Campaign declares, “It is fundamentally unjust that we are given a free trip to Israel while Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes.”
By Allison Kaplan Sommer / Haaretz
September 2, 2017
“We will not go on a Birthright trip because it is fundamentally unjust that we are given a free trip to Israel, while Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes. We refuse to be complicit in a propaganda trip that whitewashes the systemic racism, and the daily violence faced by Palestinians living under endless occupation. Our Judaism is grounded in values of solidarity and liberation, not occupation and apartheid. On these grounds we return the Birthright, and call on other young Jews to do the same.”
The controversial pro-Palestinian advocacy group Jewish Voice For Peace has launched a campaign to convince young Jews not to participate in Birthright Israel trips, just as college students are returning to campus and registration for the winter visits gets underway.
Under the slogan #ReturnTheBirthright, JVP is working to convince 18-to-26-year-old Jews eligible for the all-expenses paid 10-day tours to reject the tempting offer.
Birthright Israel sends Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel with the goal of strengthening Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish state. The trips are funded through a partnership between the state of Israel and a group of North American donors. The original funders of the program were Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, but in recent years, Sheldon Adelson, casino billionaire, Republican mega-donor and supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has showered $250 million on the program, becoming the its largest benefactor.
Ben Lorber, JVP campus organizer, said that the new national campaign grew out of a number of local anti-Birthright initiatives on individual campuses, which inspired the group to take the movement to campuses across the country.
“This is something that Jewish students have been talking about and acting on for a while,” Lorber said. “It is a fundamental injustice that we as young Jews are offered these free trips and can become citizens of Israel if we choose to later on, while our Palestinian friends and classmates are denied the same connection to the land their parents or grandparents come from.”
The campaign, he added, is, in addition to students, aimed at young Jewish adults post-university who may be thinking of travelling on Birthright. Lorber, in his late 20’s, said that he personally had chosen not to travel on Birthright during the years he was eligible.
“It was a conscious decision. I was very disappointed at the advertising I saw telling me, ‘Look at this happy free trip, you can go to the beach, hike on Masada, connect your homeland,’ while the Palestinians I knew had relatives who were being bombed in Gaza, and couldn’t visit Jerusalem.”