Powered by WebAds

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Birthright expels student who signed up for pro-Palestinian trip

Birthright has expelled from its program a California college student who was due to arrive in Israel this week on a free ticket on the grounds that she had signed up to remain for Birthright Unplugged - an 'alternative' trip that takes participants to see 'Palestinians' in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

According to HaAretz, representatives of birthright israel confirmed that the ban was part of a broader policy to prevent participants from "exploiting" the free plane ticket to further "non-Israeli or non-Jewish causes." Taglit-birthright israel is funded mainly by Jewish philanthropists.

It seems to me that Birthright would be a lot better off if they limited themselves to Halachic Jews. It doesn't sound like this young lady is Halachically Jewish (Jewish under Jewish law, i.e. she is likely not Jewish because it sounds like her mother is not Jewish):
Just this week, birthright israel's 100,000th participant arrived at Ben Gurion airport. The organization expects to send 12,000 young Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 to Israel this summer alone. Sierra, whose mother is African-American and whose father is Jewish, was informed of the decision just a few days before her scheduled departure date this week. [While it is possible for African-Americans to be Jews, I doubt that her mother's ethnicity would have been identified as 'African-American' if the mother were Jewish. CiJ]

"It is not in our agenda to help people find programs that aim to strengthen the claims of other ethnic groups," Gidi Mark, international director of marketing of Taglit-birthright israel said. "We have tens of thousands of people on our waiting lists."

"Our goals are to strengthen the participants' Jewish identity, strengthen the participants' connection to Israel, and strengthen their connection to their Jewish communities," Mark added. "Birthright Unplugged is not connected to any of these goals. We refuse to participate with people who want to exploit us to get access to the territories."
According to Birthright's website:
Taglit-birthright israel provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Taglit-birthright israel's founders created this program to send thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.

The gift of the 10-day trip is being provided by our partners: the people of Israel through the Government of Israel, North American Jewish Federations through the United Jewish Communities (UJC), and leading private philanthropists. Please take a few minutes to learn more about our partners, especially your local Jewish Federation, which is your gateway to community involvement, continued learning and leadership opportunities.

Taglit-birthright israel operates on a belief that it is every Jewish person's birthright to visit Israel. To date, 98,000 young adults from 45 countries have traveled to Israel for the first time on Taglit-birthright israel trips. To learn more about signing up for a Taglit-birthright israel trip, click here. We are also available for questions via e-mail at information@birthrightisrael.com or via telephone at 1-888-99-ISRAEL. Information for parents can be found here. Registration for Spring/Summer 2006 trips is now closed.
According to Birthright Unplugged's website:

Our Unplugged trips are designed primarily for non-Israeli* Jewish people though we do welcome participants of all ages and backgrounds.

In six days, we visit Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps and help participants develop an understanding of daily life under occupation. We meet with Palestinian and Israeli community leaders, NGO representatives, peace activists, political figures and families. We encourage participants to be deeply reflective and give them a chance to ask tough questions. We keep in touch with participants after the program and support their involvement in related social justice work.

We realize that this experience is largely missing from most Jewish-led trips to the Middle East. As Jewish people, we have a specific responsibility to understand the situation well and to promote concepts of social justice and human rights for all people in the world.

*During the Olso process it became illegal under Israeli law for Israeli citizens to enter "Area A" or Palestinian urban areas. Some of our trip is in these areas. Israeli citizens may be challeneged by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, which would affect the group's ability to move. Israelis who are dual nationals are welcome on the trip.

According to HaAretz:

Birthright Unplugged discourages participants from advertise their intentions. "We know that certain Israel programs try to filter out people who might be visiting the Palestinian Territories or spending time with Palestinians even after their trip is over," group organizers warn on the website. "Again, the decision of how much to tell your program leaders is a personal one, and we are more than willing to have in depth discussions with you about your own case."

Gee. That line sounds amazingly like one I saw on the ISM website not too long ago:

Though the Israeli authorities deny having a policy of denial of entry to all people associated with ISM, visitors who identify themselves as ISM volunteers to Israeli border staff are almost uniformly denied entry by Israeli authorities. Israeli authorities also often deny entry to other human rights activists, NGO staff, and individuals expressing an interest in visiting Palestinians and the Occupied Territories or expressing sympathy for the Palestinian plight.

Visitors coming in solidarity with the Palestinian people and/or to support Palestinian non-violent resistance therefore face a difficult situation. If they admit the goals of their visit to Israeli border staff, and admit any association with ISM, they will most likely be denied entry. If they state other reasons for their visit, they can also be accused of lying to Israeli authorities and denied entry for this reason.

Faced with this dilemma, some activists choose not to talk about their activist goals and instead explain other reasons for their visit, such as visiting the Holy Land, visiting an Israeli friend, tourism, etc. These activists generally articulate a clear plan for their visit, including places they will stay within Israel and the names, addresses and phone numbers of people they will be visiting (not mentioning visits to Palestinians).

I see no reason why the Jewish community should be financing trips here for 'activists' who are coming here to engage in anti-Israel activity. I think this woman should be banned from the trip. There is no reason for the organized Jewish community to pay for her.


Post a Comment

<< Home