The Co$t of War in Palestine on Rural Oregon: Caucus Next Moves

Dear ROPnet,

On April 6th at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, leaders from across the state gathered in a breakout session called “Global to Local: Honing in on War, Peace, and Climate Change.” We focused on how global challenges, from climate change to militarized borders and endless wars abroad, deeply affect small towns and rural communities. Shortly after we got home from Woodburn, college student protesters filled the media! This ROPnet shares some context behind that student organizing, as well as takeaways from the Global to Local Caucus strategy session.

In just the first three weeks, The Associated Press recorded at least 75 instances of arrests being made at U.S. campus protests. Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested at 57 colleges and universities.

What’s happening on college campuses? Here’s the quick rundown, also from the Associated Press:

What to know about student protests

This moment is one of incredible uprising. We can and do condemn antisemitic, Islamophobic, and any other hateful actions or statements while defending the right to protest. Peaceful protests are an all-American value — one that the Rural Organizing Project has embraced for decades and one that we desperately need in a time when more than 65 members of a paramilitary group, People’s Rights, just ran for political office in our state. College students have historically led national movements, from desegregating public institutions and private businesses, to stopping the war in Vietnam and addressing the root causes of climate change.

Check out this interview of former ROP board member Joe Lewis sharing his story of being shot at Kent State while protesting the war in Vietnam.

Today, like in the 1960s, campus protests are a natural response to US military support for Netanyahu’s war. The way to de-escalate the protests is to end US support for the war, not send in the National Guard or police to attack kids, professors, and protesters. Students occupying libraries and other parts of their campuses are calling for dignity, justice, and liberation for the Palestinian people. Specific goals include an end to US military aid for the Israeli government, and for their colleges to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid. This call for college divestment is inspired by the successful divestment movement that, along with many other tactics, led to the end of South African Apartheid in the 1990s.

While a handful of highly publicized actions have led to clashes with police, or broken windows, the Guardian reports that 97% of campus demonstrations in the US since mid-April have been peaceful, and 10 of those 20 non-peaceful protests “involved protesters fighting with law enforcement during police interventions.”

Students aren’t the only ones showing up for peace and justice. Across rural Oregon and around the world, people are raising their voices. Back in the early 2000s, rural Oregonians similarly raised our voices loud and clear that war is not the answer. Organizers emphasized that the war against Iraq and Afghanistan would not bring back the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks or make people in the US safer. Today, Netanyahu’s all-out assault on Gaza in the last 8 months has not brought home the majority of the hostages that Hamas horrifically stole from their families on October 7th. Additionally, both then and now, organizers are using language around the cost of war (or co$t of war) to bring their point home.

How did we use “Co$st of War” framing in the early 2000s?

“All of our communities are struggling to meet basic needs. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated just how broken our safety net is and how unable our government is to take care of us. Meanwhile, the War in Iraq has consumed over $347 billion and over $2.7 billion in Oregon.”

– excerpt from a tool ROP distributed in 2006

Check out the full survey sample used to collect stories in 2006 here. You can also listen to former ROP board chair, Kathy Paterno, sharing about the impact of using cost of war framing in the 2000s. This framing was a major topic of discussion at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session this spring.

Today’s Co$t of War counter

The cost of war counter from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights has been useful for grounding military funding in a local context. This counter estimates the total funds the U.S. government sends to the Israeli military from taxpayers in your area, through federal tax dollars. The graphic shows what needs could be funded instead, such as healthcare, education, and housing. In the early 2000s, this counter was available at the county level, whereas this one is currently able to show national, state, or city numbers. Perhaps one of you (readers) has found a present-day county-by-county counter that you can share?

Takeaways from the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session:

In Woodburn in April, we discussed the cost of war campaign and its effectiveness at the local, state, national, and international level. Groups raised the importance of connecting the dots across issues.

For example, Albany Peaceseekers have a flyer (that they ran and grabbed from their car to show everyone) that describes the connections between the climate crisis and the bloated military budget. The flyer states that “the US military is the single largest industrial producer of greenhouse gases in the world.” Check out the full flyer and print it to share with your community here! Folks also shared about their work building coalitions with housing justice organizers and with folks working for increased funding for mental health resources, schools, childcare, and more!

Particularly during an election year, everyone in the room agreed that there is incredible value in small-town communities doing this work because congressional leaders often point to rural communities as those supporting the war effort. But that’s not accurate to our experience as rural people.

By the end of the conversation, everyone had many ways to take action that bring these global issues home to rural communities and support rural Oregon being heard on the national level! As we highlighted earlier this year, groups in at least 11 counties have taken action in support of peace since October 2023. Hosting rallies, vigils, or marches, and writing or calling our congresspeople are some of the most popular ways to engage on this issue. (Send us your announcements, photos, or videos to Rural Organizing Project Facebook and/or Instagram and we can repost them!) Folks are also coming up with other creative ways to organize for peace. Here are a few highlights:

Pressure elected officials at every level:

  • Highlight the cost of war: Set up a big yard sign with velcro numbers to update your neighbors on the amount of money spent by your community on wars abroad, and the number of lives lost. Some suggested adding in the costs of climate inaction as well!
    • The cost of war counter from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rightshas been useful for grounding military funding in a local context. This counter estimates the total funds the U.S. government sends to the Israeli military from taxpayers in your area, through federal tax dollars. The graphic shows what needs could be funded instead, such as healthcare, education, and housing.
  • Pass a resolution calling for an end to military aid through your city council. This is particularly effective in conjunction with the cost of war counter mentioned above to draw the connection between national military funding and local budget shortfalls.

Encourage community conversation and share credible information:

  • Host a film screening of one of the films recommended by leaders at the Caucus:
  • Ha’aretz is an Israeli news source that leaders shared they are using to stay up to date on what’s going on in the region.
  • No Thanks is an app that allows smartphone users to easily see which companies have active boycotts against them by scanning the product at the store so you can make choices of which companies to avoid, and opt for local products instead.

Lastly, the challenges and benefits of social media came up as a key part of global movement building as wellWe do not control social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or X. Leaders shared tricks such as sharing content in direct messages and changing your settings to see political content otherwise filtered out by Instagram (go to your profile, click the three horizontal lines button in the top right corner → scroll down to content preferences → political content → select “do not limit political content”’). We also discussed ways to reach out to your community beyond social media including calling people on the phone, distributing flyers, and for small walkable communities: sidewalk chalk can be handy too!

Do you have tools or resources your group is finding useful? Share them with us by emailing emma@rop.org and we can add them to this living list at www.rop.org → resources → Palestine solidarity resources!

Warmly,

Emma and the ROP Team

P.S. While this didn’t come up in the Caucus discussion, I recently hosted a conversation on Israel and Palestine with members of my Jewish community here in Bend. Who else is having or wanting to have Jewish-specific conversations about what’s going on? I would love to connect and swap stories!

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