What started with a Birthright tour bus is moving to the presidential campaign bus.
IfNotNow, an organization founded in 2014 with a call for “American Jewish institutions to end their support for the Occupation,” is elbowing its way into Democratic politics this presidential election season. In an effort to bring Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians front and center in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, IfNotNow announced last week that it has launched a 501(c)(4), a nonprofit that is allowed to lobby and participate in political activity, “meant to bring the crisis of the Israeli military Occupation over the Palestinian people to the forefront of the 2020 Campaign.”
“We’re seeing in the American Jewish community a base of young people, and I would say the majority of the community doesn’t actually agree with the politics of the establishment, and the same is true on this issue within the larger Democratic Party,” Emily Mayer, an organizer with IfNotNow, told The Jewish Week.
The group — which does not take a position on whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state — has hired six full-time fellows to live in New Hampshire and spend the summer publicly confronting candidates during their events, it said in a statement. (The group gained publicity for confronting Birthright Israel leaders on tour buses and provocatively walking off trips to protest the lack of a Palestinian perspective.)
Last Saturday, IfNotNow members posed for a photo with candidate Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, holding a “Jews Against the Occupation” sign.
“As we’re putting forward big new policy ideas like Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, I think IfNotNow sees an opportunity to actually extend that kind of bold progressivism that is breaking with the status quo into the realm of Israel/Palestine,” said Mayer. “So it feels like an opportunity to make opposition to the occupation be seen as part of a progressive plank that the Democratic Party is moving more and more towards.”
IfNotNow said in its announcement that it founded the new arm in order to “expose the occupation as a moral crisis within the American Jewish community, end the weaponization of anti-Semitism in the political debate over Israel, and create political space for leaders who will stand up for the freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.” The group is hoping to expand the initiative to other locations in the coming months.