Since 1994, the Israeli regime has taken more than 650,000 diaspora (mostly North American) Jews on “birthright” trips. Providing full-funded tours through Palestine/Israel, the “birthright” program is an inherent part of Israel’s settler-colonialism and is used to indoctrinate participants in Zionist ideology. But, last week, five American Jewish women stood up against the tour’s racist, anti-Palestinian message and left in protest.
As one of the women told Haaretz, “We love our Jewish community and that’s why it’s so hard for us to see Birthright systemically miseducating it. We cannot stand this injustice.” After leaving the trip on June 28, the five women joined an anti-occupation protest in the Palestinian city of Hebron, which is illegally occupied by Israel.
The women publicly announced their decision to leave the birthright trip live on Facebook. After thanking the Jewish Israeli tour guide and the Birthright program, one of the participants calmly explained that she was not given answers to important questions and that, as a result, she and some of the other attendees would leave and meet with liberal Zionist group, Breaking the Silence, instead.
In direct response to the announcement, the guide expressed his outrage by degrading and attacking the participant, saying her stance was “unacceptable” and that she “[had] a clear agenda against Israel!”
Birthright is based on the idea that every Jew has an inherent claim to Palestine/Israel, standing in stark contrast to the Palestinian Right of Return, which has been denied by the Zionist state for seven decades. The program attracts participants by offering free flights, accommodation, and meals. Armed Israeli “security” accompany every tour group, whose itinerary includes meetings with IDF fighters, but avoids any and all travel to the occupied Palestinian territories. Birthright’s major funder, U.S. casino mogul and Zionist extremist Sheldon Adelson, donated 70 million to the program this year alone.
A growing number of young Jews are refusing to participate in or are leaving the Birthright program. Birthright’s April 2018 gala dinner in New York was met with protests from Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups. The progressive group, Jewish Voice for Peace, has also launched “Return the Birthright,” a campaign in which young Jews “recognize that Israel is not our birthright.”
Protests against birthright are important as they highlight the real intentions behind the program, namely, to erase the Palestinian presence from historic Palestine and turn members of the Jewish diaspora into foot soldiers for Zionist extremism.