Former Sanders Aide Simone Zimmerman Given Key Role in Anti-occupation Group

The Jewish American activist will direct B'Tselem's efforts to influence U.S. officials and the general public

Simone Zimmerman
Meged Gozani

Simone Zimmerman, a former adviser to U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and a prominent Jewish American activist, has been appointed U.S. director of B’Tselem, an organization that monitors human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.

A founding member of the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, Zimmerman, 28, served as director of Jewish outreach for the 2016 Sanders campaign. She was fired not long after her appointment after it came to light that she published hostile posts against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on social media.

Last August, Zimmerman was detained by the Shin Bet security service after arriving to Israel from the Egyptian border and interrogated about her political views and her Palestinian connections. The questioning took place after Israel implemented a travel ban barring active supporters of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement from entering the country.

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In a press release issued Tuesday, B’Tselem said that in her new position Zimmerman would work “to amplify B’Tselem’s voice among U.S. policymakers and the broader public.”

Commenting on the appointment, B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad said: “At a time when U.S. foreign policy emboldens further occupation, oppression, and dispossession of Palestinians, the voice of Americans opposing this reality is more important than ever before. Simone’s principled voice and demonstrated leadership give hope for those who believe in a future based on justice – and in working steadfastly towards realizing it.”

B’Tselem’s anti-occupation activities have made it a frequent target of Israeli government attacks in recent years.

Zimmerman lived in Israel between 2016 and 2018, serving as a fellow for Dorot, a Jewish organization that promotes social change, and working at Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization focused primarily on the Gaza Strip. She has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously served as the national student president of J Street U, the university affiliate of the pro-Israel, anti-occupation lobbying group.

“As a Jewish activist who has worked for years to challenge my own community’s denialism about the reality of the occupation, I am excited to take on my new role,” she said in the statement.