Media Analysis

‘West Bank is part of Israel, like Tel Aviv’ — ‘Birthright’ tourguide informs American Jews

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A news site has published video of Elon Glickman’s challenge to his Birthright tour before he and five others ultimately walked off that tour ten days ago, in which the Los Angeles youth holds up a map that young American Jewish tourists receive from the program that does not show the West Bank as a distinct political entity.

Here is the dialogue between him and the group’s tourguide.

Glickman: It feels like the equivalent of going to the Jim Crow south during segregation and not talking about segregation. These maps–…. Literally if I hadn’t asked anything, like, how would anyone know where the West Bank was because this map doesn’t say anything?

Tour guide: So Israel sees the West Bank as part of Israel. And Israel does not put anything on our maps around the West Bank because the West Bank is just like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Glickman: Like I said, literally erasing the fact that Palestine even exists, though.

Tour guide: Palestine, if you’ll ask anybody in Israel–

Glickman: It’s not fair. I think the real issue is that it’s inappropriate for all of us to be told that, to be shown this map as if this is the truth. When only Israel and the Israeli government seems to think that the West Bank is part of Israel. When the entire international community and Palestinians themselves would never say that. And the reason is because the people who live there can’t vote, they’re under military occupation, their water is being controlled by someone else and they can’t get access to it. And their lives are like a living hell because they can’t even see their families in Jerusalem… the roads are constantly controlled, they have to go through all these checkpoints.

Tour guide: We’re not saying this is the truth, this is what you should believe in.

Glickman: I’m upset at Birthright for only showing me this truth when I know there are so many other young American Jews like me, when this is the only chance they get to see this place–

Tour guide: Israel is showing you what they believe. And also in Israel it’s very divided. And people believe different stuff. But the West bank is part of the state of Israel it’s part of Israel and that’s what the government is showing you, the country of Israel.

Glickman: What is the Israeli government’s agenda and what are the other donors to Birthright’s agenda in showing us these maps and not talking about the West Bank and occupation. The agenda is for all of us to go home and believe that Israel is this great country that’s not enforcing a military occupation. Because that’s the agenda I’m seeing.

Birthright participant [bridling]: It’s free! You didn’t have to pay. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. We are receiving one side of the argument, because only one side is paying for us to be here.

Here’s that map. The West Bank is labeled Judea and Samaria.

Birthright map of Israel that includes West Bank, from Hallie Berkson-Gold’s twitter feed.

Birthright issued a statement saying that it is providing a “non-political educational experience.”

we will not tolerate any attempts to use this experience to promote ideological agendas. Our program provides educational enrichment and embraces thoughtful discussions on many subjects. We will not allow this effort to be taken over by those motivated to engage in a political campaign given our commitment to providing a non-political educational experience.

Glickman and six other former participants were soon demonstrating outside the Jewish National Fund over its efforts to evict a Palestinian family from East Jerusalem.

Here’s the crowdfunding site for eight Birthright walkers, who say they are being threatened with a lawsuit by Birthright. “As a result of our actions Birthright has taken our trip deposits, canceled our flights home, told us that we will need to be responsible for booking our own flight, and — worst of all — threatened a lawsuit against us.”

One comment on the Birthright walkouts from Phoebe Maltz Bovy:

I realize this is useless to anyone’s narrative, but it really was my feeling while on Birthright that they didn’t much care how we felt about Israel, as long as we returned home shamed out of the possibility of intermarriage.

Thanks to Allison Deger, Annie Robbins, and Jonathan Ofir.

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It’s clear with how Birthright is responding (defensive, threatening lawsuit, etc…) that this tactic by these young American Jews is working to really rattle the seemingly solid foundation of Birthright and its Zionism!

RE: Birthright issued a statement saying that it is providing a “non-political educational experience.” ~ Weiss MY COMMENT: It is absurd for Birthright to claim they provide a “non-political educational experience” when Sheldon Adelson is one of their biggest donors! SEE: “Israel’s sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson” | by Brad A. Greenberg | | June 27, 2008 [EXCERPT] . . . Adelson’s reach hasn’t been limited to charity. In fact, some say he uses money… Read more »

These young American Jews deserve great credit for brave and committed actions breaking with the Zionist line, questioning it in the middle of Israel and speaking out in such a public manner. The effect will be tremendous, including undermining the slander that questioning Israel’s actions is de facto anti-Semitic. Bravo!!

Right on, Glickman.
Most people won’t challenge bs.
Enablers are the most insidious…no matter their nationality.

Most Israeli politicians regard the whole of the West Bank as sovereign Israeli territory, as do many US politicians and US media who balk at the expression ‘occupied territories’, here is part of the Likud charter “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important… Read more »