IfNotNow (INN) has a plan. It’s determined, according to its website, to create nothing less than “a movement led by young Jews to reclaim the mantle of Jewish leadership from the out-of-touch establishment.” Or, more specifically, to be “the generation to end our community’s support for the occupation.”
These words written by young Jews are chilling to many for whom Israel is at the very least a safety net preventing future Holocausts and crimes against the Jewish people.
Only four years old, INN is now a force on American college campuses, much like the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). INN employs guerrilla tactics like hosting “anti-occupation” seders on campuses, training Jewish camp counselors to brainwash their campers about the “occupation,” intercepting Birthright Israel travelers to warn them of the “evils” of the country they are about to visit, and staging media events in which Birthright participants walk off their trips to join anti-Israel groups.
INN is not a lone gunman, but it’s emblematic of the explosive growth of the anti-Israel forces on American campuses — including student groups funded by Arab and Arab-sympathizing groups and anti-Israel faculty, many of whose salaries are paid by funded chairs that often bring millions into a university’s coffers.
A 2016 Pew Research Center report showed 27% of American young adults siding with the Palestinians versus 9% a decade earlier. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 57% climb in reports of antisemitism in the United States, including physical attacks and vandalism, many of them on college campuses.
Meanwhile, with some Jewish students hesitating to wear a Jewish star or an IDF sweatshirt for fear of verbal or physical attack — and others joining the demonization of Israel — the Jewish world appears to be slowly awakening from its slumber, determined to stem the onrushing tide.
Now, a new generation of strong Jews is beginning to emerge, forged by the fire.
Determined not to leave Jewish students (and Israel itself) undefended on campus, organizations are leading the effort in three key areas:
Information, Organization and Legal Support
Here are some key players, in alphabetical order:
AIPAC. Known for training college students on the intricacies of Israel’s history and current situation, the organization supports efforts on campus to advocate for Israel as part of “building broad coalitions in support of the US-Israel relationship.” Its underlying focus is on “the values of human dignity and freedom shared by our two sister democracies.”
Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi). The largest international Jewish fraternity makes it a point to “create a pro-Israel presence,” says Israel department head Julian Markowitz. One potent defense against the BDS movement: encouraging its brothers to run for student government, where they can campaign and vote against BDS from the inside.
“I never expected the magnitude here at Cornell,” says incoming senior Jay Sirot. “There was a huge BDS campaign during Pesach and groups of professors in the middle of campus criticizing Israel; a long list of them signed a violently anti-Israel letter in the paper. A pro-Israel stance separates you socially, and if your professors are against it, it’s uncomfortable to be for it. But anti-Israel forces can only win if open dialogue is shut down. That’s why we create opportunities for honest discussion and hearing both sides.”