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IfNotNow ups pressure on Schumer to end silence on Israeli killings of unarmed protesters

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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.

IfNotNow demonstrator is arrested in Boston outside Israeli consulate, April 3. Photo by Emily Glick.

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…”

The Bay Area NBC affiliate covered the April 13 arrests of nine young Jews who blocked Dianne Feinstein’s office. That day, Feinstein finally spoke out against the violence.

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.)

IfNotNow action at Senator Cardin office, April 16

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.

‘Birthright’ founder Michael Steinhardt giving anti-Birthright demonstrators the finger in New York, April 15, 2018.

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.

IfNotNow sheds light on Birthright, April 15, New York.

IfNotNow sheds light on Birthright, April 15, New York.

IfNotNow sheds light on Birthright, April 15, New York.

Thanks to Allison Deger. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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9 Responses

  1. Kay24 on April 19, 2018, 12:07 pm

    An admirable effort by these young American Jews. Chuck Schumer is an embarrassment to New York, his Israel “right or wrong” stance goes against basic human decency. Palestinians have been brutally killed byIsraeli snipers, and none of these zionist servants in Congress, have the spine to speak out about this slaughter. They are putting shekels about human lives, and what is this unwavering support for Israel, that makes them embarrass themselves so much, by looking the other way, when innocent civilians are being killed at this rate?

    Good luck to IfNotNow, and other peace groups, who are working hard for justice.

    • eljay on April 19, 2018, 12:33 pm

      || Kay24: An admirable effort by these young American Jews. … Good luck to IfNotNow, and other peace groups, who are working hard for justice. ||

      Well said.

    • echinococcus on April 19, 2018, 5:38 pm

      Good luck to IfNotNow, and other peace groups, who are working hard for justice

      Kay, most of these groups are working for some version of a compromise that will keep the Zionist invaders squatting on Palestinian land while providing (somehow) for some indefinite “equal rights”, “right of return” (limited in various ways), etc.
      That may be the only thing achievable, it may be admirable, it may be beneficial, it may be what the doctor ordered, etc. But “justice” it is not.

      Justice is the full and unencumbered restitution of all Palestine to its Palestinian owners, to decide in full sovereignty on every aspect of Palestine. Including matters of residence and citizenship. Justice also means full reparations for all the damage due directly or indirectly to the Zionist invasion at least since 1897. Nothing less.

    • Misterioso on April 20, 2018, 2:22 pm

      “Gaza protests: All the latest updates” Al Jazeera April 20/18

      “At least 645 wounded as thousands of Palestinians take part in protests near Gaza border.”

      “Palestinians in Gaza Strip are protesting for the fourth Friday in a row, as part of the Great March of Return movement.

      “Here are all the latest updates from the Friday, April 20 protests:

      “Four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces
      The Palestinian Ministry of Health is reporting that the death toll has risen to four, with Mohammed Ibrahim Ayyoub, a 15-year-old from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, joining the growing list of fatalities.”

      “Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry added that at least 645 Palestinians had been wounded, 29 of whom were children.”

  2. pabelmont on April 19, 2018, 12:28 pm

    Sadly, Schumer doesn’t embarrass himself. He thinks he’s doing God’s bidding (or sumpin’). He must be brought to heel by pressure politics, there is no other way. Even that might not be enough with a real really really true true-believer.

  3. Citizen on April 19, 2018, 12:34 pm

    Doesn’t seem to bother Schumer much at all.

  4. Citizen on April 19, 2018, 1:58 pm

    @nytimes (New York Times Lies That #Hamas Has Been Firing Rockets at #Israel via @JeremyRHammond

  5. chocopie on April 20, 2018, 4:21 pm

    Feinstein’s statement is bland enough to be interpreted many ways and is not a criticism of Israel’s actions against the protesters. She’s basically saying nothing.

    Plus, US warmongers criticizing “violence” is pretty rich.

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