Presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and former Vice President Joe Biden left an anti-Israel group fuming over the weekend for not answering questions to its satisfaction about pressuring the Israeli government to end its "occupation" of the Palestinians.
IfNotNow is a far-left group of Jewish activists who are trying to steer the Democratic candidates to oppose Israel by publicly confronting them. It frequently accuses candidates who don't rabidly oppose Israel of being coached by AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.
A Jewish activist name Becca confronted Booker at an event on Saturday, praising him for his work on criminal justice reform but then adding "it's been really difficult and painful for me to understand as you're speaking out against mass incarceration, how the imprisonment of Palestinian children, thousands of them in military prisons, is something you could ever be OK with."
Asked if he felt the "occupation" was a crisis and violation of "international law," Booker didn't respond directly and said he wouldn't answer in the way she desired.
"We may not agree on strategies, but we agree on outcome … You're not going to get me to address that question as you want, and I know that that's a question that you've been asking every presidential candidate," Booker said. "But I'm working on this issue, probably more than any other foreign policy issue."
"That's really disappointing, because people are suffering, and we need leadership," she said, calling that the key to the future for Israelis and Palestinians.
Booker said he'd understand if she wanted to support someone else and called himself committed to human rights. Becca walked away, looking crestfallen.
IfNotNow pinned the video of the exchange to its Twitter profile, accusing Booker of "choosing AIPAC over the grassroots."
Activist Elias Newman confronted Biden on Friday, and the video started with Biden expressing annoyance with whatever question had just been asked.
"Elias, I don't care what your name is, I don't have time to answer an essay question!" Biden said.
Biden said Israeli settlements in the West Bank were "unnecessary" and the only answer was a "two-state solution."
"The Palestinians have to step up too and be prepared to stop the hate. It's a two-way street," Biden said.
Asked if the "occupation" was a human rights crisis, Biden said "occupation is a real problem, a significant problem." He told the activist to look at his record on opposing settlements when asked if he would put pressure on Israel.
The group tweeted, "We did look at your record, @JoeBiden. The occupation only worsened during Obama. We need leaders who are going to put real pressure on Israel to end its military occupation and siege of Gaza, not default to empty rhetoric."
Newman, a "fellow" with the organization, released a statement following his interaction with Biden that condemned the Obama administration, "during which Israel's decades-long military occupation became more permanent than ever." He also accused Biden of playing a "key role" in allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "launch assaults on Gaza."
Biden grew heated again on Saturday when confronted in New Hampshire by Sarah Kate Feferman, replying "yes" when asked if he would pressure the Israeli government but adding that the Palestinian government needed to "stop the hate" and "stop calling for violence."
Palestinian leadership turned down "95 percent" of what it had asked for, Biden said, and had "poked them in the eye."
Asked by @IfNotNowOrg to say how he would press Israel to end its occupation, Joe Biden recalled that he once told Israel's future prime minister "Bibi I love you but I don’t agree with a damned thing you say." That was 35 years ago https://t.co/IQbdCj758Chttps://t.co/JLODs3zmVl
— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) July 14, 2019
"It takes two to do this," Biden said, recounting a story of telling Netanyahu, "I love you but I don't agree with a damned thing you say."
Feferman accused Biden of "paying lip service" to a two-state solution. Biden, who removed his sunglasses and jabbed his finger as he made his points, took umbrage to that notion.
"Constantly pressuring them in terms of what they can and cannot do relative to what is accepted internationally," Biden said, boasting he and President Obama spoke out against settlements. "But they are an ally. The fact of the matter is they're entitled to have a Jewish state in the Middle East that's free and secure."
"If you notice, not one single, solitary Palestinian has said, ‘I agree that there will be a Jewish state in the region,'" he added.
Feferman told the Concord Monitor Biden was trying to "intimidate" her.
"I felt that he was trying to intimidate me," she said. "That, in combination with hearing him use the same talking point … it’s so disheartening."
IfNotNow accused Biden of retreating to "AIPAC’s anti-Palestinian & false talking points."
Feferman attempted to make a meme out of the exchange, charging Biden with "mansplaining." She said her generation wasn't going to "stand for the same old s—t anymore."
IfNotNow scolded former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D.) for not mentioning the word "occupation" when asked about pressuring the Israeli government over the weekend. O'Rourke told a disappointed Aviva that the U.S. couldn't "impose" a two-state solution but would support both sides reaching that goal "to the nth degree."
However, it praised South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for saying "the occupation must end" and issued a typo-laden release about his "expanded" views on the conflict.