Paul Schneider

The Useful Idiots of ‘IfNotNow’

IfNotNow via Facebook

On October 7, shortly after that day’s genocidal attack, the young Jewish American anti-Zionists of IfNotNow issued a statement saying, in part: “We cannot and will not say today’s actions by Palestinian militants are unprovoked. Every day under Israel’s system of apartheid is a provocation.” Referring to Israelis and Palestinians who had been killed, the group said, “Their blood is on the hands of the Israeli” and American governments for causing “Palestinian oppression.” The hands of Hamas terrorists went unmentioned.

Since that hot take, IfNotNow has continued to display the same kind of moral bankruptcy.

About two weeks after October 7, I attended an IfNotNow webinar entitled “Jews for Ceasefire.” It was hosted by an earnest young woman named Gen. (IfNotNow workers often don’t use their surnames.) She began by reaffirming what the group calls its main goal: to “end American support for Israeli apartheid.” She went on to emphasize that all the positions taken by IfNotNow are “deeply grounded in Jewish tradition.” To prove the point, she called on Rabbi Monica Gomery, who led a prayer and enthusiastically praised the group’s work.

Next up was Noa, a young woman who said, “I’m going to root us in the moment.” However, “the moment” did not include the murderous attack of October 7. Noa said nothing about it. Nor did she mention the hundreds of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. She presented only a litany of alleged Israeli abuses inflicted on Palestinians. It was as if Israel’s defense operations were a pure act of aggression.

Following Noa, there was testimony from a young man named Boaz. He made a “confession” that his grandfather had helped perpetrate the Nakba. What he meant was, his grandfather was a soldier in the Israeli war of independence. For Boaz, this was a source of shame, not pride. As he explained, he was trying to work through his guilt. A poster behind him said, “Palestine will be free.”

After Boaz’s self-flagellation came the highlight of the meeting: an appearance by Rashida Tlaib. She has been an ally of IfNotNow for some time. In fact, the group’s leadership has known her since before she was elected to Congress. During her presentation, Tlaib referred to them as her “siblings.”

Sporting a tee shirt that said, “Justice from Detroit to Gaza,” Tlaib declared that Congress must demand a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas and “stop funding war crimes.” Like her supporters at IfNotNow, Tlaib made no mention of the October 7 attack or the hostages held by Hamas. Palestinian victimhood was her only concern.

Obviously, it didn’t bother the leaders of IfNotNow that the House of Representatives had just censured Tlaib for her eliminationist call to free Palestine “from the river to the sea.” Indeed, IfNotNow leaders repeat the same call in their own training sessions. That training also endorses the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and the so-called “right of return,” aimed at demographically ending the Jewish state. As the group says, it’s all about “organizing alongside Palestinians.”

Nor did it bother IfNotNow leaders that Tlaib has characterized the Hamas slaughter as justified “resistance” to an “apartheid state.” And they weren’t concerned that she has posted a video saying, “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.” In fact, one of IfNotNow’s campaigns, calling for a ceasefire, is entitled, “No Genocide in Our Name.”

In a statement that IfNotNow has officially endorsed, Tlaib once said, “you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government.” This is what it’s come to: among a growing number of young American Jews, condemnation of Israel is the sine qua non of holding progressive values. And they look to Rashida Tlaib to lead the way, too naïve to realize that she’s using them.

These people are the type that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has called “Hamas’s useful idiots.”

The members of IfNotNow are not bothered by Tlaib’s use of antisemitic tropes, such as her claim that American supporters of Israel “forgot what country they represent,” which promotes the idea of Jewish dual loyalty. Or her talk of “people behind the curtain” exploiting victims “from Gaza to Detroit.” And they seem unconcerned that Tlaib is the only member of Congress to call for an end to the Jewish state. Why should that bother them? This is a group that has said it takes no position on Israel’s right to exist.

Like Tlaib and many other social justice ideologues, the members of IfNotNow divide people into two rigid groups: oppressors and the oppressed. Depending on your racial or ethnic identity, you irrevocably belong to one or the other. There are no gradations, no nuance, and only one possible narrative. Thus, decades of genocidal Arab violence go unmentioned, including the attack of October 7. There is only Israeli oppression and Palestinian “resistance.”

This leads Tlaib and IfNotNow to argue that there must be an immediate ceasefire. But Hamas has promised a permanent state of war. Therefore, as Susie Linfield recently noted in an important article for Quillette, any call for a ceasefire is nonsensical. “In fact,” Linfield wrote, “a ceasefire (as opposed to a humanitarian pause) would be entirely unilateral on Israel’s part, which raises the question of why Israel would lay down its arms against a forthrightly eliminationist enemy that holds more than 220 hostages.” As Lynfield warned, Hamas would then be “allowed to keep its bombs and bomb factories, assault rifles, drones, grenades, missiles, rockets, and tens of thousands of fighters as it plans future mass slaughters. How this will lead to anything approaching peace, as its advocates insist, rather than to war ad infinitum, as Hamas promises, is bewildering.”

Finally, don’t think that IfNotNow is an inconsequential outlier. They have nine chapters across the United States, including an office on K Street in Washington. The webinar I attended had more than 1,600 attendees. According to NGO Monitor, IfNotNow has received grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation, the New Israel Fund’s Progressive Jewish Fund, and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

All that, plus support from a member of the United States Congress.

Paul Schneider is an attorney, writer and member of the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International.

About the Author
Paul Schneider is an attorney, writer and member of the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland and frequently travels to Israel.
Related Topics
Related Posts