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Eight more Jews walk out on ‘Birthright,’ saying tour has no place for Palestinians

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Wildcat Birthright! Yesterday two more Birthright tours of Israel were struck by walkouts in Jerusalem. Two from one group, six from another group– making 13 in all to stage these walkouts (and the dissidents are overwhelmingly women).

Birthright offers free trips to Israel for Jews 18-26, paid for by Israel supporters. One of these tours was about to visit the “City of David,” the settlement just south of the Old City walls that is confiscating Palestinian properties in Silwan. The young people refused to take part in the settlement tour, preferring to meet the Sumarin family, which has faced endless eviction threats from the settler-state, and then to meet Palestinians at the great Wadi Hilweh information center in Silwan.

A member of the Sumarin family honors the solidarity: “Truly this is something important for us and this house, your coming here.”

The dissenters have posted a two-hour video on Facebook. The walkout this time was a lot more tranquil than the last one, in which the dissenters were all but threatened with their lives for wanting to see the occupation.

The highlights of the video are when a young dissident says they were told that, “If you think Birthright has an agenda, then why are you here? Which made me wonder whether Birthright has any place for someone like me who is curious about the occupation and wants to hear about Palestinians as well as Israelis.”

Later this same dissident confesses, “I was shaking” when the group announced the decision to walk out to their friends. “It felt like a big risk.” Then they met the Palestinians and the feeling of risk vanished when the young Jews saw what these people are experiencing. A transcendent moment of empathy and personal transformation (at 1:20; and P.S. I would love to put a name on these important comments).

A leader of the walkout relates the propaganda view of Palestinians from inside Birthright:

Something we’ve been hearing on our trip is that Palestinians do suffer and they pay a really high cost, but it’s in the name of Israel and the name of security for Israel… We know that that cost is too high, and the occupation is a moral disaster.

More highlights from the video:

–One participant knew there was something obviously wrong with the Birthright trip when the group was given maps depicting the West Bank as Judea and Samaria– “which is very disturbing to me, it literally covers up the occupation that is happening.” More: “I came on Birthright to connect with my Judaism and experience Israel. For me what that meant was learning the whole truth about Israel, which meant the occupation and meeting Palestinians. [But I was told] I would be getting the Israeli perspective, and that would be it. Unfortunately for me that was a heartbreaking moment.”

–A young leader of the breakaway of six dissidents speaks with emotion about how difficult but important the rupture is. “[This] is really hard for us. But we’ve had a hard time with some of the misinformation and some of the generalizations we’ve been hearing… This is a real opportunity for us to take a stand… against endless occupation and for freedom and equality… I can’t be more clear about what a difficult decision this is for us to make…. [but] I’ve never felt more Jewish…. Something we’ve been hearing on our trip is that Palestinians do suffer and they pay a really high cost, but it’s in the name of Israel and the name of security for Israel… We know that that cost is too high, and the occupation is a moral disaster and that as Jews it’s so important for us to stand with the people that we know are also oppressed.”

–A dissident from the second breakaway group, of two: “After being invited to ask hard questions and then trying to do that and being told no– we were told if you think Birthright has an agenda, then why are you here? Which made me wonder whether Birthright has any place for someone like me who is curious about the occupation and wants to hear about Palestinians as well as Israelis…. I couldn’t imagine going into that building [the city of David] and touring around. As if that wasn’t a political thing to do, a complicit thing to do. I was shaking when I talked about that. I felt like breaking away like that was a big risk to take. But when we came here and met up with other people who also wanted to see the whole truth and hear from people who were living under occupation, it felt — [different/unintelligible].”

–A dissident was most struck by the lengths that Birthright had to go not to show the young people the occupation, when it was so close at hand, a short walk away. “It was pulling teeth to say occupation, pulling teeth to even say West Bank.”






Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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17 Responses

  1. Kay24 on July 16, 2018, 11:04 am

    Thanks Phil, this is very interesting. I also came across this from Haaretz, it seems many are walking out of this program…the zionists should be totally disappointed that many American Jews are refusing to go through this brainwashing campaign, something to make sure the US congress will be supported by their people to keep the unwavering love going. Bibi better make that Koolaid stronger.

    “Opinion ‘One Jewish Life Is Worth More Than 10,000 non-Jews’: Why More U.S. Jews Will Walk Off Birthright This Summer”

    • Misterioso on July 17, 2018, 10:25 am

      Good news indeed!!

      Brings to mind the following:

      The Forward, June 21/17: “Support for Israel on Campus Drops by ‘Devastating’ 27%: Study”
      “The Brand Israel Group [BIG], a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists, has released a survey that shows a significant decrease in Israel’s approval rating among Americans.

      “’The future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values. This is huge! Devastating,’ Fern Oppenheim, a co-founder of BIG, told The Times of Israel. While approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group’s 2010 and 2016 surveys, Israel’s approval rating among all Americans dropped 14 points, from 76% to 62%.”

      Furthermore, regarding the USA: national/376097/study-israel- losing-support-among- democrats-minorities- millennials/ The Forward July 2, 2017
      ”Study: Israel Losing Support Among Democrats, Minorities, Millennials ‘It appears that the more Americans learn about Israel, the less they like it.’”

      Support for Israel among American Jewish college students and young American Jews in general is in decline:
      Times of Israel, June 21/17: -news/.premium-jewish-agency- chief-warns-young-u-s-jews- more-turned-off-to-israel-1. 5751616

      Haaretz – Jan 22, 2018, by Judy Maltz
      “Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns”

      “The Jewish Agency’s CEO and director-general called the trend ‘extremely worrisome,’ and said that a new strategy must be undertaken to engage young American Jews with Israel.”'%20style='color:#000;

      The Real News, Jan. 25/18
      “US Bipartisan Support for Israel over Palestinians Is Breaking Down, New Study Shows”
      “The bipartisan consensus of support for Israel over the Palestinians is breaking down in the United States.
      “Why Young Jews and Democrats Are Waving Goodbye to AIPAC”
      “My generation has only known Israel as an occupier. We won’t back anyone who supports that injustice – including the powerful lobby that is AIPAC”
      By Emily Mayer, March 6, 2018 – Haaretz

      What I find especially delicious about this news is that it smacks ultra-Zionist, Sheldon Adelson, chief contributor to so-called “Birthright Israel.”

      Jerusalem Post, April 24/18
      “I think it is the right from birth of all Jews to go to Israel”

      “Sheldon Adelson has made the biggest donation to Birthright in its history and given the organization $70 million on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

      “Adelson and his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson have provided massive financial support to the Birthright program, which brings young Jewish adults from the Jewish world to Israel on free educational trips, and now amounts to $410m.”

      “’Before the founding of the State of Israel, my father told me that he always dreamed about a state for Jews and wanted to go to the Land of Israel, but when the time came and I could help him get there he said he was too old and too ill,’ Adelson said during his speech at the event.

      “’I think it is the right from birth of all Jews to go to Israel and I don’t want any young Jewish person in the world say that he is too old or sick to visit Israel.’

      “At the end of the event, Birthright founders Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt presented the Adelsons with Birthright’s ‘Guardians of the Jewish Future’ award for their generosity to the project.”

      The wheels are turning, ever faster!!

  2. edwardm on July 16, 2018, 11:26 am

    Problem with education. It makes a questioner out of you. And they don’t want to give any answers. besides –
    What smart liberal young American woman wouldn’t want to be paraded around Israel as a potential baby maker? The future sure looks bright, don’t it?

  3. Mooser on July 16, 2018, 11:44 am

    Producing the next generation of Zionists is a task that must be taken seriously. This Birthright Potemkin Zionism will never do.

  4. Ossinev on July 16, 2018, 1:27 pm

    Apparently since 1999 around 600,000 have jumped on to this brainwashing conveyor belt and the vast majority (around 80%) have come from the US.

    It would appear that up until this year the belt has been operating very smoothly but as the saying goes you can fool some of the people all of the time etc.

    Encouraging that these young people have not been fooled and that the message is getting back to their peers in America.

  5. niass2 on July 16, 2018, 4:30 pm

    What a great plan, let’s have everyone with kids sign up for that and then walk on off. Why not? Jerry will take them home.

  6. JWalters on July 17, 2018, 3:43 am

    I salute these young adults for putting themselves into the action for justice. They are thinking adults, which the world needs and must cultivate. They are models for future entrants onto the field. And by sharing their stories they encourage others.

  7. captADKer on July 17, 2018, 8:29 am

    what costs do the parents of these “dissenters” now incur for having to rearrange flights back?
    i understand birthright has no further obligation under the circumstance described.
    i also wonder if these children would have behaved similarly had personal liability been assumed?

    • Mooser on July 17, 2018, 11:27 am

      “had personal liability been assumed?”

      You have the right idea, “captADKer”! If those rotten kids walk off a Birthright tour, they should be immediately impressed into the IDF!

      And when, when, I ask you, are American Jewish parents going to tell their kids: “No Zionism or out-marriage means no inheritance for you!”

      • Mooser on July 17, 2018, 1:59 pm

        Oh, BTW “captADKer”, it looks like a flight back from Israel to the US will run about $500 to $1000. Not so bad.

  8. Maghlawatan on July 17, 2018, 8:44 am

    The whole concept of birthright is deeply offensive

    “For all of our languages, we can’t communicate
    For all of our native tongues, we’re all natives here
    Sons of their fathers dream the same dream
    The sound of forbidden words becomes a scream
    Voices in anger, victims of history
    Plundered and set aside, grown fat on swallowed pride

    With promises of paradise and gifts of beads and knives
    Missionaries and pioneers are soldiers in disguise
    Saviours and conquerors they make us wait
    The fishers of men they wave their truth like bait
    With the touch of a stranger’s hand innocence turns to shame
    The spirit that dwelt within now sleeps out in the rain

    The scars of the past are slow to disappear
    The cries of the dead are always in our ears
    Only the very safe can talk about wrong and right
    Of those who are forced to choose, some will choose to fight

    Zionism is sick

  9. Citizen on July 17, 2018, 11:41 am

    In the last decade or so, about 600,000 young Americans, brought up in Jewish households, have taken Sheldon Adelson’s money for a free trip to see the self-described Jewish State in everyday action–it’s always been a very guided tour. In the last month or so, a number of such Jews you can count on your two hands have bolted from the indoctrination. Better late than never.

  10. John O on July 17, 2018, 11:43 am

    What a very peculiar thing to say, ADK; and what a bizarre set of values you seem to have. Is money your measure of all value?

  11. genesto on July 17, 2018, 12:49 pm

    The dam may be close to bursting! I’m sure many young Jews feel the same way as these intrepid folks, but have been afraid to express their feelings for fear of being ostracized in their Jewish communities. The more that come out, however, the more emboldened the rest will be to do the same. We could be looking at substantial and rapidly unfolding developments towards Zionism’s demise, much the way apartheid rotted away in South Africa.

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