HUNDREDS PROTEST BIRTHRIGHT GALA

On Sunday, April 15, hundreds of Jewish students, young Jews and Palestinians rallied outside of Birthright’s gala in Manhattan, where Sheldon Adelson was given the ‘Guardian of the Jewish Future’ award. We were there to stand in solidarity with Palestinians marching in Gaza for their right to return, and we told Birthright and Sheldon Adelson- we are the Jewish future, and it will be founded upon solidarity and liberation! We Return the Birthright- because it’s unjust that we get a free Birthright trip, while Palestinian refugees can’t return to their homes. Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt gave us the middle finger, as he exited his limousine.

Media- Birthright founder gives middle finger to protesters outside gala dinner, JTA, April 16, 2018

After Giving Them the Finger, Birthright Co-Founder Slams ‘Stupid Left-Wing Jews’ at Protest, Haaretz, April 17, 2018

Since 1999, the Birthright Israel program has sent over 500,000 Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel, in the name of strengthening Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish state. But while all Jews worldwide are handed this free trip, and, furthermore, automatic citizenship if they choose to immigrate to Israel, Palestinians are barred from returning to the homes and villages where their ancestors lived for centuries.

Since 1999, the Birthright Israel program has sent over 500,000 Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel, in the name of strengthening Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish state. These trips, funded by the government of Israel and the North American Jewish Federations as well as individual donors like billionaire Republican Sheldon Adelson, aim to promote the idea that young Jews from all over the world should feel like the land and State of Israel belongs to us and is our homeland. But while all Jews worldwide are handed this free trip, and, furthermore, automatic citizenship if they choose to immigrate to Israel, Palestinians are barred from returning to the homes and villages where their ancestors lived for centuries.

As young Jews, we recognize that Israel is not our birthright. In 1948, Zionist militias expelled over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages, an act of ethnic cleansing, known by Palestinians as the Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, that cleared the land for the creation of the modern-day state of Israel. Today, when young Jews are taken by Birthright guides on hikes through forests in Israel, they still sometimes stumble across the remnants of these destroyed Palestinian villages, covered over, often deliberately, by the Jewish National Fund’s tree-planting programs. Meanwhile, millions of these Palestinians and their descendants continue to live in refugee camps and elsewhere in the global Palestinian diaspora, unable to return to their homeland, while those that remain in historic Palestine continue to face discriminatory, second-class citizenship within present-day Israel, and permanent military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Throughout history, Jews around the world have cherished a variety of spiritual and cultural relationships to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). But today, we must acknowledge that the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of Palestinians. Taking a Birthright trip today means playing an active role in helping the state promote Jewish “return” while rejecting the Palestinian right of return. It is not enough to accept this offer from the Israeli government and maintain a critical perspective while on the trip. We reject the offer of a free trip to a state that does not represent us, a trip that is only “free” because it has been paid for by the dispossession of Palestinians. And as we reject this, we commit to promoting the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

As young Jews, we #ReturnTheBirthright. We implore other young Jews on our campuses and in our communities: don’t go on a Birthright trip to Israel. Don’t take a trip sponsored by conservative donors and the Israeli government, where the ongoing oppression and occupation of Palestinians will be hidden from you, just because it’s free. There are other ways for us to strengthen our Jewish identities, in community with those who share our values. Israel is not our Birthright.

Return the Birthright.

Nesha Ruther, SJP at University of Wisconsin- Madison 

Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia University/Barnard College

We are Birthright-eligible Jews between the ages of 18 and 26. We pledge that we will not go on a Birthright trip because it is fundamentally unjust that we are given a free trip to Israel, while Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes.

SIGN THE PLEDGE

Are you interested in holding a workshop, teach in, or direct action challenging Birthright on your campus? Our #ReturnTheBirthright organizing team has workshop templates, and other resources to support you.

LET US KNOW

Image from Students for Justice in Palestine / Jewish Voice for Peace Tufts University

Have you been on Birthright? Did you decide to boycott Birthright? Are you Jewish, but past the age limit? Are you Palestinian? Are you a non-Jewish supporter of justice in Palestine? We invite folks of all identities to submit testimonials for our campaign.

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Aren’t Birthright trips apolitical? Why is it problematic that Birthright is designed specifically for Jews? What do the trips leave out? These questions and more are answered here!

LEARN MORE

STUDENT VOICES

‘Return the Birthright’– Jenny Neuman, New York University, Times of Israel, December 4, 2017

‘Three Reasons to #ReturntheBirthright’– Danny Kaplan, University of Michigan, Jewschool, November 27, 2017

‘It’s No Surprise Birthright Silenced Israeli Arabs’– Elaine Cleary, University of Michigan, New Voices, November 14, 2017

‘Why I Refuse to Go On Birthright, and You Should Too’– Noah Mlyn, Brown University, Jewish Daily Forward, October 2, 2017

‘Why I, A Palestinian, Want Young Jews to Boycott Birthright’– Rani Allan, Hunter College, Huffington Post, September 29, 2017

‘Questioning Our ‘Birthright”– Julia Wedgle and Chase Carter, Tufts Daily

‘Those Without A Birthright’– Tufts Daily

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