A relatively new group of young Jewish activists known as IfNotNow (INN) is appealing to a wide swath of Jewry with proclamations of social justice while seeking to influence pro-Israel Jewish organizations.
Its most recent target was the National Ramah Commission, responsible for providing over 11,000 kids with a fun Jewish summer experience and instilling within them a love for Israeli culture and Jewish traditions.
When I attended Camp Ramah, Zionism was promoted by through Israeli food, Israeli songs, and immersion in Israeli cultural life. INN must take umbrage at these aspects of camp life for young American Jews since it recently implored Ramah’s leadership to teach about Israel’s “occupation.”
A good window into the motives of any organization is the nature of its leadership. INN founder Simone Zimmerman served briefly as coordinator of Jewish outreach for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign; she was let go after vitriolic and unwaveringly anti-Israel Facebook posts of hers were exposed. That Zimmerman was too left-wing and anti-Zionist for Bernie Sanders’ liking tells you something about the principles and doctrines of the INN movement.
INN co-founder Max Berger, meanwhile, regularly makes extreme assertions on Twitter. On June 12, he tweeted, “The GOP is a white nationalist party,” adding three days later that Trump’s cabinet is “full of the dumbest Nazis.” On June 9, Berger retweeted Sarah Silverman who compared ICE immigration officers to Nazis, and on June 7 he retweeted Linda Sarsour, who maintains that feminists cannot be Zionists. These tweets came in the span of a week and are prime examples of the biased beliefs of this INN co-founder and, by extension, the organization itself.
INN is trying to undermine the loyalty of American Jews towards Israel with skewed information and damaging rhetoric. As per its website, INN indoctrination has reached members of key America Jewish youth organizations such as Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue Youth, Solomon Schechter, Ramah, BBYO, and North American Federation of Temple Youth.
INN has actually created a “Liberation Syllabus,” consisting of material that to a great extent unjustly slanders Israel. It features, among others, Michael Chabon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and a known anti-Israel activist who recently gained apparent clout among IfNotNow followers by condemning Jewish in-marriage and professing a distaste for religion at a recent commencement address at the Hebrew Union College in California.
Also prominent on the list is B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), which offers a pro-Palestinian advocacy without acknowledging Israeli concerns and perspectives. Like INN, B’Tselem is an ardently partisan organization pushing an inherently flawed agenda.
INN claims “not [to] take a unified stance on… Zionism or the question of statehood,” and purportedly supports a two-state solution. With its intentionally ambiguous verbiage, INN wishes to reserve the right to allege support for Israel while also accommodating the sizable number of its supporters who denounce Israel’s existence altogether.
It’s very troubling that IfNotNow has gained traction and credibility among American Jews, especially millennials. INN is virtually silent on the ills surrounding Israel – including the civil war and chemical warfare in Syria. It focuses exclusively on Israel’s continued control of pre-1967 land with no acknowledgement of how or why Israel came to be there.
No country is immune from criticism – including Israel – but INN does nothing to advance or deepen understanding of multiple perspectives in this complex region of the world. #YouNeverToldMe