Tuesday, January 29, 2019

  • Tuesday, January 29, 2019
  • Elder of Ziyon

In the Jewish Journal/Sun Sentinel of Florida, Rabbi Bruce Warshal writes a quite false op-ed about Birthright, under the headline "How morally silent do you have to be for Birthright?"

Two months ago, Birthright began to require that all participants sign a new contract with Birthright in which they agree they will not “coerce, force or suppress opinions, hijack a discussion or create an unwarranted provocation.” Translation: don’t ask anything about Israeli Arabs, the West Bank, Gaza or the Occupation.

How do we know that this is its intent? Six weeks ago, Emily Bloch wrote in the Forward: “On the fifth day of my Birthright trip…I asked our trip leader if the towering concrete wall I could see from my window was the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel. Two hours later, I stood on a street corner in Tel Aviv with two other participants, watching our trip’s bus drive away without us; we were officially kicked off of Birthright.”

She further writes that Birthright indicated that..."for engaging in the most Jewish way possible – asking questions about injustice – I was told that I am not welcome.”
This is an outrageous mischaracterization of what happened, of course.  Emily Bloch and her friends had pre-planned to hijack the conversation. They are members of IfNotNow, an organization that is explicitly against Birthright's very existence as a program to instill pride in Jewish youth. In reality, Birthright guides deal honestly and forthrightly with questions about Arabs, although from an Israeli perspective. Dozens of Birthright participants report that they ask questions about  Palestinians and Arabs all the time without any incident.

The only issue of morality here is the morality of knowingly lying about the incident and about Birthright.

Surprisingly, the Sun Sentinel doesn't mention that Warshal is a leader of Peace Now, showing that he leads an organization dedicated to hiding any facts about Israel that show it in a good light. He had previously written an op-ed defending BDS.

Warshal isn't the only one to misrepresent Birthright. In December, the Forward and Haaretz were very happy to report the news that there was a "Sharp Decline In Number Of American Jews On Birthright Trips" this season. They gave lots of reasons for this alleged 20%-50% drop, which Warshal mentions as well - American Jewish youth don't care about Israel, they do care about Palestinian perspectives, and lots of other conjectures.

But what they didn't say is that if you add up all the seasons, Birthright had a record year in 2018, with  48,000 participants from abroad visiting Israel on the trips.

“As anticipated, 2018 saw a record volume of participants,”Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said. “The project continues to excite young Jews around the world and participants say the tours are extremely meaningful.”

The people who are so upset over Birthright's supposed "silence" on topics it actually does address are themselves silent over the truth about Birthright as well as over their own affiliation with anti-Birthright organizations. 

That is the only moral issue happening here.




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