Fifteen people were arrested Friday in New York when hundreds of activists from the Jewish advocacy group If Not Now blocked access to the entrance of Birthright, the Sheldon Adelson-funded organization that takes young Americans Jews on tours of Israel to instill within them support of that country's war on the Palestinian people.
If Not Now's goal in Friday's protest, the group said in a statement, was to push Birthright to include education on the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights territories.
"Going to Israel in 2019 and not learning about the Occupation is like going to the Jim Crow South and not learning about segregation," said Alyssa Rubin, a student from Boston who traveled to new York for the protest.
IfNotNow blocked off Birthright's doors and 3rd Ave.
Anti-occupation protest at Birthright HQ in NYC just shut down 3rd Avenue. https://t.co/5fxazHxdAx— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) April 5, 2019
The 15 people arrested formed a human chain in front of the building.
Today 15 young Jews were arrested in New York demanding that Birthright. confront the human rights crisis of the Occupation. https://t.co/M97zq3KMcN— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 5, 2019
IfNotNow protesters made their presence known across Midtown, including at Grand Central Station.
“Stop lying to young Jews”: Young Jewish American activists march around Grand Central NY to protest how birthright trips try to hide the reality of Israeli occupation. pic.twitter.com/m3b0uJ96sx— John Senior (@Jswsenior) April 5, 2019
"Today is Birthright’s last chance to choose the progressive values of our generation over the interests of its right-wing donors, like Sheldon Adelson and the Netanyahu government," said Zu Weinger Darmstadt, a student participant in the protest who came to New York for the action from the University of Michigan.
Still going strong, even after the arrests.— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 5, 2019
Which side are you on, Birthright? pic.twitter.com/DlLtsTunQp
Elon Glickman, an organizer with IfNotNow, addressed the problem of Birthright in remarks to the crowd. Remembering how he left his Birthright tour after the organization ignored the occupation, Glickman said that things must change within the group's priorities.
"It is so important that the Jewish community confront the crisis of the Occupation." said Glickman. "This is Birthright's last chance to do so."
"I knew I had to walk off my Birthright trip when my trip leader insisted that there was no Occupation. It is so important that the Jewish community confront the crisis of the Occupation. This is Birthright's last chance to do so." —@elonTglickman #LastChanceBirthright pic.twitter.com/9Fu9EvbCQZ— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 5, 2019