Message from Co-Founder & President Edward E. Thompson
If we are lucky, a few defining moments come along to enrich our lives with direction and purpose. Finding a perfect life partner, experiencing a career-choice epiphany and discovering a deep passion to champion are examples of positive life altering situations. It has been my privilege to encounter all three, and as is often the case with such experiences, they have intertwined to lead me into the work you will read about in the pages of this initial annual report of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, work that already is bringing positive defining moments to people whose opportunities and environment too often have been crushed by the realities of Israeli dominance.
In less than two years our not-for-profit organization has made good progress building an organization that is positioned to advance the Palestinian economy by creating connections between American and Palestinian businesses and markets. These connections have set the stage for Americans to see the resilience that Palestinian business men and women show in spite of the Israeli control over their lives. Amazingly, Palestinian businesses have developed and survived despite interference that hampers freedom and opportunity. With the help of strong partners and growing support from those who influence public opinion, we are moving forward to realize our vision of leveling the playing field and ultimately freeing Palestinians from the tyranny that impedes their prosperity.
AVPE is the embodiment of that defining moment that turned this Midwestern American into an activist and an advocate for a place and a people for whom I have great regard. I launched this journey in April of 2007, when my wife, Marilyn, and I traveled to Palestine and Israel. While the vast majority of tours to this region are organized and led by those with an Israeli perspective, our guide was a Palestinian Christian. It was an alternative approach that made all the difference in the level of impact this trip would have on me. We stayed overnight in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem – places Israeli tour guides falsely characterize as too scary and dangerous for more than a pass-through. We talked to the people and got our own picture of life in Palestine. In addition to viewing the usual Biblical sites in the Holy Land, we witnessed the degradation and suppression our new friends were experiencing under Israeli domination. I was stunned by what I learned, and I was moved to find meaningful ways to make a difference in the future of this misunderstood and too often maligned place. As I sought out avenues for applying my commitment to action, one of the most positive connections I made was when I met Sam Bahour, a Palestinian businessman who grew up in America and an individual who would eventually become my ally and partner in this meaningful journey. Five years after my initial connection with Sam, the opportunity presented itself to take to a new level our mutual commitment to advancing Palestinian businesses to benefit the Palestinian people. I learned that he would be the keynote speaker at a conference in Chicago, and I organized opportunities to bring him before a diverse mix of influential business and educational groups and individuals. He laid a great foundation for the important work to follow, a foundation that from the beginning was built on the concept of positive investment and getting Americans and Palestinians engaged with one another through business relationships. This annual report profiles the people who are leading our organization and communicates the engagement, activity and progress we have made toward achieving AVPE’s objectives. I believe that together we will improve the circumstances for this significant region and make a positive difference in its future.
We thank you for your continued interest and support. With deep appreciation to all our supporters.