RTF Provides Rapid Response Support for BAMEMSA Communities Experiencing Hate and Suppression Related to the Crisis in Gaza

RTF Provides Rapid Response Support for BAMEMSA Communities Experiencing Hate and Suppression Related to the Crisis in Gaza - Proteus Fund

By Kamardip Singh and Rana Elmir


This month, many Muslims marked the start of Ramadan with foreboding sadness and trepidation. Palestinians in Gaza continue to experience horrific violence, a blockade, and what the U.N. has called a “starvation campaign.” In the U.S., an atmosphere of fear and suspicion has gripped Black, African, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (BAMEMSA) communities. It’s an environment that community members say is reminiscent of the post-9/11 era, which was punctuated by isolation, hate incidents, and government targeting.

While Ramadan is best known for fasting – no food or water – from dawn until dusk, for many it is the abundance of compassion, community, and generosity that are most remarkable. And it is within this complex and, at times, uncomfortable relationship between scarcity and abundance that change is borne. This Ramadan we, at RTF, redouble our efforts. In the face of growing violence and the epidemic of hate directed at Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities, RTF remains steadfast, supporting the field through the compounding crises and recognizing the abundant future that can only be realized through a powerful and resilient BAMEMSA field.

As we reflect on the last few months, we can’t shake the early calls from friends, grantee partners, and field leaders, who alongside others in their communities, were working through the pain of losing multiple family members – in some cases, entire families killed in a single bomb attack. Despite the deep and personal impact and grief, field leaders expressed their resolve to hold the U.S. government accountable for its role in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to advocate for a lasting ceasefire that would end the violence that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives. While their hearts were in Gaza, they began to act in response to the escalating domestic fallout of hate, intimidation, censorship, and government suppression.

RTF immediately leaned into its legacy of supporting communities in the U.S. through crises and organizing philanthropy to meet community needs. In November, through the support of funder partners, RTF launched an open call for rapid response funding requests to support U.S.-based BAMEMSA organizations that were leading legal, policy, organizing, and public education efforts in response to hate incidents, censorship, and discrimination, and mobilizing to support ceasefire resolutions and push back against exclusionary policies that risked shutting down Palestine human rights voices and immigration avenues.

The modest goal of granting $200,000 to these groups quickly ballooned as RTF was inundated with requests. By early April, RTF will have awarded nearly $700,000 in flexible grants to more than 35 organizations through its rapid response process.

We’re heartened to be able to do our small part to support organizations like the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which has been a beacon of hope for so many experiencing anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab discrimination, censorship, and hate, including the family of Wadee AlFayoum. In October, Wadee, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy, was stabbed to death by the Illinois family’s landlord, who now faces murder and hate crimes charges for the anti-Palestinian attack. With justice already elusive, ADC is working with Attorney Benjamin Crump to get accountability for Wadee’s family. The executive director of ADC, Abed Ayoub, stated, “We are committed to getting justice for Wadee and his family. We need to hold the perpetrators of hate accountable in criminal and civil courts.”

Meanwhile, dozens of organizations throughout the country, including grantees such as Arab Resource and Organizing Center, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Adalah Justice Project, Palestinian Youth Movement, Slow Factory, and BlackOUT Collective are building the bridges of solidarity promoting multi-faith and multi-race efforts toward local ceasefire resolutions and other mobilizing efforts. Hundreds of thousands have flooded into the streets and the halls of Congress making their voices heard, and as of last month, 57 local ceasefire resolutions were passed or endorsed across 19 states, including in Chicago, San Francisco and Red Lake Nation showing a groundswell of support for the U.S. to exert its influence to end the violence.

But we can’t talk about organizing and mobilizing without talking about our university campuses, which have become the epicenter of censorship of Palestinian human rights voices. While grantee organizations like Palestine Legal partner with the ACLU to challenge the suspensions of pro-Palestine student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, Muslim Student Association West has provided mental health interventions to students dealing with grief from losing loved ones or trauma from ongoing digital and physical threats based on their student activism in support of Palestinians. Another grantee, HEART for Women and Girls launched the INAYA Care Fund to support mental health interventions of US-based Muslims impacted by the horrific violence in Palestine, Congo, and Sudan.

We knew that flexible grantmaking could make a difference, but it was clear that it wouldn’t be enough to contend with the intense environment of increased threats directed at our grantees, their staff, and volunteers. In an effort to support their safety and wellbeing, RTF invested in DeleteMe, an online service that scrubs the internet of personal identifying information to prevent doxxing, hate attacks, and other digital threats. To date, we’re on track for equipping 120 activists with DeleteMe services. RTF also supported field trainings focused on physical and digital threats through Vision Change Win and Equality Labs respectively.

From our seat, the impact of chronic underfunding of the BAMESA field is clear. Yet, despite it all, BAMEMSA movements are building community power and planning for that abundant future, reminding us that even in this moment, their story is not about villainization and victimization alone. It is about profound progress – progress that can only be achieved with the dedicated long-term support of philanthropy. With that reality underscored, RTF is seeking $7.5 million in funding support over the next five years to grow the capacity of grassroots BAMEMSA organizations to not only respond to crisis, but to build long-term infrastructure and further protect community rights, advance policy reforms, enhance field coordination, and deepen understanding of BAMEMSA communities now and into the future.

To learn more or to join us in these efforts, please reach out to Strategic Partnerships Officer Zahra Ali.