Jewish activism group IfNotNow led a march to the White House on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to Washington.
It’s just after rush hour on a cold Wednesday in downtown Washington, and a group of about one hundred are huddled in a circle outside the Trump International Hotel, blocks from the White House.
A woman holds up a cardboard cutout - she’s fashioned it after a quarter. One side prominently features a pencil sketch profile of President Donald Trump, and the other, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The motto, in place of “In God we trust” - “In walls we trust.”
IfNotNow is a grassroots group of young Jewish activists campaigning against Israel’s policies on Palestine. “Today, Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Donald Trump,” explained Ethan Miller, a volunteer organizer with IfNotNow’s DC chapter. “We know that Trump and Netanyahu are two sides of the same coin - they both represent an islamophobic, racist ideology that is tearing apart both this country, Israel, and Palestine.”
Netanyahu’s state visit to the White House this week is the latest in what Miller referred to as a “failed alliance” - a decades-old triad which IfNotNow views as having toxic consequences for all those involved.
Trump’s election ushers in an era of uncertainty in the future of US-Israeli relations and the debate over Palestinian sovereignty. Netanyahu has quickly jumped on the opportunity of a seemingly more supportive White House by approving new settlements in East Jerusalem. Trump’s own intentions have thus far proven unclear, with conflicting statements seemingly in support of, and, most recently, against the two-state solution.
IfNotNow has been active in the area for a while - News2Share has previously covered a number of the group’s rallies - but Wednesday’s action is particularly notable for timing -- organized during a potentially pivotal moment for U.S. relations with Israel and Palestine. But for organizer Jill Raney, there’s more at stake recently than just the question of Palestinian statehood - it’s also a matter of calling out white nationalists in Trump’s administration whose actions, she said, Netanyahu is embracing.
“The Netanyahu administration is cozying up to this white supremacist administration in order to gain more support for the occupation,” Raney said, “those are not our American values, and those are not our Jewish values.”
After a speak out outside the Trump International Hotel, IfNotNow led a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the corner of Lafayette Park outside the White House, where they held the intersection of 15th St. and New York Ave. for about half an hour. The protest ended with song and dance in the middle of the intersection, with chants of “occupation is a crime” and “we will build this world with love,” with participants holding cardboard signs reading “tear down their walls,” and “end the occupation.”