Progressive group said they want to stop annexation of the West Bank.
About two dozen protesters gathered in Bloomfield Township on Friday evening, July 17, to march to the Max M. Fisher Federation building and demand action from local Jewish leaders and institutions in response to the impending Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
The protest was organized by IfNotNow (INN), an American Jewish progressive activist group that opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and seeks to “promote education about Israel/Palestine that centers Palestine experiences, stop sending trips to Israel that support the occupation and to stop fundraising for occupation.”
Counter-protester at the IfNotNow protest in front of the Jewish Federation building in Metro Detroit. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/4e5ejHn6m7
— Danny Schwartz (@DannyFreelance) July 20, 2020
The protest coincided with a proposal from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., signed by dozens of members of Congress, including Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, to condition military funding to Israel.
“We see them as champions of our cause,” INN member Zak Witus said. “We hope that more progressive Jewish leaders like Andy Levin here in Michigan and Jan Schakowsky in Chicago step up to the plate, stop making empty statements and take real action.”
Across the country, INN chapters have been protesting outside of the offices and homes of political leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in California, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in New York and Congressman Brad Sherman in Los Angeles, promoting Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. Other “Day of Rage” protests held earlier this month, led by different pro-Palestinian activist groups, targeted campus Hillel buildings and other Federation buildings in cities like New York and San Diego.
The mask-wearing protesters began in the parking lot of Leo’s Coney Island on Telegraph Road and marched down to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit headquarters. Once the group arrived at the Max M. Fisher Federation building, a Shabbat service was held with prayers and songs.
“I think any politician who is willing to take the risk of incurring the wrath of the Jewish community by standing up against annexation and the Israeli military … I think that’s great,” said protester Elissa Driker, 58.
During INN member Lisa Tencer’s speech shortly after arriving, she was interrupted by a counter-protester. The man, who said he was Jewish, born in Israel and served in the “military,” repeatedly shouted, “What do you know about the state of Israel?” and “You’re talking about occupation. What occupation?” The man left after about 10 minutes and wouldn’t give his name.
Tencer continued. “I’m glad we kept going, finished our beautiful Shabbat celebration and the call to our Jewish institutions to defund annexation and occupation,” she said.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director of the JCRC/AJC, an agency of Federation, told the JN his group “respects the diversity of opinions in the Detroit Jewish community regarding the possibility of the Israeli government extending its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. Therefore, we seek to educate and inform, rather than impose one point of view. We are encouraged that on many current issues young members of the community, such as those who were protesting on Friday, are passionate and motivated and eager to have their voices heard in a peaceful way. As always, we remain committed to the safety and security of the State of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and the sole Jewish state.”