is the first such agreement between USAID and any private organization, and it was described by USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore as a “historic step.” ACP donors are and therefore assured that their generosity will be distributed in full compliance with US law as well as reaching truly deserving recipients.

ACP focuses primarily on the fields of health and education. These two sectors are not only central to the immediate improvement of the quality of life for Palestinians, but also indispensable for laying the foundations of a viable future Palestinian state to live alongside Israel. In targeting these two sectors, ACP hopes to advance the cause of peace based on two states – Israel and Palestine – and to support efforts by the United States government to realize this crucial policy goal. In its humanitarian projects, ACP works directly with Palestinian and international charities, as well as USAID and Palestinian Authority agencies.

Since signing its partnership agreement with USAID, ACP has started three charitable initiatives benefiting Palestinians in the West Bank, with amounts totaling $605,000 in contributions.

ACP is committed to making a strategic impact on the quality of education and health care delivery to Palestinians. ACP’s partnership with USAID has created a mechanism that reassures donors, vets recipients and provides accountability and transparency. This unique package of safeguards, partnerships and services is particularly suited to attract donors who have an interest in promoting peace and security. ACP believes there is an intimate connection between improving living conditions and providing hope and the reality of a secure peace between Israel and Palestine.

Publications[edit]

In 2006, ATFP published a volume summarizing its efforts and positions to date, Principles and Pragmatism: Key Documents from the American Task Force on Palestine, edited by Board Member Saliba Sarsar, Associate Vice President of Monmouth University, and Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the Task Force. The Task Force had previously issued its “Palestine - Israel 101” power-point slideshow on the history of the conflict and prospects for peace in the region. ATFP has also created a brief video on the history of Palestinian Americans, “Snapshots of Palestinian Americans.”

In 2009, ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish published the book "What’s Wrong with the One-State Agenda?" (ATFP, 2009). It offers the first sustained critique from a pro-Palestinian point of view of the idea of creating a single state for all Israelis and Palestinians instead of the goal of ending the occupation and forging a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.

ATFP has also published numerous issue and policy analysis papers.

Criticism[edit]

In a July 20, 2007 article published by The Electronic Intifada, Palestinian commentator Osamah Khalil called for a boycott of officials and institutions associated with the Palestinian Authority, "including diplomatic fronts like the American Task Force on Palestine, a group that boasts among its slim record of 'achievements,' sponsoring polo matches and hosting a speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."[18] Khalil viewed the Palestinian Authority as fundamentally antithetical to the goal of Palestinian liberation.

In March 2005, dozens of organizations representing Palestinian refugee communities signed a statement in response to statements made by ATFP president Ziad Asali "declaring that various statements and false representations by the president of the Washington-based "American Task Force on Palestine" (ATFP) Dr. Ziad Asali nullifying the Palestinian right to return and demeaning the Palestinian and Arab people are reprehensible and entirely outside the consensus of our people." The statement alleged that "voices such as Asali's are part of a larger concerted effort to introduce a false veneer of moderation as a replacement for the legitimate inalienable rights of the Palestinian and Arab people, represented by their right to return, sovereignty and self-determination.".[19]

In 2007, ATFP answered many of its most persistent criticisms in an issue paper addressing a wide range of attacks against the organization.

Staff[edit]

Ziad Asali, M.D., President—Asali is a long-time activist on Middle East issues. He has been a member of the Chairman's Council of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) since 1982, and has served as ADC’s President from 2001 to 2003. He served as the President of the Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG) from 1993 to 1995, and was Chairman of the American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ), which he co-founded, from 1995 to 2003. He was born in Jerusalem, where he completed his elementary and secondary education. He received an M.D. from the American University of Beirut (AUB) Medical School in 1967. He completed his residency in Salt Lake City, Utah, and then practiced medicine in Jerusalem before returning to the US in 1973. Asali was the Medical Director and Chairman of the Board at the Christian County Medical Clinic in Taylorville, Illinois and he served as Chairman of the Board of Physicians Health Association of Illinois before he retired in 2000. He is a Diplomat of the Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

Ghaith Al-Omari, Executive Director—Al-Omari served in various positions within the Palestinian Authority, including Director of the International Relations Department in the Office of the Palestinian President, and advisor to former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. In these capacities, he provided advice on foreign policy—especially vis-à-vis the United States and Israel—and security. He has extensive experience in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, having been an advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team throughout the permanent status negotiations (1999–2001). In that capacity, he participated in various negotiating rounds, most notably the Camp David summit and the Taba talks. After the breakdown of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, he was the lead Palestinian drafter of the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial model peace agreement negotiated between leading Palestinian and Israeli public figures. Mr. al-Omari is a lawyer by training and a graduate of Georgetown and Oxford universities. Prior to his involvement in the Middle East peace process, he taught international law in Jordan and was active in human rights advocacy.

Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow—Ibish also currently serves as Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership. He has made thousands of radio and television appearances and has written for many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, and was Washington Correspondent for the Daily Star (Beirut). He is editor and principal author of 3 major studies of Hate Crimes and Discrimination against Arab Americans 1998-2000 (ADC, 2001), Sept. 11, 2001-Oct. 11, 2002 (ADC, 2003), and numerous other book chapters and essays. His latest book is What's Wrong with the One-State Agenda: Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal (ATFP, 2009). He also maintains an independent blog, the Ibishblog. From 1998 to 2004, Ibish served as Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American membership organization in the United States. He has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Board of directors[edit]

  • Ziad J. Asali, M.D.
  • Naila Asali
  • Husam Atari
  • Jesse I. Aweida
  • Peter Aweida
  • Ameen Estaiteyeh
  • Rima Idrissi Garrow
  • Essam Ghalayini
  • Adnan M. M. Mjalli
  • Fuad Sahouri
  • Saliba Sarsar, Ph.D.
  • Mohammed Shadid
  • Ali Zaghab, Ph.D.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ http://www.luc.edu/cas/gallery_khalidi.shtml
  4. ^ http://www.adc.org/action/1999/21feb2000.html
  5. ^ "ATFP Briefs House Committee: 'Timely US Participation in Palestinian, Israeli Security Essential'; The American Task Force on Palestine" (Press release). Americantaskforce.org. February 10, 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  6. ^ "Oral Testimony of Dr. Ziad J. Asali - February 12, 2009". Americantaskforce.org. 2009-02-12. Archived from the original on 9 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  7. ^ "ATFP Testimony at Congressional Hearing on Gaza - February 12, 2009". Americantaskforce.org. February 12, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  8. ^ "ATFP President Emphasizes Convergence Between Diplomacy, State-Building at Senate Hearing". Americantaskforce.org. March 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  9. ^ "Rice - Helping Palestinians Build a Better Future". scoop.co.nz. 20 October 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  10. ^ "Keynote Address by Nicolas Burns at ATFP's Second Annual Gala". Americantaskforce.org. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  11. ^ "Remarks by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson at ATFP Third Annual Gala". Americantaskforce.org. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  12. ^ "Gala 2008: The Courage to Persist, the Will to Build". Americantaskforce.org. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  13. ^ "Remarks by Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad at ATFP Third Annual Gala". Americantaskforce.org. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  14. ^ "Gala 2009: Palestine Alongside Israel: Liberty, Security, Prosperity". Americantaskforce.org. Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  15. ^ "Remarks by National Security Advisor Gen. James L. Jones". Americantaskforce.org. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  16. ^ "ATFP Gala Featuring PM Fayyad Highlights Quest for Peace, Palestinian-American Achievements - See more at: http://www.americantaskforce.org/in_media/pr/2011/10/20/1319083200#sthash.ylebmWwI.dpuf" (Press release). American Task Force on Palestine. October 19, 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Statement of Principles on the Palestinian Refugee Issue ATFP website.
  18. ^ Reclaiming Palestine Accessed August 4, 2007
  19. ^ Palestinian Associations Worldwide Condemn Ziad Asali's Statements Accessed August 5, 2007[dead link]

External links[edit]