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: bit.ly/BeyondTalkReport
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:
- Directly fund organizations that uphold Israel’s military, economic, and political control over Palestinians’ daily lives.
- Lobby American politicians to put unconditional support for the Israeli government and its policies above Palestinian human rights.
- Amplify prominent individuals and organizations responsible for deepening the Occupation.
- Promote a culture within the Jewish community that omits and denies the legitimacy of Palestinian narratives and rights.
- 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 www.ifnotnowmovement.org.
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 // email@example.com // (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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com, (202) 750-1485
Lila Weintraub, firstname.lastname@example.org, (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, email@example.com, (202) 750-1485
Lila Weintraub, firstname.lastname@example.org, (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
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