As we reported, the young Jews of IfNotNow are doing what many activists have long called for: they are making Palestine an issue in the Democratic race by posting videos of young people asking candidates if they would bring pressure on Israel to end the occupation. The group has gotten evasive answers from Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke; a No from Cory Booker; a Yes from Pete Buttigieg; and nervous affirmation from Elizabeth Warren.
The big surprise of the IfNotNow campaign is how much rage it is provoking from the Israel lobby, which has long had a place inside the Democratic Party.
The group Democratic Majority for Israel has issued a “WARNING” to Democratic candidates that a “strongly anti-Israel organization” is having young people “run up to” candidates and ambush them with an occupation question, before “trumpet”-ing the politicians’ answer on-line. (Ah, democracy.)
IfNotNow has responded that the Dem Majority group is an AIPAC front that has no place in the Democratic Party.
Democratic Majority for Israel is obviously concerned that the issue could divide the Democratic Party, and thereby weaken U.S. support for Israel. The old-guard organization (founded earlier this year) has advised candidates just to say that they’re for a two-state solution. So when Joe Biden refused to condemn the occupation, and bashed Palestinians, Dem Majority was pleased.
Grateful 2 @JoeBiden for pro-Israel answer making clear intelligent discussion of conflict requires examining actions on all sides
settlements r unnecessary..only answer: “2 state solution…Palestinians have to step up too & be prepared 2 stop the hate..it’s a 2-way street.”
IfNotNow was definitely not grateful! It tweeted that Biden was parroting AIPAC :
@JoeBiden berated one of our members while repeating a few of @AIPAC’s racist talking points (like “Not one single solitary Palestinian has said, ‘I agree that there will be a Jewish state in the region.’”)
Likewise, IfNotNow said Cory Booker was siding with AIPAC over the grassroots with this answer:
When asked if the occupation was a human rights crisis by Becca Lubow, Booker replied, “You’re not going to get me to address that question as you want and I know that that’s the question you’ve been asking every presidential candidate, but I’m working on this issue probably more than any other foreign policy issue.” When pressed on the subject further, Booker told Lubow: “If that’s your issue, I would understand if you want to support someone else.”
Democratic Majority for Israel was pleased by Booker’s dismissal.
many thanks to
@CoryBooker for taking a strong pro-Israel & pro-human rights stand…and for refusing to reduce a complex issue into an over-simple yes or no
Shout out to
@BetoORourke for refusing to fall into the same binary that so many other candidates have been faced w/ re: the US/Israel relationship. Unilateral pressure only entrenches fear & makes peace impossible. Foreign policy is NOT black/white
Emily Mayer of IfNotNow says that Democratic Majority for Israel is an “AIPAC front group” inside the Democratic Party.
Frankly, why should an AIPAC front group be taken seriously by the Democrats? You cannot call yourself a Democrat, claim to support civil & political rights for all, while working to deny Palestinians those rights and to curb the rights of Americans who call out your hypocrisy.
Good question. But the lobby is an essential part of the existing Democratic coalition. Dem Majority board members Ann Lewis, Paul Begala, Henry Cisneros, and Shelley Berkley are all Democratic Party stalwarts. Even J Street on the left is committed to preventing Israel from becoming a partisan football. And remember, the Dems elevated Chuck Schumer to Minority Leader in the Senate even after he bucked President Obama on the Iran deal. And Schumer bragged that he voted against the president because the deal threatened Israel.
IfNotNow is getting pushback from liberal Zionists too. Here’s Dan Shapiro, Obama’s former ambassador to Israel, who now works at a quasi-governmental thinktank there:
My disagreement with IfNotNow is in trying to boil down a complex conflict into simplified, one-sided “solutions”. Israel bears responsibility, yes, but so do Palestinians. I want an end to the occupation, but it will only come in negotiated 2SS with both sides doing their part.
IfNotNow has gotten the opposite answer from Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg: they will talk about the occupation.
@PeteButtigieg said it plainly: “The Occupation must end” making it obvious that naming the reality on the ground — that Israeli government is enforcing a military occupation, and that it must end — is the baseline stance for any serious 2020 candidate
P.S. IfNotNow is not an anti-Zionist group. As Emily Mayer explained to Democratic Majority for Israel, her group does not take a position on Zionism. It can only come out against the occupation.
@DemMaj4Israel willfully uses the meaningless & tired “Israel’s right to exist” line to smear us. IfNotNow has never insinuated anything resembling the idea that we don’t want Israel to exist…
It’s true that our members have differing views on Zionism and the question of one state or two states. But the root of the problem is that
@DemMaj4Israel, like the rest of the political establishment, refuse to answer questions about the meaning of a Jewish state today.
Does Israel have the right to be a permanent occupier, without granting Palestinians any civil rights? Does Israel’s existence necessitate ongoing dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians? My generation wants answers to these questions.