No program has been more effective in creating Zionist consciousness in Jewish young people than Birthright. Israel really is a vital, democratic, modern and generally cool place, so sending kids there for ten days for free is the best way to arm them against the barrage of anti-Israel propaganda they face at college or among their ‘progressive’ friends.
So naturally this had to happen:
J Street U is very happy to announce that we will be leading a free, ten-day Taglit-Birthright trip this summer titled, “Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice.”
This trip is an incredible opportunity to connect with the Israel that isn’t on the front page or in the guide books. Move beyond the headlines, and see what’s really happening on the ground…
The trip is a chance to appreciate the vibrancy of Israel’s history, culture and landscape from a perspective that acknowledges your Jewish and progressive values.
The best way to discover the richness of Israeli society and the full contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to travel around Israel and meet people from the diverse groups of the region. There is simply no substitute for seeing the land and connecting with the people.
On the trip, we’ll speak with members of Israeli civil society working to advance the goals of democracy and human rights. Our itinerary will provide a cross-section of Israeli opinion.
This trip is a gift of Taglit-Birthright Israel and will be provided by The Israel Experience, Ltd. — J Street press release (my emphasis)
In other words, the phony ‘pro-Israel’ organization J Street, a group that takes money from people associated with Saudi Arabia, the Arab-American institute, Iranian interests, anti-Israel billionaire George Soros, a mysterious woman associated with the guy who beat the Hong Kong horse-racing track, and the Turkish producer of anti-Israel propaganda films; whose co-founder called the creation of Israel ‘an act that was wrong’; and which facilitated meetings between members of Congress and Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the notorious Goldstone report that accused Israel of deliberately murdering civilians in the Gaza war — this organization has the chutzpah to use funds provided by Taglit-Birthright to sabotage its purpose!
J Street U, the campus branch of J Street which will be guiding the students on this trip, stopped calling itself ‘pro-Israel’ because
“We don’t want to isolate people because they don’t feel quite so comfortable with ‘pro-Israel,’ so we say ‘pro-peace,’” said American University junior Lauren Barr of the “J Street U” slogan, “but behind that is ‘pro-Israel.’”
Barr, secretary of the J Street U student board that decided the slogan’s terminology, explained that on campus, “people feel alienated when the conversation revolves around a connection to Israel only, because people feel connected to Palestine, people feel connected to social justice, people feel connected to the Middle East…”
What is J Street U? Its National Board President U is a Middlebury College student named Moriel Rothman. Here is how he explains the controversy around the Sheik Jarrah / Shimon haTzadik neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Pay attention not only to his words, but his tone:
…the Jerusalem municipality has been bending to the will of fanatic Jewish settlers, and producing -based on archaic documents from the Ottoman period and manufactured Israeli law– eviction notices to a number of Palestinian families, and in some cases -such as with three families in Sheikh Jarrah- acting on those eviction notices by force and removing those Palestinian families from their homes. The municipality’s actions are hugely problematic from a moral standpoint: not only are Jews buying up and/or stealing Arab land in East Jerusalem, but Arabs are moreover unable to buy land in the primarily Jewish West Jerusalem… These policies are also hugely problematic from the standpoint of peace, as East Jerusalem must be the capital of the future Palestinian state, and the Clinton Parameters, which state that Palestine will get control of Arab neighborhoods and Israel will control Jewish neighborhoods, are made harder and harder to implement with each infiltration of Jewish settlers into Arab neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
This is what they call “progressive Zionism!” If you ask me, it has ‘progressed’ to the point that it can’t be distinguished from Arab propaganda — Ali Abunimah could have written that paragraph.
Now I am not saying that, distasteful as it is, an anti-Zionist organization like J Street U can be prevented from leading a trip to Israel in which young people will meet various Jewish left-wing extremists and Arab anti-Zionists, perhaps participate in a demonstration or two, and in general see the country through the eyes of those who hate it.
But I think it is highly inappropriate that funds that have been given to Taglit-Birthright by Zionists like me and by Israeli taxpayers should be used to pay for it!
So I suggest that you contact Birthright — you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them if they think that the anti-Zionist organization J Street U should be allowed to lead a Birthright trip.
Birthright works through ‘trip providers’ like The Israel Experience Ltd, in Israel — a subsidiary of the Jewish Agency. You can email the Deputy Director-General of TIE, Eran Applebaum at email@example.com, and ask him if he thinks his organization should be helping J Street to damage Israel.
Do it now. I have, and I’ll report on any results.
Update [27 Jan 1307 PST]: This press release may have been a hoax. It does not appear on the websites of either J Street U or J Street. I found it in two blogs, here and here. Both of the writers took it seriously, but I’ve been told that Birthright denies that there will be such a trip!
Update [1629 PST]: It’s for real. Here’s the signup page.