Opinion: Why IfNotNow’s half-baked anti-Zionism appeals to my millenial peers

Jewish millennials my age have acquiesced to the half-baked scenarios presented by the radical left-wing group IfNotNow. Here’s why. 

By: Noah Phillips

IfNotNow activists have strategically branded themselves as ardent advocates for social justice and human rights in Israel. They claim to “see the full picture,” a description in this case synonymous with anti-Israel and, by extension, anti-democratic sentiment.

Their campaigns to band young Jews against Israel have proven to be alarmingly successful, and it’s frightening to consider that millennials are the impending leadership of American Jewry.

Despite being highly biased against Israel’s existence (IfNotNow refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism), it’s easy to comprehend why IfNotNow has grown so rapidly and their message believed by so many of my generation. Their leaders present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the most oversimplified, cut-and-dry terms, allowing American Jews to easily grasp the Palestinian narrative without delving into the Israeli perspective or grappling with the reality that each side poses legitimate concerns.

IfNotNow continually employs broad and generalized rhetoric to depict the ‘Palestinian struggle,’ spouting fallacies such as “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 continues 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 has 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 out to and interact with young Jews, utilizing emotional and loosely factual stories of despair in addition to coordinating high-profile and disruptive protest. In effect, they speak the ‘millennial language’ of taking to the streets in opposition.

Making Judaism ‘relevant’ by fighting the establishment

“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. This 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 its 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, grabbed a few headlines and ignited 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 undermine Birthright and Israel. 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 its inception, Birthright has been a cultural and religious multi-day experience for tens of thousands of young American Jews who travel throughout Israel and foster their connection to Judaism and their religious and cultural ties to the land. In contrast, IfNotNow—a Jewish-led movement—continuously refuses to accept the Jewish People’s historical connection to the land.

Whereas Birthright daily attempts to bridge the divide between American Jews and the Israeli heritage, IfNotNow burns those bridges. Unfortunately, the organization has concocted a worryingly successful agenda for achieving this end.

Noah Phillips is a young writer with a keen interest in Jewish and Israeli affairs. He is the founder of the Jewish Examiner as well as a syndicated columnist for various publications. Follow Noah on Twitter @noahaphilli