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.
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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