IFNOTNOW LAUNCHES #NotJustAFreeTrip CAMPAIGN PRESSURING BIRTHRIGHT TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION TO ITS 40,000 YOUNG JEWISH PARTICIPANTS THIS SUMMER
The campaign, being coordinated across the country by members of IfNotNow, is part of a larger effort this summer to ensure that wherever young Jews are engaging with Israel — at summer camps or on Birthright trips — they are learning about the true realities of the Occupation.
Yonah Lieberman // firstname.lastname@example.org // (716) 537-6238
USA — Today, IfNotNow launched NotJustAFreeTrip.com, announcing that it will be urging Taglit-Birthright to tell the truth about the Israeli Occupation to the tens of thousands of young American Jews that will participate in its programming this summer. With the recent Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza and Trump’s reckless embassy move, organizers felt moved to transform the way young Jews are educated about Israel this summer.
With the #NotJustAFreeTrip campaign, young Jews are challenging the outdated perception that Birthright is nothing more than an apolitical trip for Jews to connect with their Jewish identity. The campaign is led by alumni of Birthright who found the education on their own trips dishonest and were shocked to learn about the denial of freedom and dignity to Palestinians when they came home and did their own research.
“More important than what I was shown and taught in Israel is what I didn’t see or learn: the reality of the Israeli Occupation and the uncensored narratives of Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip,” said Alyssa Rubin, a 23 year-old from Boston who went on Birthright in 2013. “It was a painful experience to force me to learn about the brutality of Israeli military rule over Palestinians in books and movies back home when I know how physically close I was to seeing it for myself on my trip. Why is Birthright so afraid of what their participants will find on the other side of the wall?”
According to public records, the vast majority of Birthright’s financial support comes from billionaire right-wing philanthropists. Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed more than $200 million to Birthright since 2009, has also used his wealth to financially endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Adelson made the largest single donation in history to an incoming president when he gave the Trump inaugural committee $5 million. The money from Adelson and other politically minded donors like him has funded over 600,000 people to go on Birthright since it began in 1999. That Birthright shares donors with Trump is further proof that both are invested in the perpetuation of the 51-year-old occupation and the continued denial of freedom and dignity to Palestinians and Israelis.
The IfNotNow campaign will engage and mobilize this summer’s Birthright participants, potential Birthright participants, and Birthright alumni in a variety of ways to show the costs of a right-wing-funded Jewish education that deliberately hides the truth from its participants. IfNotNow members will continue to gather at airports for “Birthright Send-offs”, like they did last week at JFK, meeting participants to share information about the Occupation and questions they can ask their tour guides. They also plan to engage Birthright alumni in sharing testimonies of experiences they had on their trips that reveal its political motivations, like sending participants unknowingly into settlements and leaving out the voices of Palestinians living under Occupation.
“It has never been acceptable for Birthright to leave out honest education about Israeli military rule over another people or to not share Palestinian narratives with young Jews looking to understand this place, but the recent violence reminds us the urgency to tell the truth about the Occupation,” said Jeremy Oziel, 26 from Oakland, who staffed a Birthright trip in 2016. “I’ve seen first hand how this free trip comes with high costs, and we refuse to be fed a political agenda any longer.”
In the past several years, IfNotNow, a movement led by young American Jews to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Occupation, has been growing both in membership and public influence, spanning across 14 cities and a dozen college campuses. After mobilizing 1,000 young Jews to protest outside of AIPAC’s annual conference last spring, this year they organized historic resistance to Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters and launched the #YouNeverToldMe Campaign to ensure that Israel education programs at summer camps, day schools, and youth groups talk about the Occupation.
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. The organization was founded in 2014 during the Gaza War as a moral call to the American Jewish community to oppose the war. IfNotNow has over 1,700 members and chapters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. Learn more about IfNotNow at www.ifnotnowmovement.org and learn more about their #NotJustAFreeTrip Campaign at www.notjustafreetrip.com.
Democratic Political Leaders Face Protests by Young Jews and other Progressives Demanding Condemnation of Israeli Violence on Gaza
On Thursday evening, members of IfNotNow, MPower, and other progressive allies took action outside of the offices of Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, and Harris to make it clear that the future of the Democratic Party lies with #ProgressivesForFreedom
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 25, 2018
Contact: Yonah Lieberman, email@example.com
New York, New York and San Francisco, CA- A broad coalition of young Jews, Muslims, and other progressives gathered last night from coast to coast in two powerful protests aimed at getting Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris — progressive representatives — to speak out against Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Since March 30th, when the Great March of Return began, Israeli forces have killed 113 Palestinians in Gaza, injuring more than 12,000 others. Much of the Israeli violence occurred on the day that Trump moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which was seen by the progressive alliance as an intentional provocation and act that will further entrench the Occupation.
In New York City, dozens of mostly Jewish protesters marched with two coffins from the United Nations to the front door of the offices of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand — symbolically labeled “#4 out of 113” and “#5 out of 113” — representing the Palestinians killed by Israeli snipers.
In San Francisco, over 100 Muslims and Jews gathered together for an #IftarInTheStreets in front of Senator Kamala Harris’ office. Iftar is the traditional meal meant to break fast at sunset during Ramadan. In addition to hosting an Iftar, the group brought a coffin labeled “#6 of 113”, creating a national count of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces.
In both demonstrations, they read out the names of the Palestinians and said mourners kaddish, a prayer traditionally said by Jews for friends and family that have died, and at both locations, representatives of the Senators chose to ignore the protesters rather than meet with them.
“As an American Jew, I will not let our leaders — be they in the Jewish establishment or on capitol hill — forget the real human cost to Israeli violence. Each of the coffins we symbolically delivered has a very real coffin in Gaza, with very real friends and family that are now in mourning.” said Eliana Fishman, 29, member of IfNotNow in New York City, “I refuse to allow my progressive representatives to be silent while the Trump Administration and Netanyahu government work together to permanently entrench the Occupation.”
The actions are part of a broader effort by the progressive movement to ensure their progressive representatives like Schumer, Gillibrand, and Harris are also #ProgressivesForFreedom, working as hard for Palestinian freedom and an end the Israeli Occupation as they are to ensure universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage in the United States. The protesters made it clear that they believe the United States should hold Israel to basic standards of morality and democratic values, condemning Israeli violence and denial of freedom as loudly as any political representative would similar actions in our own country.
“The ongoing, escalating aggression by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians is a crisis unfolding in real time before our eyes—with the support of the U.S. political establishment. Our elected officials—especially those who label themselves progressive—must condemn the inhumane violence carried out by the Netanyahu government,” said Mohammad Kahn, Campaign Director of MPower Change. “Politicians can’t claim to oppose a bigoted far-right administration here in the U.S. while at the same time supporting one abroad. In this holy month of Ramadan, when we are called to our highest values, we are joining together with allies from across different communities to demand that our officials gather the courage to condemn violence against Palestinians. We will continue speaking out against injustice—no matter how powerful those who seek to uphold it may be.”
The opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was celebrated by Prime Minister Netanyahu, their far-right allies, and the American Jewish establishment, while thousands of Palestinians protested for basic human rights just over 40 miles away. The split screen images of smiling, well-dressed American and Israeli politicians greeting each other in Jerusalem, contrasted with thousands of bloodied Palestinian protesters in Gaza simply trying to live, brought the daily realities of the Occupation to the TV screens of millions across the country.
The progressive coalition is committed to continuing to keep the pressure up on these Democratic Party leaders until they speak out against they condemn Israel’s violence against Palestinian protesters, call for an end to the blockade of Gaza and an end to the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, and support for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the Occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.
MPower Change is the largest Muslim led social and racial justice organization in the United States.
ON THE DAY TRUMP MOVES AMERICAN EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM, AND DEADLIEST DAY FOR PALESTINIANS SINCE 2014, YOUNG JEWS AND RABBINICAL STUDENTS SHUT DOWN BUSY D.C. INTERSECTION FOR TWO HOURS
At the exact moment that Trump’s Embassy opened in Jerusalem — and on the single deadliest day for Palestinians since 2014 — 150 young Jews disrupted the morning commute in the nation’s capital, building their own Embassy of Freedom and took a stand against the violence on Gaza.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2018
More available with the #EmbassyOfFreedom hashtag
Ethan Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 750-1485
Lila Weintraub, email@example.com, (202) 750-1485
WASHINGTON, DC: This morning, as American officials gathered in Jerusalem to officially move the US embassy to the city and Isreali forces killed over 50 Palestinian protesters in Gaza, 150 young Jews from across the United States blocked traffic for two hours at one of the busiest intersections in Washington, D.C. as part of a protest against the move, which only serves to entrench the Israeli occupation in a city that is already divided by violence and separation.
“The images coming out of the region could not be starker: American and Israeli officials smiling and celebrating in Jerusalem contrasted with dead and wounded Palestinians in Gaza. Now is when our community needs to choose a side: will they support the Trump and Netanyahu alliance or speak out for Palestinian freedom? Our generation knows that the Jewish future demands Palestinian freedom, and we hope that they join us.” said Lila Weintraub, an IfNotNow member in DC who helped lead the protest this morning.
After an invigorating rally, the group of young American Jews and Rabbinical school students took over the streets and marched down 11th St until arriving at Pennsylvania Ave and 12th Street, the location of the Trump Hotel, where the protesters began to build an “Embassy of Freedom,” complete with doors, windows, pillars, and flags. In the middle of one of the busiest intersections in downtown DC, between the White House and the Capitol Building, they sang in Hebrew and chanted while disrupting the morning commute. DC police blocked traffic for two blocks in every direction and the disruption lasted two hours.
“I took action today as a future Rabbi because this is a moment of crisis for Palestinians, Israelis, and American Jews. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem puts the US stamp of approval on the ongoing evictions and dispossession of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the ongoing violence directed at Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank– all of which are counter to Jewish values,” said Rebecca Hornstein, a Rabbinical school student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia who was prepared to be arrested at the protest.
The president’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem marks the administration’s endorsement of the policies of the Israeli occupation and the strong connection between Trump and the extremist policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, and 370,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem live without the same rights as their Jewish neighbors.
“Most American Jews oppose unilaterally moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, but our community’s institutions cheered the president’s cruel and provocative decision, made all the more provocative today of all days, as it comes on the heels of Trump withdrawing from the Iran deal and in the midst of unconscionable Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.” said Rachel Klepper, a member of IfNotNow who traveled from New York City to attend the protest. “Instead of cheering on their Embassy of Occupation in Jerusalem, I am proud to be building an Embassy of Freedom in DC with IfNotNow, a movement that represents the future of the Jewish community and knows that that future relies upon Palestinian freedom.”
This protest was organized by IfNotNow, a movement of young Jews working to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Occupation. This demonstration comes after weeks of Palestinian protests, where more than 40 Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip were killed by the Israeli military and thousands more were injured. In response, American Jewish activists with IfNotNow protested in over 30 cities, demanding that the political leadership of our community speak up against the escalation of violence. More than 37 IfNotNow members were arrested during these recent protests. At the same time as, members of All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective, mainly diaspora Jews living in Israel, protested outside the new site of the American Embassy in Jerusalem.
# # #
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. IfNotNow has chapters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, and Washington, DC.
You can learn more about IfNotNow at www.ifnotnowmovement.org
Photos credit: Gili Getz, IfNotNow.
ON THE DAY TRUMP MOVES AMERICAN EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM, YOUNG JEWS AND RABBINICAL SCHOOL STUDENTS PLAN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, 50 PREPARED TO RISK ARREST
Just an hour before Trump’s Embassy opens in Jerusalem, hundreds of young Jews will disrupt the morning commute in the nation’s capital and build their own Embassy of Freedom.
May 9, 2018
Ethan Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 750-1485
Lila Weintraub, email@example.com, (202) 750-1485
WASHINGTON, DC: On May 14, the same day top American officials will be in Jerusalem to officially move the US embassy to the city, hundreds of young Jews from across the country — 50 of whom are prepared to risk arrest — will gather in Washington, DC to raise their voices against the move, which only serves to entrench the Israeli occupation in a city that is already divided by violence and separation.
This demonstration — and Trump moving the American Embassy — comes after weeks of Palestinian protests, where more than 40 Palestinian protesters in the Gaza strip were killed by the Israeli military and thousands more were injured. In response, American Jewish activists with IfNotNow protested in over 30 cities, demanding that the political leadership of our community speak up against the escalation of violence. More than 37 IfNotNow members were arrested during these recent protests.
WHO: Young Jews and Rabbinical school students that are part of IfNotNow.
WHAT: An historic, moral civil disobedience of anti-Occupation young Jews, on the day that Trump moves the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Young Jews and Rabbinical school students will march through the streets near the White House and eventually build our own embassy: an Embassy of Freedom.
WHERE: All press should meet at Peets Coffee, 12th and G (601 13th St, NW).
WHEN: Monday, May 14th, 2018. Press will meet at 7:45 a.m. for a briefing, and the general public will gather at 8 a.m. at Metro Center.
# # #
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. IfNotNow has chapters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco-Bay Area, Toronto, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
You can learn more about IfNotNow at www.ifnotnowmovement.org
37 YOUNG AMERICAN JEWS ARRESTED OVER TWO WEEKS IN HISTORIC PROTEST OF JEWISH LEADERS’ SILENCE TOWARDS ISRAELI POLICIES IN GAZA
The Jewish protesters have been demanding that Jewish leaders and institutions make statements opposing Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza, which has left 33 Palestinians dead and over 4,000 wounded.
CONTACT: Yonah Lieberman, firstname.lastname@example.org, (716) 537-6238
Photos below — more available upon request. Video also available upon request.
Search #HowManyMore for social media posts.
CITIES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES: Over the past two weeks, 37 young American Jews have been arrested in six cities at the offices of various Jewish institutions and leaders as part of a campaign to protest Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. 30 demonstrations have taken place, including in Boston at the Israeli Consulate, in New York City at Senator Schumer’s office, in the Twin Cities at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota, in Los Angeles at the Jewish Federation, in San Francisco at Senator Feinstein’s office, and in Washington, DC at Senator Cardin’s office. At each location, the young Jews demanded a statement condemning Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters, and at each location the organization or individual chose to call the police to arrest the protesters instead of releasing any statement.
Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza began on Friday, March 30. Since then, Israeli military forces have killed 33 Palestinian protesters and injured more than 4,000 others, including about 1,400 with live fire. The protest is one of the largest Palestinian protests the Gaza Strip has seen in years — and has not injured or endangered any Israeli soldiers or civilians.
Each demonstration was organized by the local chapter of IfNotNow, a national movement led by young American Jews to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Israeli Occupation. The civil disobedience campaign is unified under the hashtag #HowManyMore, as a question to the organizations and institutions that have been silent on Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters. Many of the politicians and institutions that IfNotNow is protesting purport to have social justice values — claims that were challenged by the protesters at each demonstration.
“Senator Schumer claims to be a progressive champion and leader in the American Jewish community, so his silence in the face of Israel’s use of deadly force against Palestinian protesters is deafening.” said Becca Kahn-Bloch, 27, who was one of seven IfNotNow members arrested at the protest in New York City on April 9th, “As American Jews and as constituents, we demand that Senator Schumer live up to both progressive and Jewish values and do the bare minimum that we could expect from any moral leader: condemn the use of live fire against protesters.”
The protests also featured the recitation of Mourner’s Kaddish — a Jewish prayer traditionally recited for family or community members who have died — and the naming of all 33 Palestinians that have been killed by Israeli forces. Many of the protests recited the Kaddish once for each Palestinian that was killed.
“I grew up in the Jewish community of Los Angeles, where I learned that freedom and dignity are core Jewish values. As young Jews and members of this Jewish community, we asked the Federation to condemn this unconscionable violence — and they had us arrested. How long will they stay silent as live ammunition is used against Palestinian protesters? How many more Palestinians need to be killed before they speak out?” asked Elon Glickman, 24, who was one of five IfNotNow members arrested in Los Angeles, outside the Jewish Federation.
Thus far, there have been two statements released because of the protests. The first was Senator Dianne Feinstein, who — after two weeks of silence — released a tweet condemning violence one hour after IfNotNow Bay Area protested at her office, and 9 members were arrested. The second was the Union of Reform Judaism, which released a statement condemning Israeli policy following an IfNotNow NYC protest at its headquarters five days earlier.
According to an IfNotNow spokesperson, there have been over 30 other protests since the violence began — on college campuses like Harvard, Swarthmore, and the University of Minnesota, as well as in cities like Austin, Chicago, and Providence, RI.
“The Israeli decision to react violently toward Palestinian protesters is the inevitable result of more than 50 years of Occupation. They are not defending Israel — they are defending the Occupation,” said Shira Tiffany, 28, who was one of eight arrested at the Israeli Consulate in Boston on April 3rd, “As we mourn the lives lost, our generation insists that endless occupation is not the way forward — another path is possible and we must fight for it. I refuse to allow my children to grow up seeing more images of teenage Israeli soldiers shooting at teenage Palestinian protesters.”
On Friday March 30, just hours before Passover began, more than 30,000 Palestinians marched in Gaza and IDF snipers responded to the protest with live gunfire, killing 19 or 20 protesters. On Friday, April 6th, tens of thousands of protesters returned and again the IDF shot into the crowd, killing 9 Palestinians. On Friday, April 13th, Palestinians once again returned to the border The Palestinian protest has been overwhelmingly nonviolent and led by a diverse coalition of young Palestinians. For two weeks in a row, the United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from calling for an independent investigation into Israel’s use of force.
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. The organization was founded in 2014 during the Gaza War as a moral call to the American Jewish community to oppose the war. IfNotNow has over 1,600 members and chapters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, and Washington, DC. Learn more about IfNotNow at www.ifnotnowmovement.org
Photo from protest of Senator Cardin in Washington, DC on April 16 / Credit: Rachel Mandelbaum
Photo from protest of Senator Feinstein’s office in San Francisco on April 13th
Photo from protest of Senator Schumer in NYC on April 9th / Credit: Gili Getz.
Photo from protest of the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles on April 11th / Credit: Amira Alhassan
Photo from protest of Jewish Community Relations Council in the Twin Cities on April 10th.
Photo from Boston protest of Israeli Consulate on April 3rd / Credit: Emily Glick
Please direct all press inquiries to info(at)ifnot.net and include "Press Inquiry" in the subject line.
Selected Press Clips
Time to break the silence: An open letter to American Jews
Edo Konrad, +972 Mag, 1/14/2016
#IfNotNow Seder Protests JFNA Support for Endless Occupation
Gili Getz, Jew School, 4/10/2015
As U.S. Jews, we need to figure out what leverage we have in ending the occupation'
+972 Mag, 10/25/2014
I tried to deliver a message to Malcolm Hoenlein and got arrested
Josh Leifer, Times of Israel, 9/1/2014
If Not Now, When: A Personal Political Reflection
Becky Havivi, Jew School, 8/14/2014
Young Jews Protest Israel's Offensive In Gaza, Call For End To 'Gratuitous Killing'
Sam Lachman, Huffington Post, 8/5/2014
Not in my name: A call to American Jewish organizations during Operation Protective Edge
Sarah Brammer Shlay, Twin Cities Daily Planet, 8/3/2014
‘If not now, when?’ — Jewish-American peace activists organize to oppose war on Gaza
Miriam Elba, Waging Nonviolence, 7/31/2014
9 Young Jews Arrested at NYC anti-Israel Protest
Anna Hiatt, Jerusalem Post, 7/30/2014
Jewish Group Delivers Mourner's Kaddish for Gaza Victims
Antonia Blumberg, Huffington Post, 7/26/2014