BIRTHRIGHT GIVES YOUNG JEWS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

Three young Jews were reportedly kicked off their free trip to Israel sponsored by the pro-Israel Birthright program today because they asked questions about the separation wall Israel has erected on occupied Palestinian territory.

Image by Carlos Latuff

Three young Jews are kicked off ‘Birthright’ trip for asking questions about separation wall in Palestine

Philip Weiss

Three young Jews were reportedly kicked off their free trip to Israel sponsored by the pro-Israel Birthright program today because they asked questions about the separation wall Israel has erected on occupied Palestinian territory.

A video of the young people as they leave the trip has been posted by one of them on her Facebook page. Shira Leah reports that she and two others were kicked off Birthright, “because when we drove past the border separation wall between Israel and the West Bank (which our tour guide had ignored all 4 times we drove past it), we tried to ask questions about it and didn’t accept his answer that the entire conflict is caused by crazy violent Palestinians.”

In the accompanying video, young people are heard to discuss signing a waiver to end their trip with a Birthright official in a tense conversation.

That official says to a young man: “I was more than willing to have a conversation with you… Then you came at me with the nineteen-year-old’s feeling this way and that way…. The program is designed and going to stay as is. With you being allowed to ask questions.”

The young man says he only asked two questions and he is being kicked off for who he is.

I asked two questions and that’s it… [Evidently] my views in my head are incompatible with the trip. Because I am progressive and because I don’t like Netanyahu and Trump and border walls. Because I have those thoughts in my head, I can’t be here?…. What rule did I break?… This has been really stressful and honestly slightly traumatic to be screamed at and kicked off… I asked two questions, and I said I was disappointed in the way–

The official then says: “The reason we can’t have you here is because of the agenda of an outside program that we believe you are affiliated with.”

That’s a reference to the young Jewish group IfNotNow’s efforts to disrupt Birthright trips. At that link, IfNotNow posts the latest Birthright agreement, which limits the free speech of participants.

Shira Leah says on her Facebook page: “I am devastated by Trump’s policies of family separation, detention of children, and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border because it goes against all of the values I was taught growing up n my Jewish community, where my mom was the Rabbi. It is unfathomable that I would be asked to stay silent when we see the same thing happening in Israel. Clearly this is a bribe, not a gift. #NoSuchThingAsAFreeTrip #NotJustAFreeTrip”

Birthright has come under great pressure from IfNotNow since last summer when nearly a dozen young Jews walked off Birthright trips, and IfNotNow encouraged more to do so, and the organization, funded by Democrat Haim Saban and Republican Sheldon Adelson among others, pushed back.

Nonetheless, reports are that participation in the free trip for Jews under 26 has fallen off this winter.

Batya Ungar-Sargon of the Forward writes:

A new clause in the  contract participants sign includes a ban on “any attempt to.. hijack a discussion or create an unwarranted provocation violate Taglit-Birthright’s founding principles.” Who the hell would want to go on such a trip?

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