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Pro-Palestine activists keep showing up at Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s office to demand action….will she listen?

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On November 18, 75 members of the progressive Jewish organization IfNotNow occupied Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s Chicago office, calling on her to back the group’s recently-released 2020 platform.

IfNotNow has made headlines this election season for confronting Democratic candidates on the campaign trail and asking them how they would go about pressuring Israel to end the occupation. Their new platform asks public officials to defund Israel’s occupation and fight antisemitism/white nationalism.

“Throughout the 2020 election cycle, we will be pressuring public officials throughout the country to ensure that U.S. funds do not support the brutality of the Israeli military occupation,” said IfNotNow’s political director Emily Mayer in a press release, “We’ll also be rising up against white nationalism and antisemitism in the United States. We see progressive Jewish elected officials like Rep Schakowsky as key champions in both of these fights.”

Zak Witus is a member of IfNotNow and a graduate student in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. He told Mondoweiss that the group decided to target Schakowsky because she’s “a great moral leader on so many human rights issues, both for her district and the Chicago Jewish community in particular.” He pointed out that Schakowsky opposed the Trump administration’s embassy move, condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to block Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and co-authored an op-ed with Omar about confronting the threat of white nationalism. “Not another penny of taxpayer money should fund another Israeli home demolition or bomb that wipes out an entire family in Gaza,” said Witus, “We think that Jan agrees, and so her committing to defunding the occupation should be a no brainer.”

IfNotNow’s action comes just a few days after members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) occupied Schakowsky’s office, calling on her to cosponsors HR.2407, a bill that was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN). That legislation would prohibit any U.S. aid from being used to detain children in Israel, or any other country. HR.2407 currently has 22 cosponsors, but no companion legislation in the Senate. JVP also recently launched a campaign calling on Senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to introduce such a bill.

Witus said that IfNotNow members also called on Schakowsky to back McCollum bill’s and indicated that the group is planning to hold similar actions in the coming months.

“We told Jan’s staff that as Jewish constituents we’re proud of her record as a champion for human rights and a moral leader in the Chicago Jewish community,” said 17-year-old Toby Straus at the action, “It was cold outside, but right now I’m fired up for her to join with young Jews in calling on the U.S. government to defund the Occupation.”

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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