The progressive group IfNotNow has announced that it is expanding its mission beyond the Jewish community and will now officially lobby political leaders to speak out against the occupation and the policies of the Israeli government, focusing on Democratic candidates in the 2020 elections.
In order to achieve the goal of pushing candidates “past giving lip-service to a two-state solution,” IfNotNow - which began as a collective of young activists - is now officially a tax-exempt organization permitted to engage in political activities, with an initial goal of $100,000 in its first fundraising quarter, according to Politico.
The Politico report said that the group wants to have “a major impact on the Democratic race for the White House.” To do so, it “plans to bird-dog presidential candidates at public events to create viral moments and prod the Democratic Party leftward on the issue of Israel” in the style of Black Lives Matter. The group believes, the article said, that “the time is ripe to put Israel at the center of the primary debate, since surveys show that only 26 percent of Democrats view the government of Israel favorably.”
In its first move to implement this goal, the group posted a photo of Jewish Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president in 2020 election, holding a sign with its young activists reading “Jews Against the Occupation.”
The move was applauded by Palestinian-American congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who was quoted by Politico as saying that "IfNotNow is one of the organizations that gives me hope that we are making progress toward a just and lasting peace.”
IfNotNow was formed in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 by a group of young Jews unhappy with the reaction of the organized Jewish community to the conflict with the goal of demonstrating “their resistance through the beauty of Jewish ritual.”
- Sanders’ 2020 aide apologizes for suggesting American Jews have dual allegiance to Israel
- 15 Jewish anti-occupation activists arrested while protesting outside Birthright offices in New York
- After summer walkouts, new Birthright contract bans 'efforts to hijack discussion'
Its first action was saying Kaddish for Palestinian victims of the 2014 Gaza War in front of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations.
In the five years since, its young members have led protests, sit-ins and liberation Seders in front of Jewish institutions. Most recently, it has focused on the Birthright trips to Israel, initiating walkouts from the free 10-day trips, and demonstrating in front of the organization’s offices and events.
While it is now encouraging political candidates to make their views clear, the group itself has never taken a position on a vision to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declaring in its principles that “we do not take a unified stance on BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood. We work together to end American Jewish support for the occupation. “
One of the movement’s founders, Max Berger, recently announced that he had joined Elizabeth Warren’s campaign where he is serving as “director for progressive partnerships”
In 2016, another IfNotNow co-founder, Simone Zimmerman served briefly as Sander’s Jewish outreach coordinator in his first presidential run, but was fired after a report revealed that the previous year, she had written on Facebook that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative a**hole."