Last night the young renegade Jewish group IfNotNow demonstrated outside Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, saying that his silence on the killings of Palestinian protesters as a Jewish political leader was licensing Israel to kill more Palestinians.
“How many more Palestinians must die?” they challenged Schumer, before he makes a statement. “It is life and death, Senator Schumer,” one demonstrator said. Asked another: “Is Palestinian freedom less important than our freedom?”
Four days ago seven members of the group were arrested outside Schumer’s office, making the same demand. And in all there have been 37 arrests of IfNotNow demonstrators since they began protests of Israel’s killings of unarmed Palestinians nearly 3 weeks ago.
The young Jews’ willingness to put their bodies on the line has garnered media attention, spurred California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to speak out, and gained the approval of the PLO. “Hope is the young American Jews like the brave souls in If Not Now,” Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO’s US delegation, said to applause at the J Street conference on Monday.
On that day, five IfNotNow activists were arrested at Senator Ben Cardin’s office– another Jewish senator who has said nothing against the killings. “I was arrested while protesting at the US Senate today because far too many Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank cannot protest for their own freedom without being injured or killed by the Israeli military,” Ethan Miller tweeted.
IfNotNow’s actions have yet to make the New York Times or Washington Post, but they have made all the large Jewish and Israeli-English language outlets (JTA, the Forward, and Haaretz), Politico, and several local news outlets. Al Jazeera-Plus has dramatized the demonstrations. Adam Hirsch laid out the group’s motivation:
“As a member of the American Jewish community… I’m absolutely heartbroken by my community’s silence… As young American Jews we feel it is our responsibility to wake up our community… It is a moral crisis, a moral catastrophe for our community…”
This violence is exceptionally destructive for both the Palestinians and the state of Israel. It must end. Violence is not the pathway to reconciliation. https://t.co/fKwx5cgKnH
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) April 13, 2018
IfNotNow welcomed the statement but said it was weak.
This is a victory considering how rare it is that our political leaders speak out against Israeli policy — and we know that her statement does not go far enough. There is only one side using live ammunition to shoot protesters, and the Senator must be clear on that. And we must continue to pressure her and demand action, not just words.
(Remember when Trump blamed both sides for rightwing Charlottesville violence that killed a protester? Every liberal politician came down on him.)
Here is IfNotNow’s petition to get Schumer to speak. It openly addresses his power and status:
In particular, as the Democratic Senate Minority Leader and a major figure in the American Jewish community, the silence of Senator Schumer has been deafening.
At last night’s demonstration, protesters emphasized the fact that Israeli killings of Palestinians began just before the first night of Passover, a liberation festival. “I couldn’t hold that hypocrisy in my heart,” one said. Others noted that Schumer is an “allegedly progressive senator,” and stated that, “In Jewish tradition to save a life is to save a universe.”
Meantime, Jewish Voice for Peace is applying pressure on NY junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand to speak out against the killings of protesters.
IfNotNow was also on hand at the Birthright gala in New York on Sunday night– as part of the protest that caused Birthright funder Michael Steinhardt to give the middle finger to Jewish Voice for Peace.
At that demonstration, IfNotNow projected images of “Shed Light on Birthright” on a building wall, aimed at exposing the discrimination and propaganda inherent in Birthright.
Thanks to Allison Deger.