‘Birthright’ goes to Lebanon: Israel admits popular tourist attraction is located on Lebanese land

Israel/PalestineMiddle East
on 20 Comments
Misgav Am
Young Leadership Israel Advocacy Program visits Misgav Am on a trip organized by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee in 2011. (Photo: Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee)

Two weeks ago Israeli authorities admitted that a kibbutz and popular tourist destination called Misgav Am is situated on land inside the borders of Lebanon. The admission came after the kibbutz residents filed an application with the Ministry of Interior to re-zone a section of the town from agricultural to residential, and the government responded that their approval was pending “the withdrawal towards Israeli borders and amending the Blue Line,” according to al-Akhbar, which picked up the story from the Israeli daily Maariv. al-Akhbar English says this is the first time Israeli officials have acknowledged that the kibbutz is partially built in Israel’s northern neighbor, on land confiscated from the village of Adaisseh. 

The villagers of Adaisseh, Lebanon, have known since the 1920s that Jewish settlers were stealing their land. First the Sykes-Picot agreement (dividing Ottoman lands between the British and French, winners in World War I) gobbled up hundreds of dunams. Additional confiscations took place just before 1948 and again during the 1970s when Israeli forces occupied Southern Lebanon. In the late 1970s Adaisseh’s then-mayor filed a complaint with the United Nations. The current mayor told al-Akhbar that at the time the Israeli ambassador said, “the appropriation of land is a precautionary measure. When Palestinian fighters withdraw, we will leave the land.”

Then in 2000, Israeli soldiers withdrew from Lebanon and a decade later the region was de-mined. However, the Lebanese land was never returned to the original owners and now it is situated beyond a barbed wire fence and a 7-meter high concrete separation wall constructed in 2012. On the Lebanese side of the barrier is a flower garden that Israel complained about to the United Nations. Israel said the flowers were too high. Beyond the wall on the Israeli side–but not entirely in Israel–is Misgav Am, which doubles as a popular tourist location.

Israel’s admission leaves one organization in a very tight spot. Birthright, the program to provide free trips to Israel for young Jews who don’t live there, uses the kibbutz as a premier destination to preach about a Jewish homeland from the hills of Southern Lebanon. And the dramatic landscape of Misgav Am seems to do the trick, awakening some young people’s national Jewish identity. At nearly 3,000 ft. in elevation visitors can see the Mediterranean Sea, both Lebanon and Syria, and the farmland of the Galilee made arable by the Jewish National Fund’s infamous swamp-draining project during the early years of statehood.

“Today was awesome going to Misgav Am,” one student exclaimed in a blog post three months ago. “This is my HOME!”

Another Birthrighter who traveled to the kibbutz a year earlier glowingly described his “overwhelming pride” for his “homeland” in a separate entry:

Our next journey would take us to the Misgav-Am Kibbutz, where our goal was to hear the opinion of a very interesting and knowledgeable 4-war veteran Jew. The Kibbutz was located directly on the border of Israel and Lebanon, and as a result the man’s shpeil focused on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I cannot understate this man’s passion and pride for Judaism and Israel as a whole, and he fully outlined his very politically incorrect opinion on the subject. I cannot speak for the group but I know this interaction opened my eyes to the conflict that exists every day in the Middle East, and left me with an overwhelming pride for my religion and my homeland.

Unfortunately the Birthrighter was not only in Israel, he was over the Blue Line—in Lebanon. Misgav Am’s visitor center website lists Birthright as a distinguished client; and the kibbutz is named as a stop on Birthright’s website.

This is not the first time Birthright has wandered over borders in its eagerness to proclaim a homeland for Jewish youths. In July 2010 a video emerged of an Australian group visiting Hebron. Guide Daniel Goodman took participants to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and stated, “this is the roots of our people.” This move into occupied territory sparked admonishment from an American Birthright representative, but approval from an Israeli one. Haaretz reported that Robert Aronson, President of the Birthright Israel Foundation, said that visiting Hebron was “clearly against Birthright policy.”

But the Misgav Am journey raises a larger question about the concept of preaching a Jewish homeland in territory that is within the boundaries of another sovereign nation. There are no Jewish heritage sites at Misgav Am, but the kibbutz is situated on a strategic point that overlooks villages in Southern Lebanon. And what of the young recruits who discovered their Jewish identity on the hilltop? Birthright may not have known that its destination is over the border, but the mistake just shows the project’s purpose: cynically swindling college students with biblical-looking scenery.

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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20 Responses

  1. LanceThruster
    February 12, 2013, 1:37 pm

    These ‘Theftright’ tours are nothing if not educational.

  2. pabelmont
    February 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

    This story is similar to the story of Shebaa Farms. Is thius story about Adaisseh the same territory or merely the similar story-line? In short, how broad is Israel’s devil-may-care ignoring of Lebanon’s territory (or, put otherwise, of the “blue line”)?

    • Allison Deger
      February 12, 2013, 2:47 pm

      No it’s different. Lebanon says Shebaa Farms is theirs and Israel says that it was* Syria’s and is now part of the Golan that was officially annexed by the state. Syria has no official comment but the general thought is that they know it’s Lebanon’s but are unwilling to assist their neighbor in re-gaining territory.

      Adaisseh’s land was taken around the same time as Shebba Farms. But of course the biggest difference is that Israel said straight-up that the land is in Lebanon and Israel does not have the ability to make zoning changes to the property. With Shebaa Farms the land is now “legally”–according to Israeli law, part of the country.

  3. Hostage
    February 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

    But the Misgav Am journey raises a larger question about the concept of preaching a Jewish homeland in territory that is within the boundaries of another sovereign nation.

    That’s a trifle compared to the more damaging effect on territorial integrity of making the sovereign nation of Lebanon home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees for generations on end and giving up its own territory for use in one of the 12 UNRWA camps located there.

  4. mondonut
    February 12, 2013, 3:07 pm

    I will choose to be skeptical about this “story” for now. No links to Maariv, no quotes from Maariv (translated or otherwise), a story that only appears in anti-Israel blogs and the Lebanon Star?

    Please provide the link to the original Maariv link.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 12, 2013, 4:11 pm

      what part don’t you believe? Misgav Am says it works w/birthright on it’s website.
      link to misgav-am.com

      are you doubting it’s location?

    • Allison Deger
      February 12, 2013, 5:25 pm

      Here’s Maariv (it’s in Hebrew only, sorry):
      link to nrg.co.il

      • eljay
        February 12, 2013, 7:14 pm

        >> mondonuteee: I will choose to be skeptical about this “story” for now. … Please provide the link to the original Maariv link.
        >> A.D. and Hostage: link to nrg.co.il

        mondonuteee: “Yeah, well, you’re all just Israel-hating anti-Semites who want to see the Jews wiped off the map and pushed into the sea and Israel’s still better than Saudi Arabia and Mali and two-six-thousand years of history and the Holocaust!”

  5. Hostage
    February 12, 2013, 4:09 pm

    I will choose to be skeptical about this “story” for now

    No need to be skeptical at all. Here’s a link to the kibbutz.org.il story on Misgav Am. It gives all the gory details including a thumbnail of the Maariv article: link to kibbutz.org.il

  6. Nevada Ned
    February 12, 2013, 4:11 pm

    Maariv is almost bankrupt, and has only a small fraction of the journalists it used to have. So it likely can’t cover the stories it used to cover.
    So why is Maariv almost bankrupt? They were competing with a free newspaper, subsidized by Sheldon Adelson.
    So if you don’t find a lot of links to Maariv, that could be the reason.

  7. seafoid
    February 12, 2013, 5:12 pm

    How sticky are birthrighters? Do any of them descend and become israeli ?

    • Diamond
      February 12, 2013, 5:46 pm

      I could definitely sense a heightened Jewish nationalist pride at the end of my trip. In the year since, that has in large part faded (i’ve kept up with/ kept an eye on many via facebook). Still, almost all of my trip mates will be more reflexively supportive towards Israel, barring some major jolt. Granted, n = 40, i can’t really speak to larger trends.

      Incidentally, the “4 war veteran Jew” who gives a speech at that Kibbutz is a racist facist lunatic. That was actually one of the more satisfying days of the trip for me, as many of my companions were clearly repulsed by him (and hopefully by his message too).

  8. DICKERSON3870
    February 12, 2013, 9:45 pm

    RE: “Israel admits popular tourist attraction is located on Lebanese land”

    MY COMMENT: Israel has every intention of taking all of Lebanon below the Litani River. It’s just a matter of time.
    Jabotinsky wrote in his Iron Wall essay that “Jews [must] unilaterally decide its [Israel's] borders.”

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Iron Wall (essay)]:

    “The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)” is an essay written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in 1923. It was originally published in Russian, the language in which Jabotinsky wrote for the Russian press.[1]
    He wrote the essay after the British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill prohibited Zionist settlement on the east bank of the Jordan River, and formed the Zionist Revisionist party after writing it.[2]
    Jabotinsky argued that the Palestinian Arabs would not agree to a Jewish majority in Palestine, and that “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”[1] The only solution to achieve peace and a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, he argued, would be for Jews to unilaterally decide its borders and defend them with the strongest security possible.
    References
    1^ a b Jabotinsky, Ze’ev (4 November 1923). “The Iron Wall”. – link to jabotinsky.org
    2 ^ Zionist Freedom Alliance – Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky –http://www.zfa.org.il/articles/jabotinsky.html

    External links
    Lustick, Ian S. (2007). “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and “The Middle Eastern Muck””. Middle East Policy (Middle East Policy Council) (Fall 2007). – link to mepc.org

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    ENTIRE ESSAY: The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs), By Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1923 – link to marxists.de

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 12, 2013, 10:19 pm

      P.S. RE: “Israel has every intention of taking all of Lebanon below the Litani River. It’s just a matter of time.” – me (above)

      SEE: ICE Case Studies [American University] • Case Number: 14 • Case Mnemonic: LITANI • Case Name: Litani River and Israel-Lebanon • Case Author: Angela Joy Moss

      [EXCERPT] . . . Israel is a riparian state, in part meaning that it must share a large portion of its surface water resources with neighboring countries. Control of water may be seen as integral to Israel’s sovereignty, the need for which Israel might war over.(12) Historically, Israel has been interested in the Litani, and conflict with Lebanon over the Litani is more likely given this. Essentially, control of the Litani has long been a dream of Israel in hopes of establishing a greater Zion from Sinai to ancient Babylon.(13)
      Israel has considered diverting the Litani southward, first proposed in 1905 because it seemed “the waters of the Jordan basin would be insufficient for the future needs of Palestine.”(14) The Litani, because of its water, was suggested to become part of the “national Jewish entity” in 1919 but this was rejected by the League of Nations, and the Litani became part of Lebanon.(15)
      There were also pre-statehood Jewish interests in the Litani. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, suggested the inclusion of the Litani in the Jewish state. The 1941 international commission to whom this was suggested recommended seven-eighths of the Litani be “leased to Israel.”(16) Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan advocated Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the Litani.(17)
      In 1945, Professor Lowdermilk proposed a comprehensive water plan for the region which would have included changing the course of the Litani toward the Jordan and used its water for irrigation along the Jordan Valley and in central Eretz Israel (Palestine) where the electricity produced could be transferred to Lebanon. This was never implemented because the Arabs did not want to cooperate with Israel.(18) In 1947, Ben Gurion thought the Litani should be Israel’s northern border. Also, water was a source of conflict in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.(19) In fact, in the war in 1967, water resources were “perhaps the prominent factor in Israeli strategic calculations.”(20)
      After the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, defense minister, asserted Israel acheived “provisionally satisfying frontiers, with the exception of those with Lebanon.”(21)
      Israel hoped that it would have use of the Litani by the mid 1980s, when it projected that it would have fully used up the waters captured in the 1967 war. Israel hoped to meet this goal by securing the Litani in 1978. Israel had even included the Litani in calculations of their water resources.(22) . . .

      . . . [FOOTNOTES] (1) Serageldin, Ismail. Toward Sustainable Management of Water Resources. (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1995), 1. (2) Soffer, Arnon. “The Litani River: Fact and Fiction.” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4, October 1994, 963. (3) Amery, Hussein A. “The Litani River of Lebanon.” The Geographical Review. Vol. 83, No. 3, July 1993, 234. (4) Stauffer, Thomas R. Water and War in the Middle East: The Hydraulic Parameters of Conflict. Information Paper Number 5. (Washington, DC: The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, July 1996), 8, 10. (5) Amery, 235. (6) Ibid., 236. (7) Stauffer, 4. (8) Lee, James R., and Maren Brooks. “Conflict and Environment: Lebanon’s Historic and Modern Nightmare.” Paper for Conference on Environment & Sustainable Development in Lebanon, NGO- Private/Public Sector Partnerships Rene Moawad Foundation, Dec. 1996. (9)Elmusa, Sharif S. The Water Issue and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Information Paper Number 2. (Washington, DC: The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 1993), 1, 15. (10) Stauffer, 11. (11) Amery, 232. (12) Ibid., 233. (13) Stauffer, 11. (14) Amery, 233. (15) Soffer, 966-7. (16) Amery, 233. (17) Ibid. (18) Soffer, 967. (19) Lee and Brooks. (20) Amery, 233. (21) Ibid., 233-4. (22) Stauffer, 11, 13. (23) Soffer 963. (24) Stauffer . . .

      ENTIRE CASE STUDY – link to www1.american.edu

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 12, 2013, 11:12 pm

      P.P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA [Revisionist Zionism]:

      [EXCERPTS] Revisionist Zionism is a nationalist faction within the Zionist movement. It is the founding ideology of the non-religious right in Israel, and was the chief ideological competitor to the dominant socialist Labor Zionism. Revisionism is the precursor of the Likud Party. . .[1]
      . . . Revisionism was distinguished primarily from other ideologies within Zionism by its territorial maximalism. While not the only group to do so, they insisted upon the Jewish right to sovereignty over the whole territory of Eretz Yisrael* (originally encompassing all of Mandatory Palestine). . .
      . . . Revisionism’s foremost political objective was to maintain the territorial integrity of the historical land of Israel and establish a Jewish state with a Jewish majority on both sides of the River Jordan. Jewish statehood was always a major ideological goal for Revisionism, but it was not to be gained at the price of partitioning Eretz Yisrael. Jabotinsky and his followers, therefore, consistently rejected proposals to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. Menachem Begin, Jabotinsky’s successor, therefore opposed the 1947 United Nations partition plan. Revisionists considered the subsequent partition of Palestine following the 1949 Armistice Agreements to have no legitimacy.[1] . . .
      . . . Following Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, Revisionism’s territorial aspirations concentrated on these territories. These areas were far more central to ancient Jewish history than the East Bank of the Jordan and most of the areas within Israel’s post-1949 borders. In 1968, Begin defined the “eternal patrimony of our ancestors” as “Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Judea, [and] Shechem [Nablus]” in the West Bank. In 1973, Herut’s election platform called for the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. When Menachem Begin became leader of the broad Likud coalition and, soon Prime Minister, he considerably modified Herut’s expansive territorial aims. The party’s aspiration to unite all of mandatory Palestine under Jewish rule was scaled down. Instead, Begin spoke of the historic unity of Israel in the West Bank, even hinting that he would make territorial concessions in the Sinai as part of a complete peace settlement.[8]
      When Begin finally came to power in the 1977 election, his overriding concern as Prime Minister (1977–83) was to maintain Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza.[9][10] In 1981 he declared to a group of Jewish settlers: “I, Menachem, the son of Ze’ev and Hasia Begin, do solemnly swear that as long as I serve the nation as Prime Minister we will not leave any part of Judea, Samaria, [or] the Gaza Strip.”[11][page needed] One of the main mechanisms for accomplishing this objective was the establishment of Jewish settlements. . .
      . . . In the diplomatic arena, Begin pursued his core ideological objective in a relatively pragmatic manner. He held back from annexing the West Bank and Gaza, recognizing that this was not feasible in the short term, due to international opposition.[1] He signed the Camp David Accords (1978) with Egypt . . . But his uncompromising stance in the negotiations over Palestinian autonomy from 1979 to 1981 led to the resignations of the more moderate Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, Foreign and Defense Ministers, respectively, both of whom left the Likud government.
      According to Weizman, the significant concessions Begin made to the Egyptians in the Camp David Accords and the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of the following year were motivated, in part, by his ideological commitment to the eventual annexation of the territories.[12] By removing the most powerful Arab state from the conflict, reducing international (mainly American) pressure for Israeli concessions on the issue of the territories, and prolonging inconclusive talks on Palestinian autonomy, Begin was buying time for his government’s settlement activities in the territories. Begin continued to vow that territory which was part of historic Eretz Israel in the West Bank and Gaza would never be returned. His adamant stand on the territory became an obstacle to extending the 1979 peace treaty.[8] . . .

      SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

      * Map showing an interpretation of the borders of the Land of Israel, based on scriptural verses found in Numbers 34 and Ezekiel 47 - link to en.wikipedia.org

  9. mcohen
    February 13, 2013, 5:14 am

    did you know that it is only 32 km from misgav am to tyre as the crow flies……….The Bible makes several references to Tyre, including

    the Book of Isaiah (23),
    The last “burden” in this section pertains to the city of Tyre
    (23:1-18). Those who traded with her will be dismayed when they hear of
    her fall, a destruction to come at the hands of the Chaldeans. For
    seventy years Tyre will be forgotten, but then restored. The fruit of
    her “labor” will be devoted to the Lord and His people.

    the Book of Ezekiel
    3 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.

    the Book of Mcohen
    as the sea causeth his waves to come up.

    • justicewillprevail
      February 13, 2013, 9:05 am

      And your point is…..

      • andrew r
        February 13, 2013, 5:35 pm

        …that the Zionist landgrab won’t be complete without those square km of Lebanon. Is the Litani still an object of desire these days?

      • Hostage
        February 16, 2013, 2:02 pm

        Is the Litani still an object of desire these days?

        No. Lebanon diverted the bulk of the flow of the Litani into the Awali river using the drop to generate electricity and provide irrigation to the Awali valley. Ariel Sharon described the remaining flow in the Litani as “a trickle” not worth the bother. That’s probably irrelevant to the national religious parties. The Talmudic view is that everything South of Abraham’s old home in Damascus was part of “Eretz Israel”, the land subject to the tithes and offerings prescribed in the Torah. According to Shertok’s diaries, Ben Gurion and Dayan frequently discussed schemes to invade and conquer Syria and Lebanon, not just the territory south of the Litani

  10. eljay
    February 13, 2013, 9:30 am

    >> did you know that it is only 32 km from misgav am to tyre …

    Only 32 more kilometres of land to steal! Or, perhaps more correctly, at least 32 more kilometres of land to steal…

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