Confronting defamation from within

How IfNotNow abused Birthright and politicized a Jewish experience.

Anti-Israel students disrupt Reservists on Duty event at UC Irvine campus (photo credit: RESERVISTS ON DUTY)
Anti-Israel students disrupt Reservists on Duty event at UC Irvine campus
(photo credit: RESERVISTS ON DUTY)
Friday, April 5, was an average day. At 8:00 a.m., the average commuter was headed to work. The usual bumper-to-bumper traffic was moving along inch by inch until it came to an abrupt halt on East 44th Street and 3rd Avenue. It wasn’t a car accident or the usual traffic jam, it was a protest of about 50 plus activists from IfNotNow (INN). The group had decided to link arms, stand dead center in the street, and disrupt New Yorkers on their way to work. After 15 minutes of standstill traffic, NYPD officers were able to clear the way. However, the protest didn’t end there – it had just begun.
INN members shamefully blockaded the entrance to an office building where hundreds of workers had difficulty getting to their jobs. Why did INN forcibly prevent people from going to work? Because this specific building also hosts Birthright Israel’s North American office. For nearly a year, INN has tried to intimidate, disrupt and even threaten this nonprofit organization.
What is Birthright Israel? It is an organization that provides free trips to Israel. They have a clear, stated goal and they aren’t afraid to let the world know: “Birthright Israel seeks to ensure the future of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities and connection with Israel via a trip to Israel for the majority of Jewish young adults from around the world.”
In other words, bring Jewish people from different backgrounds together and connect them to Israel, no matter what political or ideological affinity they abide by. That’s it. To elaborate even further, Birthright does not intend to be a political, activist or some sort of propaganda trip – and contrary to INN’s belief, Birthright does not force anyone to go on the trip. It’s a free trip; if you’d like to participate, then you are more than welcome, and if you disagree with the program’s itinerary then by all means, do not go on the trip.
Reservists on Duty (RoD), an organization of IDF veterans that exposes and counters BDS and other forms of antisemitism erupting on college campuses, was on site to counter-protest INN. RoD activists waved an Israeli flag and signs reading “IfNotNow does not represent the Jewish community.” As RoD’s representative in New York, I released a statement to the press: “INN shamefully ruined people’s day by not allowing them to commute to work, only to protest about a free trip to Israel that no one forced them to participate in. It came to a point where a nine-month pregnant woman couldn’t get to her office, just because INN wanted to twist Birthright’s ideology.”
The main reason RoD felt the responsibility to counter-protest INN was because of the need to expose their insidious agenda. INN’s claim of seeking “liberation of all people” is their attempt of virtue signaling. Unfortunately, their protest turned out to be a showcase of moral corruptness rather than moral correctness. On their website, INN claims to “focus on what unites rather than what divides us,” but ironically, they defame Birthright and further divide the American-Jewish relationship with Israel.
INN misled the public that Friday morning; they lied to bystanders on the street and defamed an organization attempting to safeguard Jewish values and communities worldwide. By demonizing and blaming Birthright for not “showing the occupation” and considering Birthright as complicit, INN tarnishes their own people and makes achieving peace that much harder.
INN could easily protest governments, movements, etc. But they chose to protest, target and harass one of the few organizations seeking to unite and protect the Jewish people. Shame on them.

The writer, 27, made aliyah from New York in 2010 to enlist in the IDF. After his service and studies in Israel, he moved back to New York. He is currently the NY representative for Reservists on Duty and is the president of Abadie Group Inc., a consultancy and project management firm.