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Penn Hillel pushes Birthright-like trip for non-Jewish students

Israel/Palestine
on 32 Comments
A Palestinian youth rides his bicycle next to Israel's "apartheid wall" on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Al Akhbar English)

A Palestinian youth rides his bicycle next to Israel’s “apartheid wall” on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Al Akhbar English)

I’ve been waiting for this to happen. As young American Jews begin to question the Jewish state, the lobby must reach out to non-Jews. The former president of the University of Pennsylvania’s lobby group has raised about half the $110,000 he needs to bring 20 non-Jewish student leaders to Israel.

But not a word about Palestine.

Here’s part of Noah Feit’s pitch at the Penn Hillel site. The trip is called the Ivy Plus Leadership Mission to Israel. (Ivy Plus signifies West Point). And notice the word “influence.” That’s the game, to influence policymakers.

I realize that it’s difficult to reach out to many neutral, non-Jewish student leaders because they have difficulty imagining what Israel, or the Middle East at large, is actually like…

While there are Birthright trips and many other opportunities for Jews to go to Israel, there are very few such opportunities for non-Jews. Thus I am hoping to bring 20 non-Jewish students on an intensive 7-day exploration of Israel’s political, business, security, and religious circles. We will be including Yale, Columbia, Penn, and West Point students.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker (the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Kuwait, and Lebanon) has agreed to join us and act as a trip leader, along with Lt. Colonel Charles Faint (a senior intelligence analyst), who will be accompanying the West Point cadets. Chosen students will include presidents of College Republicans and Democrats; editors-in-chief of campus newspapers; and other campus leaders. As these students will soon have tremendous influence both in the US and on the world stage, it is important to expose them to a more nuanced view of the region than they would otherwise get on campus.

This trip will occupy a unique niche. It will focus on instilling an intellectual connection to the region in participants who would never have otherwise had the opportunity to see the Middle East as we have seen it.

The trip has 3 primary objectives:

1. To convey a nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region as a whole;
2. To help students formulate a coherent strategy for the US’s role in the region;
3. To provide an incisive look into Israeli society, culture, and politics while simultaneously grappling with the unique security challenges facing both the US and her allies in the region.

We have so far raised $60,000 (of the total $110,000 budget) from the Schusterman Foundation. Additionally, the Israeli Embassy has also committed to supporting this initiative substantively.

Schusterman is involved in funding of the original Birthright.

Thanks to Amy Kaplan.

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32 Responses

  1. just
    just
    March 2, 2014, 4:43 pm

    Ryan Crocker should be very, very ashamed of himself unless, of course, that he actually tells the truth……..

    I fear that on this particular mission, he will not.

  2. Herb Glatter
    Herb Glatter
    March 2, 2014, 4:43 pm

    is it possible for you to set aside your hatred for 2:22 minutes?

    • just
      just
      March 2, 2014, 4:57 pm

      uh- huh.

      thanks.

      PS– you have a lot of nerve to tell anyone that you see “hate” when they criticize Israel and the propaganda spewed forth in their indefensible ‘defense’. If someone wants to visit Israel, shouldn’t they be encouraged to take a trip without being told how to think and what to see, and vice- versa?

    • Kris
      Kris
      March 2, 2014, 5:01 pm

      “Is it possible for you to set aside your hatred for 2:22 minutes?”

      Herb Glatter, I watched the video. Couldn’t tell what it’s about, other than capturing aerial views, but from the youtube comments section, I gather that these are aerial views of Gaza?

      In the video, young men are launching some kind of device, maybe containing cameras to take the aerial views? Are these young men in Gaza? That would be a surprise, since launching anything from Gaza seems to draw Israeli attacks. Also, they are launching from a big sports field; I remember that Israel destroyed playing fields in Gaza.

      Could you please explain what this video is about, and why you think it’s worth watching?

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      March 2, 2014, 5:13 pm

      So you post a pointless video about remote cameras? That’ll show ’em.

    • tree
      tree
      March 2, 2014, 5:42 pm

      Thanks, Herb for sharing. Its a great find.

      I went to the you-tube original. Seems to come from a video production group called Mediatown in Gaza. There are several worth a view there.

      Here’s their facebook page:

      https://www.facebook.com/mediatownps?ref=hl

      • tree
        tree
        March 2, 2014, 5:58 pm

        Here’s another excellent film from the same group.

      • just
        just
        March 2, 2014, 5:59 pm

        Thanks tree. I was also perusing their cache. I guess I should also thank Herb.

        (wonder why he chose the one video that he did… though it does portray the amazing resilience and hope of the Palestinian people.)

  3. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 2, 2014, 5:21 pm

    “they have difficulty imagining what Israel. .. is actually like…”

    He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws,
    And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”
    He has knobbly knees, and turned-out toes,
    And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.”
    His eyes are orange, his tongue is black,
    He has purple prickles all over his back.”
    And he’s doped out on hasbara
    And leaves injured Palestinians to die by the side of the road

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.577368

    • just
      just
      March 2, 2014, 5:37 pm

      well done seafoid.

      The Gruffalo is quite a brilliant tale.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 3, 2014, 1:21 am

        I wonder how Israeli parents deal with the themes in books such as the Gruffalo and the Sneetches. It must be hard to be a reader in Israel now.

  4. March 2, 2014, 6:04 pm

    Need some moles in their operation

    • just
      just
      March 2, 2014, 8:05 pm

      Great idea, Giles.

      I can think of a few that might fit the ‘profile’ that Birthright might seek…………

  5. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    March 2, 2014, 11:01 pm

    I wonder if someone could raise a few hundred dollars to send these student leaders copies of Goliath, The General’s Son, Fast Times in Palestine, and/or etc…? I can get mine out at wholesale prices. Wish I could afford to just distribute them free myself, a la Alan Dershowitz.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      March 3, 2014, 6:41 am

      @ Pamela Olson
      I don’t think the Israeli Embassy will commit to supporting an initiative substantively that is geared to give the future American goy leaders of tomorrow a copy each of Goliath, The General’s Son, and Fast Times in Palestine.

      • Pamela Olson
        Pamela Olson
        March 3, 2014, 12:21 pm

        Um, no — I was not suggesting the Israeli embassy would have any interest in that whatsoever. Rather, people who support justice and peace in the region based on equality. We need to step up our game as much as we can.

  6. Ecru
    Ecru
    March 2, 2014, 11:45 pm

    OT I know and I apologise in advance, but does anyone else have the sneaky suspicion that, while the world’s attention is on Ukraine, Israel will use it as cover for more expulsions and crimes against humanity?

  7. Accentitude
    Accentitude
    March 3, 2014, 3:26 am

    This guy is full of deceptive language:

    “Thus I am hoping to bring 20 non-Jewish students on an intensive 7-day exploration of Israel’s political, business, security, and religious circles.”

    ” ….it is important to expose them to a more nuanced view of the region…”

    “This trip will occupy a unique niche. It will focus on instilling an intellectual connection to the region…”

  8. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    March 3, 2014, 6:37 am

    It’s not a particularly new idea, I don’t think. A few years ago I heard a talk by an Anglican clergyman, not of exceptionally high status but in a position to influence students. He spoke warmly of the Council of Christians and Jews, a group founded in the WW2 years by Archbishop Temple and others to spread information about (what was not yet called) the Holocaust and since very strongly Zionist. At the time I let it all wash over me but a few weeks later looked up the political statements of the CCJ and wrote asking if he could really endorse them. The reply, which got me nowhere, enthused about his visit to Israel which had included time under the stars visiting the tents of Bedouin living happily under Israeli protection, which is perhaps the truth, though a limited subset of the truth about the ME. I think this is the kind of ‘nuance’ programmed for certain kinds of visitors, not aggressive or militaristic claims to Judaea and Samaria so much as a soft TE Lawrence style romantic glow. This would be the attitude through which information would reach the students, the people who were really to be influenced.

  9. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 3, 2014, 6:44 am

    If an underground artist did a Palestinian version of the comic book MAUS, who would publish it? Just get it done online first? MAUS is online, although it started as a series in a comic book. In Maus, the different races and nationalities within the story are portrayed as different kinds of animals. Jews, for example, are portrayed as mice, while the Germans are depicted as cats. What would the Israelis and Palestinians be as animals in a Nakba version? I think there’s lots of Palestnians that could do such a comic book, and with just as much complicated and insightful depth as MAUS.

  10. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    March 3, 2014, 7:41 am

    the lobby must reach out to non-Jews
    So, the lobby wants non-Jews to help Jews discriminate against non-Jews?! OMG! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    non-Jewish student leaders have difficulty imagining what Israel, or the Middle East at large, is actually like
    Typical accusation made by Zionists. The reason we are not pro-Israel is that we don’t understand the oh so complex situation.

  11. quercus
    quercus
    March 3, 2014, 9:46 am

    1.) ……. imagining what Israel, or the Middle East at large, is actually like…”

    Truly, one will be able to imagine the Middle East at large by visiting only Israel. Is he kidding?

    2.)”It will focus on instilling an intellectual connection to the region in participants who would never have otherwise had the opportunity to see the Middle East as we have seen it.”

    Seeing the Middle East from the Israeli perspective? Yes, indeed that will help participants to truly develop an objective understanding of the Middle East. Again, is he kidding?

  12. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    March 3, 2014, 10:16 am

    LTC Charles Faint bio’s page on United States Military Academy West Point: http://www.usma.edu/sosh/_layouts/wpFacultyBios/DisplayBio.aspx?ID=dfa3b741-f742-4d08-b612-21794ac12fb3&List=a26ecd8e-d8ee-49e0-b26d-417868009c02

    Research

    Enabling functions in support of Special Operations Forces

    Improving the doctrine, training, practice, and effectiveness of military intelligence

    The “find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate” (F3EAD) targeting process

    Modern civil-military relations

    Interrogations and detainee operations

    The impact of non-state actors, especially identity entrepreneurs, on the international system

    The Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s complicity in the war in Afghanistan

    side note: doing some research on The impact of non-state actors, especially identity entrepreneurs, on the international system led me to Barak Mendelsohn (Israeli) Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College who did/doing research on Ideological entrepreneurs and challenged state authority: the Israeli state and violent Jewish non-state actors http://pacs.einaudi.cornell.edu/system/files/Mendelsohn-PKFest.pdf

    two excerpts:

    ‘Riding the back of the tiger’ (RBT) describes the behavior of a regime that delegates some of its most important governance prerogatives, such as the formulation of foreign policy and the use of force, to politically motivated groups that are often committed to extreme positions. Allowing, and sometimes even encouraging, extremist groups that represent narrow interests to take ownership of the pursuit of state interests—and to operate with impunity outside the state’s legal framework—is a puzzling and highly risky act.

    The interaction between the competition over national ethos and political power suggests that postponing a confrontation with predatory sub-state actors may bring the state prohibitive results. The longer the state avoids it the greater is the risk the relationship would reach a tipping point from which the state will no longer be able to win a confrontation without devastating the country and the society. It is not clear whether Israel reached that stage already. The Disengagement was a defeat to the settlers. It fractured their movement and undermined its ability to present a coherent threat to the state.42 But it also further radicalized its youth. The consequences may be that future measures to evacuate settlements in the West Bank will be more, not less, difficult. Moreover, whereas the threat of a ‘war of brothers’ still has a debilitating effect on the state, the radicals’ messianism inches closer to the dismemberment of the IDF and the use of violence against the state and its representatives, which violate what they view as divine decrees. As a result, absent a painful external shock that would alter the balance between the state and the forces subverting under its authority, the state will remain hostage to its tiger.

  13. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 3, 2014, 10:50 am

    “Typical accusation made by Zionists. The reason we are not pro-Israel is that we don’t understand the oh so complex situation.”

    It’s not at all a “typical accusation.” It’s an issue that’s strongly supported by polling data that finds that most Americans know little about Israel, and that the little they think they know is highly inaccurate, such as the widespread notion that Israel is a highly religious country where most of its citizens are very religious.

    You have to ask yourself something, German Lefty. There are lots of countries on Earth that have been portray negatively in the press. Iran is certainly one of them. So is China. So is Saudi Arabia. So is Sudan.

    So why don’t any of them take this approach? Why doesn’t Iran fund trips for college kids to visit and see the vibrant culture there? How come Saudi Arabia doesn’t do it?

    And how come Germany DOES do it (as they do with programs like Germany Close-Up, which brings young Jewish-American professionals to see the new Berlin)?

    Because Israel is nothing like what you read about in the newspaper. Exceedingly few people, outside of political activists who go with an agenda, come back having not enjoyed their time there. They find a dynamic country that is largely stable with people who are plain spoken (too plain for a lot of Western ears) who enjoy their lives and love their country. They find a free press with lots of newspapers. They find a functioning government that isn’t beset by corruption.

    It’s the same with Germany, which may not have the public relations challenges Israel has today, but certainly suffers from a certain historical challenge to portray itself as a welcoming place. Germany has a lot to show off, and it does.

    Israel would not fund programs like this if they did not work. And they would not work if Israel was the country you read about here or in the newspaper.

    • German Lefty
      German Lefty
      March 4, 2014, 4:53 am

      It’s not at all a “typical accusation.” It’s an issue that’s strongly supported by polling data that finds that most Americans know little about Israel

      When I wrote that, I did NOT have US citizens in mind. I thought of the situation in Germany. Germans are much less ignorant of the conflict than US citizens. As false accusations of anti-Semitism become less and less effective and less and less credible, Zionists start resorting to a different tactic: making false accusations of ignorance. Whenever non-Jewish Germans dare to negatively criticise Israel, some Zionist will accuse these critics of not properly understanding the supposedly complex conflict. Here’s an example:

      BILD: Prime Minister, according to a new poll 70 percent of the Germans believe that Israel pursues its goals without regard or respect for other peoples. Only 36 percent of the Germans find Israel sympathetic. And only a mere 21 percent believe that Israel is respecting human rights. What are your thoughts when you hear such numbers coming from Germany?

      PM Benjamin Netanyahu: There is a vast misperception of Israel in Germany and in Western European society in general. We are a vibrant democracy faced with Iran and its violent proxies, defending itself against thousands of rockets and Islamist convulsions all around us. It is the only democracy, the only beacon of freedom, of human rights in this region. How many Germans know there are over a million Arab citizens in Israel who enjoy full civic rights? The only Arabs out of hundreds of millions in the Middle East who are guaranteed absolute rule of law by impartial courts. Israel is maligned day in, day out, and this maligning filters into the public consciousness. That’s a general problem. But it is particularly unfortunate with Germany because of the unique relationship and the unique history.

      http://www.bild.de/politik/inland/benjamin-netanjahu/exclusive-interview-with-the-prime-minister-of-israel-24485786.bild.html

  14. James Canning
    James Canning
    March 3, 2014, 1:54 pm

    The student leadders obviously will be visiting Palestine, even if from one side of the “separation barrier”. An in-depth visit.

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