J Street’s recent attempt to slime Taglit-Birthright shows yet again that J Street is nothing more than a Trojan Horse intended to sabotage American Jewish support for Israel.
Birthright is an organization that provides free trips to Israel for young people from 18-27 years old, on the premise that nothing creates understanding and connection better than personal experience.
It’s been wildly successful, perhaps showing that the much-remarked lack of connection to Israel among young American Jews is due more to the suffusion of colleges and universities by anti-Israel propaganda than to Israel’s illiberal tendencies, as Peter Beinart has alleged.
J Street’s campus arm, J Street U, announced that they would be leading a Birthright tour with a difference. It would be called “Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice.” It would be “from a perspective that acknowledges your Jewish and progressive values,” and would help participants discover “the full contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by meeting with “members of Israeli civil society working to advance the goals of democracy and human rights.”
In other words, J Street U would use the resources of Birthright to indoctrinate students with their brand of anti-Israel politics. And it’s not just theoretical — J Street U has organized Jewish students to join left-wing protests in Israel.
The announcement prompted inquiries to Birthright, which responded that no such tour had been approved. But J Street U pressed the matter, claiming that Birthright had ‘canceled’ their planned tour. And then J Street’s director, the serial liar Jeremy Ben Ami weighed in to suggest that the tour was killed for political reasons.
But Birthright never received a formal proposal and the trip was never approved at all:
Taglit-Birthright Israel wishes to clarify that at no time did it approve of a Birthright Israel trip in association with JStreet, nor did it give its trip provider, the Israel Experience, any approval for such a trip. We did not rescind its approval as no approval was given in the first place.
Three months ago, we were approached by the Israel Experience which informally inquired about holding a trip focusing on Progressive Zionism and social justice in conjunction with JStreet. We said such a trip, as described in a brief conversation with the Israel Experience, would likely be out of keeping with our longstanding policy of not conducting trips with a political orientation.
The Israel Experience made no follow-up, and it did not submit any formal request for such a trip. At no time did Taglit-Birthright Israel have any contact with JStreet or JStreetU.
Last week, we were perplexed to read a press release by JStreetU announcing it was “leading” a Birthright Israel trip, and soliciting participants to register for the trip on its website bearing a Taglit-Birthright Israel logo. Aside from the fact that no such trip was ever approved, there cannot have been any registered participants, since registration in North America begins on February 15th and takes place only through our website.
Ben Ami mentioned that Birthright trips had been led by other organizations that are ‘political’, such as AIPAC. But the difference is that AIPAC submitted a proposal beforehand, as Birthright explains:
For years, we have run a Capital-to-Capital trip through another trip provider, which focuses on the Israeli political system. The provider has been running this trip, with input from AIPAC, a mainstream Israel advocacy group, long before JStreet was established. It focuses on Israel’s political structure, with an approach similar to a political science class; the trip has never been tilted to one side of the political spectrum. Needless to say, the trip organizer submitted a formal trip proposal which underwent rigorous review before it was approved.
Ben Ami lays a trap for Birthright, suggesting that if it approves one ‘political’ group it must approve any such group. But by this principle, even Hamas could lead a trip! Of course there have to be limits, and AIPAC — whose point of view parallels that of the Government of Israel — is mainstream while J Street is not. In any event, since no proposal was submitted, Birthright didn’t have to decide.
The project, in my opinion, was intended to embarrass Birthright. If it agreed to a J Street-led tour it would anger its Zionist supporters as well as contribute to J Street’s efforts on behalf of the campaign to delegitimize Israel. On the other hand, refusing to approve it leaves Birthright open to the charge that it is a political organization — perhaps even imperiling its 501(c)(3) status (far-fetched? See here, here and here).
Birthright is one of the most effective tools we have to counteract the massive propaganda blitz that our young people are exposed to on campus and from their ‘progressive’ friends. Support and protect it.