How to effectively approach elected officials in public
Engaging members of Congress can take many forms, including personal interactions in public settings. Developing skills and practicing interventions with elected officials have proven helpful in the No Way to Treat a Child campaign’s advocacy efforts and for many other social justice causes. This guide is meant to help you prepare to make the most of engaging in public settings.
Raising a question or making a comment to an elected official in a public setting can be done for different purposes, including:
1. Education. The official may be hearing your information for the first time and may become more interested (especially if they see it as an important issue to a constituent). Even if they have heard about the issue a lot, it is good to show the issue remains important.
2. Public platform. You have an opportunity to educate not just the official, but also the broader audience gathered when you speak. Sometimes the media will be present and may include your question in their coverage. Generally, questions will be included in the notes by a Congressperson’s staff at town hall events or public meetings, so asking a question here may also help with your follow up communications.
3. On the record. Ask your official to take a stand—yes or no-—on ensuring taxpayer money is not used to detain Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. Then ask them to explain why or why not they take this position. It helps to have the conversation recorded, so document your encounter!
Consider your target
Target already cosponsors H.R. 2590 in Congress »
- Educate your community on violations against Palestinian children detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system and H.R. 2590
- Thank your elected official for signing on as a cosponsor
- Get your elected official on the record speaking about the issue and why they felt it was important to sign on
“Thank you for being a supporter of Palestinian rights, including ensuring that our tax money isn’t spent detaining Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, demolishing Palestinian homes and property, or further annexing land in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law. Thousands of Palestinian children have been tried and convicted in a military court system that lacks fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Each year, our government gives over $3.8 billion in military funding to Israel. As your constituent, I’m proud that you cosponsored H.R. 2590, a bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, that would prohibit our money from underwriting human rights abuses against Palestinian children and their families. Can you share what motivated you to cosponsor this bill in Congress?”
“H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act, is a bill that promotes justice, equality and human rights of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian children face wide- spread ill treatment in Israel’s military court system, including detention without basic rights protections for all children. Thank you for cosponsoring this bill and taking a stand for human rights. Can you say what motivated you to speak up for the rights of Palestinian children in Congress?”
“(Lead with your own short personal story… “I have been to Palestine… As a Palestinian… As a supporter of Palestinian rights…), I am outraged that our government gives $3.8 billion a year to the Israeli government that routinely violates the rights of Palestinians, including the detention of children in a military court system that lacks basic rights and protections. Thank you for supporting H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act, a bill that would ensure that U.S. tax money is not used by Israel, to detain and prosecute children in its military court system, demolish Palestinian homes and property, or further annex land in the occupied West Bank. Can you share why you cosponsored this important bill in Congress?”
Target is sympathetic but not an H.R. 2407 cosponsor »
- Ensure they know about H.R. 2590 and constituent support for the bill
- Get an “on the record” commitment from the candidate or elected official to:
- Learn more about H.R. 2590
- Meet with concerned constituents to discuss H.R. 2590
- Cosponsor H.R. 2590 or promise to cosponsor
- Illustrate the candidate or elected official’s double standard/hypocrisy for fellow constituents
“I am a constituent who has come to rely on you for taking good stands in Congress, especially when it comes to human rights and caring for those most vulnerable, including children. I would like to see you sign on as a supporter of H.R. 2590, a bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, that promotes the human rights of Palestinian children and their families by ensuring that none of the $3.8 billion we give to the Israeli government each year is used to detain and abuse Palestinian children, demolish Palestinian homes and property, or further annex portions of the occupied West Bank. Will you commit to signing this bill? [Will you commit to meeting with concerned constituents to discuss this important bill?]
“When children were detained in cages at the U.S. border, you justifiably spoke out against this abuse. I am hoping today you will also commit to standing up for the rights of children prosecuted in military courts, where fair trial rights are not protected. In fact, human rights organizations and institutions such as UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and our own US State Department have documented widespread abuse of Palestinian children by Israel in its military court system. Our government should not give $3.8 billion in military funding to countries that routinely com- mit human rights violations. Will you support H.R. 2590 introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum that ensures that no US tax dollars are being used to violate the rights of Palestinian children and their families?”
Target is hostile to the issue »
- Educate your community about the issue of Palestinian children detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system and H.R. 2590
- Draw attention to your Representative’s contempt/hostility towards Palestinian children’s rights
“I am a constituent that firmly believes that children should be protected, no matter their ethnic background or where they live. Equality under the law, with protections against abuse, is a value I would hope you share as my elected member of Congress. No child should be taken from his bed in the middle of the night, blindfolded, hand tied, and transported to an interrogation
without his parents or lawyer present. No child should be forced to sign a confession in a language she doesn’t read. No child should be tried in a court with a 99% conviction rate, or taken to a detention center that family members cannot reach. No child should fear an occupying army demolishing their home or expelling them from their house. Palestinian children have the
right to a safe and just future, like all children in communities around the world. Will you reconsider signing onto legislation like H.R. 2590 that ensures that US taxpayer money is not used by Israel to abuse and detain children, demolish Palestinian homes, or annex Palestinian land?”
“Since 2000, more than 13,000 Palestinian children in the West Bank have been arrested and held in the Israeli military detention system that denies them their basic rights. In the occupied West Bank, two separate legal systems operate in the same territory. The sole factor in determining which laws apply to a person is their nationality and ethnicity. Israeli military law, which denies people their fundamental rights, is applied to the entire Palestinian population—while Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to the Israeli civilian and criminal legal system. Do you think Americans should give $3.8 billion a year to a government that denies the safety and well being of children?”
“I believe my member of Congress should ensure justice, equality, and human rights for all. Why do you think it is okay to give U.S. financial assistance to Israel when Israeli forces abuse Palestinian children in a military detention system where ill-treatment is widespread and institutionalized?”