As a cohort, Jewish millennials have acquiesced to the half-baked scenarios presented by the radical left-wing group IfNotNow. They’ve strategically branded themselves as ardent advocates for social justice and human rights in Israel, “to see the full picture,” a description in this case synonymous with anti-Israel—and by extension, anti-democratic—sentiment. It’s unfathomable to me how effective their campaigns to band young Jews against Israel has proven, and it’s frightening to consider that millennials are the impending leadership of of American Jewry.
Despite being highly biased against Israel’s existence (IfNotNow refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism), it’s elementary to comprehend why IfNotNow has grown so rapidly and their message believed by so many of my generation. Their leaders present the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in the most oversimplified, cut-and-dry terms, allowing American Jews to easily grasp the Palestinian narrative without delving into the Israeli perspective and grappling with the reality that each side possesses legitimate concerns. IfNotNow continually employs broad and generalized rhetoric to depict the ‘Palestinian struggle,’ spouting fallacies like “Israel denies Palestinians freedom and dignity by depriving them of civil, political and economic rights” and making generalized claims like “the out-of-touch establishment to continue leading us down a path of isolation and fear that is wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of Palestinians and alienating a generation of young American Jews.” Without question, the vast majority of the group’s statements have no genuine basis in fact, but it’s the much simpler stance to adopt in the matter: no one ever supports the reigning champ, they invariably stand with the underdog, no matter how illegitimate or reckless a choice that may be.
And compared with the host of prominent pro-Israel organizations, IfNotNow is composed of a far more savvy leadership. They know how to systematically reach and interact with young Jews, utilizing emotional and loosely-factual stories of despair in addition to coordinating high-profile and disruptive protests—-in effect speaking the ‘millennial language’ of taking to the streets in opposition. “Will we unite to fight the occupation, and in doing so, resist the burden and bonds of a victim narrative and make Judaism relevant and meaningful to our generation?” These are fighting words for millennials, tackling an establishment–Israel–head-on in order to restore some perceived justice is what politically-charged young people have done in recent years. IfNotNow banks on this fighting spirit of millennials to garner support and combat Israel in swathes. Their rhetoric coupled with a robust social media presence, far outclassing many pro-Israel groups, has piqued the attention of the millennial cohort unlike any Israel-centric organization to date.
Last week IfNotNow furthered their agenda to “end American youth support for the occupation ” when five of their activists sabotaged a Birthright trip in order to visit Hebron and, in true IfNotNow fashion, to grab a few headlines and incite internal conflict among Jews.
Reservists on Duty noted that this infiltration and deliberate disruption of a consensus organization, Birthright, is a new low connived by IfNotNow’s leadership, and a blatant attempt to disrespect Birthright, Israel, and the Jewish faith. They took to politicizing the trip by dispatching undercover operatives, an extremely unethical act reflective of the malicious intent of IfNotNow as an organization.
Since it’s inception, Birthright has prevailed as a cultural and religious multi-day experience to tens of thousands of young American Jews who travel throughout Israel and foster their connection to Judaism and their religious and cultural connection to the land–a land which IfNotNow—a Jewish-led movement—continuously refutes and rejects vehemently. And the assertions made by IfNotNow against Birthright are largely unfounded, as Benji Davis, a Birthright tour guide of seven years, writes that Birthright participants do learn the Palestinian story, of settlements, and of the dilemma of collective security against collective rights, presenting matters from a bipartisan standpoint and sharing all accounts with attendees, contrasting the accusations lobbed at Birthright from IfNotNow. Whereas Birthright daily attempts to bridge the divide between American Jews and their Israeli heritage, IfNotNow burns those bridges to indoctrinate and mobilize the next generations of Diaspora Jews against Israel.
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