Friday, August 30, 2019

Is There Anyone From J Street Who ISN'T A Co-Founder of If Not Now?

Just asking.

It seems there are various former members of J Street, some who served in leadership positions, who are now involved in If Not Now -- and some of them are apparently founding members.

For example:

Max Berger
  • He is identified as a co-founder of If Not Now in his 'bio' on Haaretz
  • JTA article notes that before If Not Now, Max Berger worked for J Street as a new media assistant
Yonah Lieberman
Carinne Luck
  • Times of Israel identifies Carinne Luck as a co-founder of If Not Now.
  • Luck's website notes she was a founding staff member and Vice President for Field and Campaigns at J Street.
Simone Zimmerman
  • Simone Zimmerman identifies herself as a co-founder of If Not Now on her Twitter page.
  • In an article for The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis writes that Simone Zimmerman was the national president of J Street U’s student board in the 2012-2013 school year
Kara Segal
Emily Mayer
Sarah Beth Alcabes
Canary Mission lists Sarah Beth Alcabes as leading an INN disruption, in partnership with Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and also being an activist with J Street U at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley) from 2012-2014.

Times of Israel mentions Elianna Fishman, who was "heavily involved with J Street U Dartmouth" and who confirms "I interned for J Street, and helped set up a chapter on campus” before graduating and joining IfNotNow -- to which the article adds
In fact, many of IfNotNow’s leaders are alumni of J Street U.
An article in Haaretz echoes this when it says:
[If Not Now] remains small, attracting several dozen participants, some of whom are leaders of J Street U, the group’s student-organizing arm.
But the question remains: why have these, and other members of J Street, made the switch?

According to a Haaretz article from 2014, Gaza War Pushes Some to the Left of J Street. The logic, according to Haaretz, is that over time, J Street, even back in 2014, was becoming larger and more moderate, with the result that there were the beginnings of a limited exodus that benefited smaller more radical groups. One of those groups was If Not Now, described in the article as "an ad hoc group."

Of course, what the Haaretz article claims is a sign of J Street's moderation can also be seen as the failure in the eyes of some of its members, to become increasingly radical.

A similar theme to Haaretz is taken by Nathan-Kazis in the Forward also in an article from 2014, that in contrast to the more "moderate" tone taken by J Street, some members felt J Street was not doing enough:
Former high-ranking J Street staff members were among the organizers of a July 28 protest in New York City against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. They acted under the name #ifnotnow and made no mention of their former J Street affiliations.
He writes about another protest just a few days earlier, launched by 4 activists that included high-ranking members Carinne Luck who had left J Street in 2012 and Daniel May, director of J Street U from 2010 to 2013 as well as Max Berger.

Other participants in one or both of those #ifnotnow protests included Isaac Luria, J Street’s vice president of communications and new media from 2008 until 2011 and Tamara Shapiro.

Some of that former J Street staff said they were not opposed to J Street’s long-term strategy -- but felt limited by its tactics. Others, like Luck, said they did not share J Street's "patience" with the "Jewish institutional community."

That is the narrative.
Daniel Greenfield of isn't buying it.

He is cynical of claims that If Not Now was simply born of a break with J Street. In If Not Now, J Street's Latest Anti-Israel Front Group, he writes:
The official narrative is that If Not Now parted ways with J Street because the group was insufficiently opposed to the Jewish State and insufficiently supportive of Hamas. As a practical matter though this is how radical groups have always operated, with a front group that makes efforts to appear moderate while incubating radical organizations within itself that "split off" but still pursue the same agenda.

Despite claims of a split, If Not Now is just pursuing the exact same agenda as J Street U, protesting Jewish charities for supporting Israel, while claiming to be the voice of a new generation.

It's the same scam with a new brand and slightly less of a paper trail.

If Not Now is J Street...

...New organizations are constantly being created and destroyed. But they all share one agenda. The destruction of the Jewish State.
If there is indeed an element of dramatic effect at work here, then this alleged break would be no more authentic than the recent break of Jesse Steshenko, who claimed to have been "a very ardent Zionist" who as a result of his recent J Street trip to Israel became "disgusted" with Israel.

Elder of Ziyon revealed that in fact as recently as 2016 as a member of Junior States of America, a mock Congress, he introduced a resolution calling Israel an apartheid state and demanding the recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as defined by the 1949 Armistice -- effectively depriving Israel of the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

Actually, J Street itself has a history of being less than straightforward.
Carinne Luck's involvement in If Not Now is another reason for apprehension.

Here is a 2012 video of Luck explaining J Street's job:

The main takeaway from what Luck says:
  • A sizable percentage of J Street is not Jewish
  • J Street responds to the wishes "the Hill, the (Obama) Administration" which wants J Street to "move Jews"
  • The bulk of J Street resources are dedicated to this
  • There is an uneasiness about those in J Street leadership who are not Jewish who may present themselves as Jews
This idea of misrepresentation that Carinne Luck shares with the group -- without condemning -- is an issue that arises again with If Not Now, both in terms of questions about its connections with J Street but also in terms of its own claims to represent today's young American Jews.

We have seen there is a failure of J Street to live up to what it claims it does.
Should we be surprised that there are doubts about what If Not Now claims as well?
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