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Why young Jewish Americans are turning on Israel

“I was definitely raised to be a Jewish leader of some kind”

With college campuses all over the US gripped by intense battles around free speech, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights - the voices of young Jewish Americans have led the way.

One of the boldest and most prominent voices is that of Simone Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was raised in a conservative Zionist household, taught to idolise and support Israel as the highest aspiration of all young Jewish Americans like her.

But as she got older, she began to question whether there was another side to Israel that she was being sheltered from - and when she sought answers, she was shocked at what she discovered.

Prompted by conversations with Palestinians under occupation and Jewish activists, she went home and began to organise in an attempt to stop her government’s military support for Israel, and as she puts it, “live out the values of justice I was raised on”.

On the frontlines of protests in campuses and halls of power, she suddenly found herself a target of accusations by pro-Israeli groups, who now called her “antisemitic” and a “jew hater” and threatened her online.

After 7 October, she became more determined than ever to challenge the beliefs in her community about Israel, and the reluctance by many to see the horrific reality of what’s happening in Gaza.

This week on The Big Picture, we sit down with Simone Zimmerman to talk about her story, which has been documented in a provocative new documentary called ‘Israelism’, and whether we’re witnessing a turning point in how young Jewish-Americans see Israel, and how young Americans see their government’s support for the occupation.

Check out the trailer for Israelism here:

Check out Simone Zimmerman’s work with If Not Now here:

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