Lara Alqasem’s Detention: Made Possible by the American Jewish Establishment

Lara Alqasem’s Detention: Made Possible by the American Jewish Establishment

Part of a broader pattern of American Jewish leaders intimidating opponents of Israeli government policies, one of five key findings outlined in new IfNotNow report.

Find the full report here:


Yonah Lieberman

If American Jewish leaders are concerned by Israel’s 15-day anti-democratic detention of Hebrew University student Lara Alqasem, they should look inward.

The Israeli government’s main evidence against Alqasem is the Canary Mission, a McCarthy-esque blacklist of pro-Palestinian activists supported financially by at least two American Jewish Federations.

The Israeli government’s detention of Alqasem was enabled by American Jewish institutions and is just one more example of a broader trend of American Jewish communal leaders intimidating and silencing activists critical of Israel policies, including many young American Jews.

Alqasem, a 22-year-old Palestinian American, was detained despite the fact that she was accepted by the program and had a visa. Yet Israel refused to let her into the country, in large part by using the Canary Mission list — which identified her as a supporter of BDS — as justification. The Forward recently uncovered donations to Canary Mission from the Jewish federations of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Beyond Talk: 5 Ways the American Jewish Establishment Supports the Occupation,” IfNotNow’s first in-depth study of the topic, outlines the myriad ways the American Jewish establishment supports the Occupation:

IfNotNow’s report outlines five key findings of how the American Jewish Establishment actively supports the Occupation, when they:

  1. Directly fund organizations that uphold Israel’s military, economic, and political control over Palestinians’ daily lives.
  2. Lobby American politicians to put unconditional support for the Israeli government and its policies above Palestinian human rights.
  3. Amplify prominent individuals and organizations responsible for deepening the Occupation.
  4. Promote a culture within the Jewish community that omits and denies the legitimacy of Palestinian narratives and rights.
  5. Silence and intimidate those who oppose the policies of the Israeli government, shutting dissent out of the mainstream Jewish community.

“The Jewish Federations blacklist-bankrolling is part of a pattern of support for policies propagated by Israel’s extreme right-wing government, from settlement expansion to persecution of human rights defenders which going back years,” said Ben Wolcott who helped research and wrote the report, “For example, between 2009 and 2013, 50 American 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations gave over $220 million in tax-deductible donations to settlements and even more to other extreme right-wing organizations. And that’s just the money.”

On Sunday, thousands of American Jewish leaders will descend on Tel Aviv for the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly. The theme of this year’s conference is #WeNeedToTalk.

“This is both a moment of reckoning for the Jewish community and an opportunity for change. In a few days, American Jewish leaders from every corner of the country and every organization in the establishment will gather in Israel for the GA,” said Sarah Brammer-Shlay, a Rabbinical School Student and founding member of IfNotNow, “We urge the participants to move beyond talk and make real commitments to how they will stop supporting 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 1,800 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

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