Dozens of American Jews arrested protesting Gaza violence

From Boston to San Francisco, young activists from IfNotNow demonstrate outside the offices of prominent Jewish institutions and senators, demanding they condemn Israel’s violence against Gaza protesters.

Police arrest an IfNotNow protester outside Senator Chuck Schumer's office in New York City, during an action protesting IDF violence on the border with Gaza. (Gili Getz)

Police arrest an IfNotNow protester outside Senator Chuck Schumer’s office in New York City, during an action protesting IDF violence on the border with Gaza, April 9, 2018. (Gili Getz)

Thirty-seven American Jews were arrested across the United States last week in a series of actions outside the offices of major Jewish institutions and elected officials to protest the ongoing violence against Palestinians at the Israel-Gaza border.

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The actions, organized by the Jewish-American group IfNotNow, took place in Boston, New York, Twin Cities, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and Washington DC, where young Jews demanded statements condemning Israeli violence against the unarmed protesters taking part in the “Great Return March.” Since the march began three weeks ago, Israeli snipers have killed over 30 Palestinians and wounded 1,200 more.

IfNotNow was established in the summer of 2014 during Israel’s war in Gaza by young American Jews. Angered by the overwhelming support of American Jewish institutions for the war, they began organizing actions calling for an end to the war, an end to the occupation, and freedom and dignity for all. Since then, IfNotNow has organized hundreds of nonviolent actions — and, more recently, delegations to Israel-Palestine — with the aim of pushing Jewish institutions to stop supporting the occupation.

The first action took place in Boston on the morning of April 3rd, less than a week after Israeli snipers gunned down 17 Palestinians in Gaza. Activists chained themselves to the Israeli Consulate of New England, read the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer traditionally recited for family or community members who have died, and demanded that Consul General Yehuda Yaakov condemn Israeli violence. Eight activists were arrested.

Young Jewish activists from IfNotNow link arms outside the Israeli Consulate of New England in Boston. The activists read the Mourner's Kaddish and demanded the consul general condemn IDF violence against Palestinian marchers in Gaza. (Emily Glick)

Young Jewish activists from IfNotNow link arms outside the Israeli Consulate of New England in Boston. The activists read the Mourner’s Kaddish and demanded the consul general condemn IDF violence against Palestinian marchers in Gaza, April 3, 2018. (Emily Glick)

Eliza Kaplan, 24, who participated in the Boston action, spoke to +972 by phone about the impetus for the actions: “We see the status quo in Gaza to be unacceptable, and we find the IDF’s violence to be horrendous. That is why we are calling on Jewish leaders to condemn it and be a moral voice. If they are not going to be the moral leaders of our community, then IfNotNow will be those leaders.”

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“My Jewish identity is really important to me,” Kaplan continued, “we are trying to bring our entire community to share the values of freedom for all people and speak out.” Less than a week after the Boston action, seven IfNotNow activists were arrested after blocking the doors of New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s New York City office.

IfNotNow protesters demonstrate outside the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, April 11, 2018. (Amira Alhassan)

IfNotNow protesters demonstrate outside the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, April 11, 2018. (Amira Alhassan)

On April 10th, a group of Jewish activists locked arms in front of the entrance of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Minnesota, blocking entry to the many businesses in the building. A day later, five Jewish activists were arrested after blocking the doors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ offices. Elon Glickman, one of those arrested, spoke to the crowd during the action:

I grew up in the Jewish community of Los Angeles, where I learned that freedom and dignity are core Jewish values. As young Jews and members of this Jewish community, we’re asking the Federation to do the bare minimum and condemn this unconscionable violence. How long will they stay silent as live ammunition is used against Palestinian protesters? How many more Palestinians need to be killed before they speak out?

On April 13th, a group of 20 young Jews from IfNotNow Bay Area demonstrated outside California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office in San Francisco. Nine of the activists who blocked the entrance to her office were arrested. The activists demanded that she join Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in condemning the violence. Later that afternoon, Feinstein tweeted that the violence is “exceptionally destructive for both the Palestinians and the state of Israel. It must end. Violence is not the pathway to reconciliation.”

On Monday night, police arrested five more IfNotNow activists protesting outside Maryland Senator Ben Cardin’s office on Capitol Hill.