In the weeks since October 7th, when Hamas attacked the south of Israel and Israel began bombing Gaza, American Jewish institutions that had previously expressed alienation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government have mostly united around a pro-Israel position. At the same time, however, record numbers of progressive American Jews have joined the anti-occupation organizations Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow in taking to the streets to call for a ceasefire. In the last three weeks, Jewish protestors have blocked entrances to the White House, occupied a Capitol Hill building rotunda, and shut down New York City’s Grand Central station to protest US support for bombings that have already killed more than 8,000 Palestinians in Gaza, 3,000 of whom have been children.
In this episode of On the Nose, associate editor Mari Cohen discusses this surge in Jewish left organizing with Elena Stein, director of organizing strategy at JVP; Eva Borgwardt, national spokesperson for IfNotNow; and Emmaia Gelman, guest faculty in social sciences at Sarah Lawrence College and longtime Jewish left activist. They discuss mourning Israeli civilians killed on October 7th—some of whom were family members of IfNotNow and JVP staff—while simultaneously organizing against Israel’s onslaught on Gaza; they also consider the comparative strategic value of speaking out specifically as Jews versus joining broader antiwar coalitions.
Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”
Articles Mentioned and Further Reading:
“Jewish Groups Rally at White House Urging Biden to Push for Gaza Ceasefire,” Robert Tait, The Guardian
“Jewish Activists Arrested at US Congress Anti-Israel Protest Amid Gaza War,” Al Jazeera staff, Al Jazeera
“‘Let Gaza Live’: Calls for Cease-Fire Fill Grand Central Terminal,” Claire Fahy, Julian Roberts-Grmela and Sean Piccoli, The New York Times
“Survey: A Quarter of US Jews Agree That Israel ‘is an Apartheid State,’” Ron Kampeas, JTA
“The Rise of ‘If Not Now’ and the Collapse of the Pro-Israel Consensus,” Alex Kane, Mondoweiss
“The Anti-Democratic Origins of the ADL and AJC,” Emmaia Gelman, Jewish Currents
“The ADL Doubles Down on Opposing the Anti-Zionist Left,” Mari Cohen and Isaac Scher, Jewish Currents