A Birthright trip for Palestinians, too? Maybe not
Young activists from Jewish Voices for Peace propose as spoof an alternative trip, as part of its protest against new anti-divestment initiative.
Are you Jewish, Palestinian, or even both? How would you like to come to the Holy Land for free, as part of the co-existence trip Birthright For Us All (Taglit Lekulanu)?
As it happens, such a trip may not really exist, but young Jewish activists from Jewish Voice for Peace have many believing that it does – or should. The activists proposed the alternative program, albeit as a spoof, to protest a new anti-divestment initiative – and the concept went viral.
The itinerary for the fake trip describes a tour of the separation wall, unrecognized Bedouin villages, and the contentious West Bank city of Hebron. Meetings with IDF officers and Jewish Agency representatives would be complemented by meetings with civil rights organizers struggling for equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian citizens.
The activists even released a spoof response from the Jewish Council of North America, in which the group "chided" the trip as detrimental to its commitment to an "idealized image of Israel" and re-affirmed the council's defense of Israel "no matter how many international laws, human rights and democratic freedoms it has violated." The report concludes that "the Council would never support an initiative such as Taglit Lekulanu, which proposes to introduce a more balanced view of Israeli society."
The "response" also emphasized that introducing young people to Palestinian narratives would be completely antithetical to Birthright’s goals of discouraging mixed marriage and promoting "unconditional loyalty to the Jewish state."
The fake press releases were drawn up as a way of protesting a new initiative by the Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Public Affairs Council called the Israel Action Network. The $6 million "Israel Action Network" campaign targets Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaigns by campus, church, and human rights groups.
The young leaders from the Jewish Voice for Peace said that "the Jewish establishment thinks that all we want are free trips to Israel and feel-good service projects. That is in insult to our intelligence, and to the Jewish values we were brought up on."
The spoof trip was launched as part of a larger protest at the Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans, where the young members of Jewish Voice for Peace interrupted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the GA on Monday, chanting "the loyalty oath delegitimatizes Israel."
According to their website, Jewish Voice for Peace is America’s largest Jewish grassroots peace group, with a mandate to reach a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on the principles of equality and international human rights law.
"We are punks and students and parents and janitors and Rabbis and freedom fighters. We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren " the students write on their website, www.youngjewishproud.org. "We will not quietly witness the violation of human rights in Palestine."
The young American activists say they honor a legacy of radical Jewish intellectuals and refugees and call for end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. "We will stand up with our words, our pens, our songs, our paintbrushes, our open hands. We commit to re-envisioning “homeland,” to make room for justice," they write.
"We are young Jews, and we get to decide what that means."