Our logo, inspired the burning bush, symbolizes our generation’s call to leadership in the Jewish community. Just as Moses was commanded to return to Egypt and fight for the liberation of his people, we too feel called to take responsibility for the future of our community. We know the liberation of our Jewish community is bound up in the liberation of all people, particularly those in Israel and Palestine. The bush burns bright but is not consumed – the fire is not a mechanism of destruction, but rather a force of inspiration and transformation.
For decades wealthy Jews hijacked the Jewish campus organization Hillel by promoting all expenses trips called Birthright to Israel promoting “Jewish heritage and culture” which apparently included the occupation of Palestinian land as a Jewish value. One of the big funders is the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who in 2018 pledged $70 million.
Last year some young Jews of conscience walked off these propaganda trips and read a statement confronting the lies of Birthright
We each came on this trip separately with hope that — especially in light of the recent killings of more than a 100 protesters in Gaza and Trump moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — Birthright would trust its participants enough to give us an honest education,” they said. “We came with questions about what’s happening in the occupied territories and wanted to engage with new perspectives, but what became clear over the course of 10 days was that Birthright did not want to truthfully engage with our questions. It’s clear that young Jews who have critical questions about Israel are not welcome on Birthright. It’s shocking that given all the recent violence Birthright would continue to act as if we can’t handle the truth.”
On April 5 Birthright’s New York City headquarters was targetted by IfNotNow a progressive group of young Jews formed after the appalling massacre in Gaza called Protective Edge in 2014. Birthright was urged to confront the crisis of the Israeli occupation. No dialogue here. Birthright arrested 15 of the 200 Jewish students gathered there. Similar protests broke out in front of Hillel buildings across America demanding it confront the nightmare of Palestinian brutalization.
Instead of meeting oppressed indigenous who cannot vote in the West Bank, Birthright prefers to ignore the blatant oppression and prefers spend time with Israeli soldiers. As IfNotNow has stated “visiting Israel without grappling with the occupation is like visiting the Jim Crow South without acknowledging segregation.”
This is an appalling lapse of universal Jewish ethics which IFNotNow is challenging. These young Jews have seen through the lies and the obfuscation, the manipulation of their jewish lives and the marginalization of Palestinian lives. Now an out of touch American jewish leadership is reaping a whirlwind of authentic Jewish values proving yet again that the ptophetic never dies.
Jewish college students across the country have spent the last two days sitting-in at their campus Hillels to demand they join us and cut ties with Birthright and it’s propaganda trips.
Hillels have responded with silence, scorn, and calls to the police. Even if Hillels won’t join us, our generation has decided — it’s time to #BreakUpWithBirthright.
Here is IfNotNow’s clarion call to live out authentic universal Jewish values
TIME HAS COME
TO END OUR COMMUNITY’S SUPPORT FOR THE OCCUPATION.
WE WILL BE THE GENERATION TO DO IT.
THE OCCUPATION IS A DAILY NIGHTMARE FOR THOSE WHO LIVE UNDER IT AND A MORAL DISASTER FOR THOSE WHO SUPPORT AND ADMINISTER IT.
IFNOTNOW IS WORKING TO TRANSFORM THE AMERICAN JEWI
Confront the Crisis
For our entire generation, going on Birthright has been seen as a rite of passage in our Jewish journey. And, for decades, Birthright’s programming has been funded by right-wing donors and designed to obscure, rationalize, and defend the Israeli Occupation. We can no longer allow a free trip that hides the truth be synonymous with being a young Jewish person in America.
This was Birthright’s last chance to confront the crisis of the Occupation, to finally choose us over the donors. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to listen to their donors rather than our entire generation of progressive Jews. We’re going to talk about what’s next now that Birthright has undeniably shown its true colors.