The Washington Post Runs a Puff Piece on IfNotNow

A recent Washington Post article on the anti-Israel organization IfNotNow was more puff piece than journalism (“#SkipAIPAC comes from new generation of Jewish activists,” March 2, 2020). Reporter Michelle Boorstein whitewashed the group’s troubling history, objectives and associations, omitting important facts and key details.

The Post detailed IfNotNow protests of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2020 conference, claiming that the group merely “opposes Israel’s military occupation and, accordingly, is “used to being called fringe and antisemitic.” IfNotNow, the newspaper asserts, “was founded in 2014, in the wake of the war between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip, and it has 16 chapters in the United States and Canada. Members hold a range of views about Israeli policy and Palestinian statehood, group leaders say. Many have close ties to Israel and went to Jewish day schools.” Their “institutional tone,” Boorstein writes, “is confrontational.”

But this isn’t the full story.

In fact, IfNotNow is anti-Zionist, refusing to state unequivocally that they believe in Jewish self-determination and the right of Israelis to live in peace in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland. Indeed, as NGO Monitor has documented, IfNotNow was “silent in [the] face of Palestinian rockets” being launched at Israel during May 2019. The organization even called the death of Imad Mohammad Nseir—a member of the Kataeb Humat al-Aqsa terror organization—“devastating.” IfNotNow also accused Israel of “murdering Palestinian civilians” during that conflict—overlooking the fact that Israel was responding to rockets indiscriminately fired by Gaza-based terror groups from behind the cover of human shields, a double war crime.

Contra to the Post’s mealy-mouthed description, IfNotNow has itself trafficked in antisemitism. The group has warned about the “Judaization of East Jerusalem.” As the blogger Elder of Ziyon wrote, IfNotNow is “saying that Jews should not have the right to legally purchase property in most of Jerusalem, simply because they are Jewish.” Further, the use of the word “Judaization” as an epithet is a staple of antisemitic rhetoric, appearing in Henry Ford’s notorious tract “The International Jew—The World’s Foremost Problem,” among other antisemitic sources.

Nor is IfNotNow the organic, Jewish-led organization that the Post would have readers believe. One of the group’s founders and board members, Seth Woody, is an “activist on the Evangelical left and a lead organizer of the Leadership Development Initiative of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts,” as Claire Voltaire has documented. Other early IfNotNow organizers, such as Sara Blazevic, aren’t Jewish either. One doesn’t need to be Jewish, of course, to have an opinion on Israel. But it is disingenuous to portray IfNotNow as an organization founded by Jewish activists.

Indeed, IfNotNow isn’t a grassroots “movement” either. As NGO Monitor has highlighted, the group has received extensive funding from anti-Israel organizations. For example, in 2017, IfNotNow was granted $20,000 from Rockefeller Brothers Fund for general support. And in 2018, the group received money from the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). Both of these organizations have a history of funding anti-Israel groups and activities. Indeed, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has supported groups like Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), which has had employees and board members with links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group. Rockefeller Brothers Fund has also supported another similar group, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has had members caught pretending to be Jewish and which has perpetrated modern incarnations of the age-old antisemitic blood libel (for details, see CAMERA’s Feb. 7, 2019 report “Jewish Voice for Peace’: What the Media is Concealing”).

As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has noted, “JVP’s dissemination of the view that Israel and its U.S. supporters  are fundamentally racist oppressors of non-Jews has the effect of perpetuating the classic anti-Jewish stereotype of Jews as self-centered elitists, disdainful of non-Jews, who are focused on their own interests, sometimes at others’ expense.” IfNotNow has partnered with JVP, including at an April 2018 protest of Birthright, a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to make diaspora Jews familiar with their ancestral homeland via subsidized trips to Israel.

IfNotNow has other disturbing partnerships. A July 31, 2019 JNS article highlighted ties between IfNotNow and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a “virulently antisemitic organization.” Among numerous examples, Leena Yousef, an AMP-Chicago activist, has stated “I believe in [the] holocaust. One of my fav parts of history.” Another AMP member, Mohamad Habehh, has called Jews “dogs.”

Importantly, several IfNotNow leaders have connections to J Street. J Street co-founder Carianne Luck is an IfNotNow organizer, and Simmone Zimmerman, a one-time Bernie Sanders campaign activist and IfNowNow co-founder was a J Street campus activist. The documented connections between the two groups—and J Street’s role as a “gateway drug” for anti-Israel organizations like IfNotNow—wasn’t explored by the Post, despite the fact that the newspaper extensively quoted J Street officials for the article.

Also left unsaid by the Post: IfNotNow’s true agenda. IfNotNow’s real purpose is to sow division in the Jewish community, weakening American Jewish support for the Jewish state, while simultaneously providing cover for those who seek its destruction. This is readily apparent when one looks at its founders, funding and strategy. And that strategy relies on lies and obfuscation.

As the writer Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll wrote in an Aug. 14, 2019 op-ed, “Lying by omission is the activist group IfNotNow’s specialty.” The group has sent members and supporters on Birthright trips only to have them do publicized “protest walk outs” in the middle of the trip, pretending meanwhile that their decision to do so was unplanned and spontaneous. As Jaskoll noted, IfNotNow has also ambushed presidential candidates with questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only to remove “all references to Palestinian responsibility and agency” in heavily edited videos shared on their social media.

More recently, in an event that seems to have spurred the Post article itself, when several Democratic presidential candidates stated that they weren’t going to be speaking at the 2020 AIPAC conference, IfNotNow claimed victory. But this was disingenuous—the conference itself landed on the same day as Super Tuesday, a key primary voting day for presidential campaigns. Instead, far from boycotting the conference due to an IfNotNow pressure campaign, several candidates attended via video conference and one, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, still managed to attend in person.

Yet, the Post’s article on IfNotNow omits its history of distortions, its questionable associations, and its very raison d’etre. Instead, readers are left with an omission-laden puff piece that, at best, promotes a false understanding of the group. IfNotNow is not a grassroots organization of American Jews who are merely critical of Israel. And the Washington Post’s March 2, 2020 report on the group is not journalism.

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