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Charles Lenchner

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Charles Lenchner (born 1969), is an Israeli-American political organizer, activist and writer. He is Digital Director at The Real News Network,[1] Vice President of Special Projects at,[2] and co-founder of The People for Bernie Sanders.[3] When conscripted to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) prior to the First Intifada, Lenchner co-wrote a letter objecting to Israeli military policy towards Palestine, and refusing to obey orders in furtherance of the occupation. Arrested and jailed, he became an early figure in the movement of refusal to serve in the IDF. After his release, he emigrated to the United States. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.[3]

Early life[edit]

Lechner grew up near Tel Aviv.[4] In an interview with CNN, Lenchner says that growing up, he believed and hoped for unity based on mutual understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, a belief he later came to see as naïve.[5] At age 16, Lenchner visited Jabalia Camp, a refugee center in Gaza City with a group of Palestinian Israelis. Of this visit he later wrote: “It’s hard to describe how aberrant that was, or how angry my mom would have been had she known what I was up to that day. Jabalia is where the first Intifada, or uprising, would begin while I was serving in the Israeli army.”[6]

Peace activism, refusal and imprisonment[edit]

Lenchner reached IDF draft age just prior to the First Intifada. Before being drafted, he had been organizing youth groups recruiting “people who pledged to refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories.”[5] The organization published a letter stating the refusal of its members to serve, with 16 signatures including Lenchner’s. As the first of those members to be called by the draft, Lenchner submitted the letter at his draft center.[6]

Arrested and imprisoned, Lenchner spent “about two months” in Israeli military prison for his refusal to serve.[5] After his release from jail, Lenchner continued to write and speak against the Occupation. In 1997 he co-published Escaping Responsibility: The Response of the Israeli Military Justice System to Complaints Against Soldiers by Palestinians.[7] Lechner was also a co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel.[4]

Life and Work in United States[edit]

Lenchner emigrated to the United States and in 2002 began to live there continuously.[8] When he arrived in the United States, Lechner began working for Middle East-based advocacy organizations before moving into U.S. politics, first as assistant campaign manager for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign.[5] In 2009, Lechner served as director of online organizing for the Working Families Party.[9] Lenchner was actively involved in several notable technology projects around Occupy Wall Street[10] In 2013, he began working with the Illuminator Art Collective, a group known for protests using projected words and images onto important buildings.

On February 8, 2013, Lenchner was arrested for driving on a suspended license while operating the van the IAC used to project its images during its demonstrations.[11] The arresting officer in the traffic incident was was Mohammad Newaz of the counterterrorist Intelligence Division of NYPD, who had interrogated Lenchner a few weeks before concerning IAC political activity.[12]

Originally a founder of the Draft Warren Movement to encourage Senator Elizabeth Warren to run in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,[13] Lenchner subsequently joined the movement to nominate Senator Bernie Sanders. Lenchner wrote that the Occupy Wall Street movement had shown him that deep political and socioeconomic change could only come from grassroots mobilization.[14] Lenchner stated that the Sanders campaign, while struggling with the divergent interests and beliefs of the groups who supported Senator Sanders, was engaged in an effort to bring diverse groups together around common needs.[10] In 2016, Lenchner supported the hiring of Simone Zimmerman, an “outspoken critic of Israel,” as the Bernie Sanders campaign’s national Jewish outreach coordinator.[15]

Lenchner is active in Democratic Socialists of America. He is a member of the Socialist Majority Caucus of DSA[16] and in 2017 ran unsuccessfully for DSA's National Political Committee.[17] Lenchner has written for many progressive and left political publications including Progressive Hub, New Labor Forum, Democratic Left, The Indypendent, and The Real News.[18] He currently assists several organizations with digital communications and political organizing support, including Organizing 2.0, and[19]

See Also[edit]

Israeli Defense Service Law


  1. "Charles Lenchner's email & phone | The Real News Network's Digital Director email".
  2. "Interview With Charles Lenchner: Co-Founder Of People For Bernie" – via
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Meet The Team".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lenchner, Charles. "Peace, Palestine, and Me". Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Krieg, Gregory (August 4, 2017). "Will Trump backlash make American socialists great again? | CNN Politics". CNN.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sound, Kairos Puget (December 6, 2021). "Reflections on Palestine Day by a former Israeli Refusenik".
  8. Lenchner, Charles (July 2, 2017). "Back in Israel after 15 years…".
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Former Occupy Wall Street protesters rally around Bernie Sanders campaign". the Guardian. September 17, 2015.
  11. "Did an ANIMAL Prank on the Mayor Lead to This Man's Arrest?". February 15, 2013.
  12. "My Recent Arrest While Driving the Illuminator Van". Daily Kos.
  13. "The draft Elizabeth Warren movement winds down".
  14. Lenchner, Charles (September 1, 2015). "Bernie versus Hillary: Building an Outsider Left Inside the Democratic Party". New Labor Forum. 24 (3): 62–67. doi:10.1177/1095796015597246 – via SAGE Journals.
  15. "Meet the outspoken critic of Israel who is Bernie Sanders' new Jewish outreach director". The Jerusalem Post |
  16. "DSA's Factions Explained". December 6, 2020.
  17. Lenchner, Charles (August 1, 2017). "I'm running for DSA's National Political Committee".
  18. "Charles Lenchner". Common Dreams.
  19. "Charles Lenchner's schedule for Organizing 2.0".

External Links[edit]

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