New anti-Israel group debuts in Seattle

Rabbi David Basior’s Kadima Congregation & Cong. Kol Ami’s Rabbi Kinberg join BDS friendly group in anti-Israel protest.

IMGP3687

Photo Credit: The Mike Report

Shielding themselves from the persistent Seattle drizzle, about a dozen protesters huddled under a protective overhang alongside the Henry M. Jackson Federal building this morning. Evenly divided between millennials and the middle aged, they dutifully scribbled their timeworn slogans upon the dampening slabs of white poster paper. In all appearances unremarkable, this was in fact the inaugural event for the Seattle branch of IfNotNow. Drawing participants across the spectrum, from the anti-settlement left to the hard anti-Zionist left, the group’s stated purpose is to pressure “American Jewish institutions to end their support for the occupation”. The group hopes to achieve this goal via engineering disturbances in the lobbies  of Jewish communal organizations and at pro-Israel events like the AIPAC policy conference. 

IMGP3679

If Not Now activists scrawling anti-Israel slogans. Photo Credit: The Mike Report

IfNotNow is not a pro-Israel organization. It does not deserve the support of left-leaning American Jews. – Rabbi Eric Yoffie

Officially IfNotNow is agnostic on BDS, Zionism and even on whether there should exist a Jewish State. From their website; “We do not take a unified stance on BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood.” According to NGO Monitor “If Not Now has been criticized for refusing to engage in dialogue with those it criticizes in the Jewish community.”

ifnotnow-aipac-protest

Coinciding with the Seattle protest, IfNotNow activists in Washington DC physically blocked the doors of the convention center where the AIPAC conference was held. The group exhibited no care or concern for the serious safety hazard they created by blocking entry or egress.

IfNotNow leader Sarah Brammer-Shlay has voiced her support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement saying “I see it as a legitimate tactic to fighting the atrocities of the occupation” 

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism has condemned IfNotNow, describing it as “not a pro-Israel organization” adding that “it does not deserve the support of left-leaning American Jews”.  Says Rabbi Yoffie, “It takes no position on whether or not Jews should have a state in the Land of Israel. It takes no position on Zionism, which asserts the right of Jews to a homeland that is both Jewish and democratic. It takes no position on BDS, the movement that attempts to do away with Israel through a policy of economic boycott, divestment, and sanctions.  No person or organization can claim to be a friend of Israel and remain silent on matters so fundamental to Israel’s character and very existence.”

Rabbi Daniel Gordis posits that “It is quite possible, even leaders on the left have noted, that If Not Now is one of several organizations masquerading as pro-Israel groups who wish to end the occupation, when what they really wish to end is Israel.”

Anti-Zionist activist Phil Weiss lauds IfNotNow as a gateway drug to anti-Israel activism. He told readers of his rabidly anti-Israel website Mondoweiss that IfNotNow “will have the effect of bringing mainstream Jews into the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement on their own terms.”

Simone Adler, the organizer of today’s Seattle protest is well known in anti-Israel circles, being one of six locals joining Rabbi David Basior this May to engage in “direct action” against the IDF in Hebron. Although Rabbi Basior himself did not attend today’s march, his Kadima Congregation was well represented with a large banner bobbing above the anti-Israel slogans.

Not deterred by IfNotNow’s friendly association with the BDS movement, Rabbi Yohana Kinberg of Reform Congregation Kol Ami in Woodinville was a visible and enthusiastic participant in the anti-Israel outing.

17309549_1289396304482145_4224465023924120681_n

Photo Credit: IfNotNow/Facebook

IMGP3704

Photo Credit: The Mike Report

Efforts at interviewing participants were repeatedly spoiled by a terse directive from a group leader to protesters. Nevertheless, I was able to chat with a few participants as they made their way from downtown Seattle to Cal Anderson Park.

Although extremely guarded and unwilling to be recorded on video, I found all who were willing to speak with me to be civil. I asked each of those with whom I spoke the same question, “In your opinion is the Western Wall occupied territory?” The answers provided were enlightening. One woman said she believed Jerusalem should be internationalized and supported a one state solution. When I asked if Jerusalem held any special sanctity and attachment for Jews, she replied “it holds a special place for many faiths.” Another protester answered in the affirmative, that in his mind the Western Wall was indeed occupied territory. I followed up by asking him if Jaffa was also occupied, he said he did not know enough about the situation to answer. He suggested I browse the IfNotNow website for an answer (spoiler alert, no answer there).

The last interview of the day was with Rainer Waldman Adkins, a local artist and former Seattle chair of J Street. Waldman Adkins will be joining the Seattle anti-Israel contingent traveling to Hebron this May. When asked if the Western Wall is in his mind occupied territory, he acknowledged the sacred status Jews ascribe to the site but emphasized “armed conflict should not determine a situation”.  “Reluctantly” said Waldman-Adkins even this holy place “should be up for negotiation”.

Editor: This article has been updated to include a quote from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Rabbi Daniel Gordis and Phil Weiss.

MORE ABOUT IFNOTNOW:

Advertisements