Birthright is probably the most successful — one of the only successful — programs to connect Jewish young people in the US and other countries with Israel. Participants get a free 10-day trip to Israel where they visit historical and religious sites, and most importantly meet Israelis from the same age group. The program seems to insulate participants to some extent against the more fantastic anti-Israel lies that are current in the media and academic world.
Today there is a struggle in America for the minds and souls of Jewish youth. The anti-Zionist Left understands that secular and religiously liberal Jews are often completely ignorant about Jewish history and the realities of the Middle East. At the same time, because of their liberal politics, they are especially sensitive to appeals on behalf of human rights, justice, anti-racisim, etc.
They too have been successful in recruiting young Jews, but to the Palestinian cause. For example, one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that placed Rachel Corrie in front of an IDF bulldozer, was the Jewish-born Adam Shapiro. Jews are enormously useful to them, because their presence supposedly demonstrates that the Palestinian cause is not antisemitic.
Sometimes, deliberately or through naivete, the actual Palestinian objective — the replacement of Israel by an Arab state — is ignored, and anti-Zionist groups present themselves as pro-Israel, wanting only to improve Israel by making it more democratic, more just, and less ‘racist’. This is the line taken by J Street and especially its campus group J Street U. Writer Peter Beinart has practically made a career out of saying that young American Jews are disconnected from Israel because it is theocratic, undemocratic and racist.
Naturally, they are out to get Birthright. In the video which follows, you will see some Jewish Israel-haters disrupt a reunion of Birthright alumni. I don’t recognize the women, but the young man (well, he’s 34) who stands up at 2:00 into the video and who later (2:44) continues speaking after being ejected is Max Blumenthal, who has made several viciously anti-Israel videos, including the famous one in which he provoked drunken American students in a Jerusalem bar to say rude things about President Obama.
Here are some things I noticed in the video:
Those who disrupted the meeting associate themselves with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. They use the now familiar “mic check” technique, developed because Zucotti Park protesters did not have a permit to use bullhorns or other amplification, and so the audience shouts back each phrase of their speaker. It is supposed to symbolize the unity of an anarchic, leaderless movement, but — particularly when it is used to disrupt — it appears chillingly totalitarian.
They refer to themselves in OWS terminology, as “the Jewish 99%.” The 1% is the mainstream Jewish leadership like AIPAC and the Jewish Federations, etc. who support Israel. This is essentially Beinart’s thesis, that the leadership is old and out of touch.
Blumenthal, who says that he went on a Birthright trip in 2002, calls an appeal for Jewish solidarity “the definition of racism” (3:40). He doesn’t discuss the attitudes of Palestinians, although he notes that he was told at an “official presentation” that they “teach their children to hate Jews” — as if this is something that hasn’t been exhaustively documented in studies of textbooks, children’s programs, summer camps, etc. in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza. The woman who speaks immediately after asserts that she was
amazed…by how racist birthright and Israel really are…you can’t have a Jewish and democratic state. It’s just not possible.
Of course a different conclusion that she could have drawn was that it may not be possible for a democratic state to coexist with people whose national movement is committed to destroying it.
Watch the video and see if you too don’t find these people remarkably unappealing: