A Day-by-Day Breakdown of the #JewishResistance at AIPAC

Over the course of 10 days, over a thousand young American Jews demonstrated resistance to Occupation and AIPAC from coast to coast.

Los Angeles, March 17th and 19th

Friday: On March 17, twenty young IfNotNow members from across California blockaded the lobby of the skyscraper that houses AIPAC’s offices in LA for two hours during the morning work rush. This action, which resulted in the arrests of 7 nonviolent protesters, lit the match for successive weeks of action.

Through chants, prayer and passionate speech, the protesters locked arms and blocked entrances to ensure that AIPAC’s business-as-usual — promoting Islamophobia and endless occupation — could not continue. With our bodies and our voices, we demonstrated our commitment to fighting for freedom and dignity for all Palestinians and Israelis. We asserted that our Judaism, informed by the prophetic tradition that runs through generations of Jewish struggles for justice and equality, is incompatible with AIPAC’s support for violent and exclusionary policies in the occupied territories.

The legal process for the 7 arrestees is still ongoing, and donations to the Palestine Legal representative providing for their defense can be made here.

Sunday: On the Sunday morning before AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, Jews from across California gathered at Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills, wearing crowns, masks, and tallitot to celebrate the holiday of Purim. We commemorated Esther’s legacy with a modern-day version of speaking truth to power: calling on AIPAC to end its support for endless occupation. We made it clear that, from coast to coast, Jews demand moral better leadership.

We welcomed 75 Bay Area activists to LA over Shabbat and had a lively Havdallah that included Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Ashkenazi melodies, Yiddish songs, dancing, sharing, and lots of laughter. Then we took to the streets. Some people painted faces, while others noshed on bagels, made groggers, or joined in the drum circle and song session. Off to the side, other IfNotNow members put the finishing touches on a giant Megillah that read “WE WILL NOT BOW DOWN” on one side and “WE WILL RISE UP” on the other. With around 200 marchers ready to go, a car bearing the sign “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof — Justice Justice You Shall Pursue” led a 2-mile procession through the streets of Beverly Hills and into Century City, towards AIPAC’s LA Office. Drummers on the flatbed of the car led the crowd in song and chant.

We arrived at the AIPAC office building, where 7 of our fellow marchers were arrested a couple days earlier for asking AIPAC to support freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. Rabbi Nate DeGroot reminded us of our dark past near the end of the Purim story, when Jews unaccustomed to holding power slaughtered thousands of non-Jews, and then feasted. We recited the mourner’s kaddish to remember all who lost their lives due to occupation and enacted a Purim Shpiel casting AIPAC as Haman. Our day was filled with the emotional highs of celebration of our growing resistance to the occupation, and the lows of the remembering the brutal reality that our communal leaders support.

Washington, DC: March 24–27

Friday: On Friday March 24, our AIPAC mobilization began with a community led Shabbat. 150 IfNowNow leaders and supporters gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat services and dinner. We shared songs, prayers, food and community. It was the perfect way to start a transformative weekend.

Saturday: Saturday was an incredible day for our movement. We set up for the day at the beautiful Quaker meeting house in Washington, D.C. 300 people came in and out of the space throughout the day. IfNotNow members were busy working on a range of projects. Here’s just a taste of what we were up to:

  • Mass Meeting with 300 people to prepare for our mobilization the next day
  • Singing
  • IfNotNow 101 Training
  • Non-Violent Direct Action Training
  • Media Training
  • Making art for our Sunday mobilization
  • Torah Study

This was the first time our movement brought together hundreds of IfNotNow leaders from across the country to gather in the same place, prepare for a collective protest, and build community with one another.

Sunday: Nearly 1,000 Jews gathered on Sunday March 26 to demonstrate the growing opposition to the occupation in the American Jewish community.

We gathered at Franklin Square in the morning where we heard speeches, sang songs and got in formation. We marched to the Walter E Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. where the AIPAC Policy Conference was being held. Two groups of roughly 15 people locked themselves to the doors of the Convention Center. Hundreds stood by them at each entrance, cheering, singing, supporting them and beginning to build the vibrant Jewish community that we know can exist.

Professor Cornel West endorsed our demonstration and came to show solidarity with our movement.

We also faced violence from the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a known violent hate group, whose members attacked IfNotNow supporters and other protesters, including a Palestinian-American professor, Kamal Nayfeh, in his fifties who was hospitalized. JDL members shoved and gave an IfNotNow member a concussion. But we stood strong in this face of this aggression and demonstrated the power of nonviolent discipline.

We dropped a banner inside of the AIPAC conference

Even after the protest was over outside, we weren’t quite done. Four members of IfNotNow purchased tickets to the AIPAC Policy Conference and around 3:30pm on Sunday March 26, dropped two banners that read “IfNotNow Rejects AIPAC and Occupation” while they recited Hillel’s three questions “If I Am Not For Myself, Who Will Be For Me? If I Am Only For Myself, What Am I? If Not Now, When?” AIPAC attendees booed the words of the ancient Jewish sage. The four leaders were soon grabbed by security and kicked out of the building. It can all be seen live streamed here.

The entire mobilization marked the beginning of a shift in our community. More and more American Jews are speaking out against our community’s support for the occupation. IfNotNow members and supporters wrote tens of op-eds and millions of people watched our protest on social media.

Monday: On the Monday following IfNotNow’s largest mobilization to date, 55 IfNotNow members from Washington D.C, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City gathered for a training on Islamophobia. The training was developed and facilitated in coordination with Ramah Kudami of the D.C. Justice for Muslims coalition (also an employee of U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights) and Taher Herzallah (of American Muslims for Palestine) and Rachel Mandelbaum and Jeremy Weyl from the AIPAC planning team and local DC chapter. Jeremy and Rachel also consulted Mizrahi members of IfNotNow, Eden Berdugo and Michal David, during the development of the training.

The training had three sections. The first looked at messages of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism that permeate our society. We split into small groups and focused on the ways the Jewish institutions in which many of us grew-up teach and propagate these messages.

The second part of the training looked at how the right-wing uses Islamophobia to justify and further entrench the occupation. Taher shared his Palestinian’s family story since the founding of Israel, before we went into greater detail about various Jewish institutions that perpetuate Islamophobia support the occupation.

Finally, we concluded by engaging with the ways Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism are intertwined, and how it relates to oppression of Arab-Jews within our own community. IfNotNow leader Michal David shared a powerful story about her family, here and in Israel, and about her experiences as a Mizrahi Jew in IfNotNow,

Our workshop looked at the ways Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and Ashkenazi dominance in our community are connected. We left committed to seeing these connections and working to end these forms of oppression. Fighting racism and bigotry in every form is integral to our efforts to end the Jewish community’s support for the occupation.

Monday Evening: We took our anti-Islamophobia message to the walls of AIPAC. We projected an image onto the walls of the AIPAC office building, demonstrating our opposition to AIPAC, its use of Islamophobia, and its support for the occupation. We shared our stories, sang of course and chalked our message of freedom and dignity onto the steps of the AIPAC building.